Seeing how the season's started, are we expected to see a platoon in left field with Jose Cruz and Terrmel Sledge? Truthfully, it seems that Sledge seems to always get the short end of the stick, never really getting ample time to strut his stuff. Given time, I believe he can produce, but that's if he's given playing time.
-- Eenon P., Sacramento

I don't think that you're going to see a true platoon in left field with Cruz and Sledge. I think Sledge will see most of the playing time in left field and will be in the lineup on those days when a right-handed pitcher is throwing. Cruz is a switch-hitter, but he's a much better hitter from the right side of the plate, so I would think that he'll get his at-bats against tough left-handed pitchers like Barry Zito. Sledge has looked good at the plate, especially of late. And while Cruz might not give the team the right-handed pop they want off the bench, he's a veteran hitter with plenty of life left in his bat.

With catcher Josh Bard on the 15-day disabled list, we see the importance of Todd Greene. Do you have an update on Greene and when he may be available to return to the team?
-- Leonard K., Crown Point, Calif.

Greene doesn't figure in the Padres' immediate plans, as he's still rehabilitating his right shoulder, the one he dislocated the first week of Spring Training during drills. Greene traveled on his own to San Francisco for the opening series of the season, but he is back at the team's Spring Training facility in Arizona continuing to get his shoulder into shape. Bard will return by the end of the month, and Rob Bowen will resume backup duties. I don't see where Greene would fit on the 25-man roster if he was healthy. San Diego certainly doesn't need to carry three catchers on the roster.

There has been a lot of reports that the Boston Red Sox are interested in trading for relief pitcher Scott Linebrink. Although I don't believe the Padres should trade Linebrink, what are your thought of a Linebrink and Jose Cruz Jr. trade for Manny Ramirez? That would give us some right-handed power in left field.
-- E.L. S., San Diego

For as valuable as Linebrink has been to the team and with everything that Cruz adds as a reserve outfielder and a right-handed bat off the bench, I think San Diego general manager Kevin Towers would swing a deal in a heartbeat if it meant the Padres could land Ramirez. That said, I wouldn't hold your breath for that deal to happen. The Red Sox would likely want far more than a Linebrink-Cruz deal, and the Padres don't have an abundance of top Minor League prospects to part with. My guess is that Linebrink, who will be a free agent next offseason, gets a new contract before the season ends. If not, he could be a valuable trading chip to have around the trading deadline of July 31 for someone looking for a closer.

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Question:

With the Padres having so many quality relievers this year and not enough roster spots to keep all of them on the Major League roster, what are the chances the Padres package together Andrew Brown, Scott Cassidy and another young pitcher for a right-handed-power bat? I hear that the Devil Rays might have too many outfielders and California native Jonny Gomes may be available. What are the chances?
-- Jack K., Ramona, Calif.

Looks like I'll keep my general manager hat on for this one as well, but staying hopeful that it won't make a mess of my hair. Anyway, this potential deal seems a lot more, say, manageable, than any deal involving Linebrink and Ramirez. Brown has upside and has some of the best velocity in the Padres' Minor League system, although he didn't show very much command in Spring Training. Scott Cassidy is coming off surgery on his right knee and won't be available to pitch for a while, though he's proven that he can get outs at the Major League level. I think that Gomes could be a nice fit with the Padres, though he strikes out a lot. Gomes is 26 and appears be the odd-man out in the Devil Rays' crowded outfield picture. But it's still very early in the season, and the Padres are likely inclined to let things play out for a while to see what their exact needs are or will be.

What has happened to Matt Bush? Last year he was assigned to Class A Lake Elsinore, but he ended up at the Padres training facility in Arizona. Where will the Padres place him this year? Does the organization still view him as a future big-league shortstop?
-- William D., Mount Pleasant, Utah

Bush, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, is still in the Minor League system. He was the first high school shortstop selected with the first overall pick since Seattle selected Alex Rodriguez in 1993. Bush's professional career has been a struggle. He began this season at Lake Elsinore, where he will likely stay the entire season. Bush was hitting .l70 though the first seven games of the season. There's speculation that the Padres will convert him into a pitcher, where he could have more potential to advance professionally. Bush was a two-way standout at Mission Bay High School, and there's still time for him to develop into the player the team figured they were getting when they drafted him. This season figures to be a pivotal one in Bush' development.