China likely in the cards for Padres
Friars could play Dodgers in Beijing during Spring Training
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres have long been mentioned as one of the teams that might be headed to China during Spring Training to play exhibition games in Beijing.
Now it's starting to look as though it might really happen.
Padres CEO Sandy Alderson recently told XX Sports Radio that the Padres are almost certain to play some exhibition games in Beijing.
"I think it's likely we will play in Beijing and we will play the Dodgers," Alderson said. "All of the details haven't been worked out yet."
A pair of exhibition games against the Dodgers -- which would mark the first time that Major League teams have played in China -- would be played at the Olympic venue in China, and are tentatively slated for the weekend of March 15-16.
Major League Baseball could make an official announcement at the owners meetings on Wednesday and Thurday in Florida.
If the Padres do go to China, they would likely take a team split with Major League and Minor League players. The rest of the team would remain in Arizona, playing its normal Cactus League schedule.
Also, the Padres released their official schedule on Friday, and there's an interesting wrinkle at the end of Spring Training.
The Padres and Angels will play their own version of the Freeway Series, as San Diego will play host to the Halos in an exhibition game on March 28 at 7:05 p.m. PT. The following night, at 6:05 p.m., the two teams will play at Angel Stadium.
The games in each respective city will include pregame recognition of emergency responders involved with the recent Southern California wildfires.
Good news for Clay: Pitcher Clay Hensley, who had surgery in September to repair a tear in his right shoulder, is still on schedule to start throwing as he normally would in January, which is certainly the best-case scenario for the right-hander.
Before surgery, Hensley was told there was a chance there could be damage to his rotator cuff, which could have lengthened his recovery time. As it turned out, his rotator cuff "looked great," according to the doctor who performed the surgery to fix a three-centimeter tear of the labrum.
"I'm feeling pretty good, I'm not in a sling," Hensley said. "It wasn't torn as bad as he thought it was. I don't think the rehab will be quite as long."
Hensley is eager to put the 2007 season behind him and start anew next season, trying to earn one of the open spots in the team's starting rotation.
Hensley went 2-3 with a 6.84 ERA in 13 games in 2007, though he, by his own guess, was never really healthy, as he was troubled by everything from blister issues to biceps tendinitis, which was actually masked by the labrum tear.
"I'm ready for '08. I know what I can do when I'm healthy," Hensley said. "The team knows what I can do when I'm healthy. I think everything is going to go in the right direction. I think it's going to make me a better ballplayer."
Not worried: San Diego general manager Kevin Towers said last week that he feels the team can handle its vacancy at second base "internally," meaning the team will not only look at rookie Matt Antonelli, but Craig Stansberry, Luis Rodriguez and Oscar Robles.
Antonelli is one of three Padres prospects currently playing in the Arizona Fall League. After a slow start, the 22-year-old Antonelli had his average up to .240 in 50 at-bats. Towers said that hasn't soured him at all in that Antonelli might not be ready.
"I think he still can contend," Towers said. "He has got such a small sample of plate appearances in the fall league. It's almost like they're bench players. ... They play for two days and sit for two days. I don't think you can put a lot of stock in those numbers."
Antonelli started the season at Class A Lake Elsinore and was promoted to San Antonio after he hit .314 in 82 games. Antonelli helped San Antonio win the Texas League title, hitting .294 in 49 games after the promotion.
All told, Antonelli hit a combined .304 with a .404 on-base percentage, all while getting used to playing second base for the first time in his professional career.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.