PEORIA, Ariz. -- As it turns out, the conundrum surrounding Everth Cabrera's possible inclusion on the Opening Day roster isn't shaping up to be much of a predicament at all.

On the surface, this might sound a little strange, considering the 22-year-old shortstop is hitting just .174 this spring with five errors, and that Cabrera hasn't played a single game above the Class A level.

With Cabrera, the surface simply doesn't do him justice. You have to dig a little deeper, you have to watch him and listen to those who know better to see the true value in what this former Rockies farmhand has to offer.

"I like what I see a lot. He played with energy, he's got some speed which is something we haven't had in a long time," Padres general manager Kevin Towers said. "I think he has probably exceeded my expectations."

Which can potentially mean good things for Cabrera, who has to remain on the 25-man roster this season or be offered back to his original team, the Rockies, who in December lamented losing him in the first place.

"[Losing] Cabrera hurts. ... He's a good, young player," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd said during the Winter Meetings after the Padres selected Cabrera as a Rule 5 Draft pick. "You can't protect everybody."

The Padres, who were off Tuesday, are hoping the Rockies' loss is their gain. So far, if you get past the tangible results, batting average and errors, the Padres have been happy with what they've seen and are talking like he might well be on the team.

"I see him each day getting better. He's a young guy in his first [Major League] camp so we're trying to get him as much experience as we can and get him comfortable. I think we are seeing that more every day," said Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman, who works with the infielders.

"I'm very pleased with his work habits. He wants to learn. These are the little things you can see on the back field. He's been outstanding. He has the speed, his range is very good and his arm is strong. It's just a question of experience."

Cabrera, at 22, is short in that area. He played at Class A Asheville last season, the lower rung of the Rockies' two Class A teams. He hit .284 there with 73 stolen base, the most in professional baseball.

So far this spring, the Padres have thrown about everything they can at Cabrera to see how he handles situations he hasn't faced. He is one of only five players to have played in 11 games and his 23 at-bats tie him for third on the team.

He made errors on easy plays at times, but most of his miscues have come while being aggressive, something the Padres don't necessarily mind. They would like him to play smarter and they believe he can.

"There are some things he has to tighten up," Padres manager Bud Black said. "It looks like at times he's trying to do too much. Overall, just realize the game is meant to be played under control. He can do it. He doesn't have to play beyond his skill level, his skill level is enough."

Cabrera is in the mix for what figures to be one of two reserve infield spots on the roster along with Edgar Gonzalez and non-roster invitees Travis Denker and Chris Burke. And while Cabrera lacks the experience of those other players, he also offers more upside in areas the Padres sorely lack.

For one, speed. The Padres haven't had a true burner on their roster since Dave Roberts left following the 2006 season. Cabrera, if he makes the roster, could be used as a pinch-runner in games, which would give Black more options.

Also, the Padres don't have any advanced shortstops in their Minor League system and very little depth after trading Khalil Greene to St. Louis in the offseason. The Padres view Cabrera as a potential long-term answer there, even if he needed more seasoning next season (2010) in the Minor Leagues.

"He can take a base, an extra base, looks like he has some good instincts. We knew the bat would take some time to come. But he takes good swings and doesn't swing at bad pitches," Towers said. "He's more of a physical player than I thought. He has got some strength. He kind of reminds me of a young Quilvio Veras."