Cunningham trying to impress Padres
Outfielder acquired from A's competing for a spot on roster
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Aaron Cunningham would like nothing more than to run himself into a spot on the Padres' 25-man Opening Day roster.
Because of a glut of outfielders, that might not happen. But that won't stop the 23-year-old outfielder from running here in Arizona.
Cunningham already has two stolen bases and has shown some life with the bat, sending a three-run double down the third-base line during an eight-run third inning in the Padres' 9-3 victory over the Mariners on Friday.
Cunningham was back in the starting lineup on Saturday against the Mariners, playing in left field. He figures to get plenty of playing time in Cactus League play, as the team will try to determine what it has in a player it obtained in January.
He went 0-for-1 on Saturday and was hit by a pitch and scored a run. Cunningham also made a nice catch going back on a ball in left field in the second inning.
Cunningham was acquired with outfielder Scott Hairston in the deal that sent third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to the Oakland A's. Aside from scouting reports, the Padres didn't really know what they were getting with Cunningham.
This is why he's getting a lot of playing time, especially early in games.
"He's a guy that has been with a couple of organizations, but our scouting reports on him have been very good," Padres manager Bud Black said. "At 23, he combines some things that you look for in a skill set of a Major League player."
Cunningham has been pleasantly surprised the last two days to see his name in the lineup.
"I wasn't expecting it," Cunningham said. "I was hoping to get a few starts here and there. I know the situation."
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The situation is the Padres have Kyle Blanks, Tony Gwynn, Will Venable, Hairston and his brother, Jerry Hairston Jr., who will see most of the time in the infield but will also appear in the outfield this season.
The Padres won't likely carry Cunningham as an extra outfielder. They recognized that he needs to play every day, and if that's with Triple-A Portland to start the season, they are fine with that.
Cunningham arrived in Peoria a week before position players did to get extra work and has benefited from working with Dave Roberts, who is in camp as a baserunning instructor. One of the things they've worked on with Cunningham is increasing his leads from first base.
"I think that can be a part of my game again," Cunningham said. "A few years ago , I had 22 stolen bases. But then I started hitting third or fourth [in the lineup], so I wasn't running as much. Now I'm taking a better lead than before."
He figures to get plenty more chances to run in Cactus League play -- and plenty more chances to impress his new organization.
"He's going to be in that group of players that could be in a game every day or be in the dugout all nine innings ready to play," Black said. "We like a lot of things he does. He's a good all-around player."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.