PHOENIX -- A week ago, Cesar Ramos was preparing for another start in Arizona for the Padres' Triple-A team when the left-hander was told to hold off on the normal bullpen he usually makes between starts.

Naturally, Ramos wondered why.

On Saturday, Ramos found out, as he was informed that he would be with the team when it opened the season Monday at Chase Field against Arizona.

Ramos took the place of left-handed reliever Joe Thatcher, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Sunday with a strained left shoulder.

Ramos, who has been a starter and reliever in the Minor Leagues, is expected to be ready in case the team needs him as a situational left-hander, facing a left-handed batter.

"I'm all for it," Ramos said. "Anything I can do to help the team. I'm here. [Pitching in relief] will be a quick adjustment. We'll see how it goes."

Ramos was one of the earliest cuts in camp. He was optioned to Triple-A Portland during Spring Training on March 15 after posting a 4.05 ERA in four appearances.

Last season, Ramos went 0-1 with a 3.07 ERA in five games (two starts) for San Diego. He spent most of the season with Triple-A Portland, going 5-6 with a 3.99 ERA over 15 starts.

In a small sample size, left-handed batters hit .118 against Ramos last season in his short stint with the Padres. Ramos was the Padres' first-round Draft pick in 2005 (35th overall) out of Long Beach State.

San Diego manager Bud Black said that Ramos is like other starters who have gone to the bullpen who have experienced an uptick in velocity. Black said Ramos throws in the low 90s with a slider, curveball and changeup.

Ramos was asked if he can expend a little more energy and, possibly, velocity pitching out of the bullpen rather than pacing himself as a starter.

"I think so. You're somewhat pacing yourself [as a starter] for 100 pitches," Ramos said. "I can let a couple go for a hitter or an inning. I can see velocity being higher."

No timetable on Thatcher

PHOENIX -- Reliever Joe Thatcher, who was placed on the disabled list on Sunday with a strained left shoulder, is with the team on their season-opening road trip to Arizona.

Thatcher threw on the side before Monday's game at Chase Field and will do so again in the coming days, though that will occur at the Padres' Spring Training facility in Peoria.

Thatcher hasn't appeared in a game since March 19 during Cactus League play. The left-hander complained of soreness in his shoulder shortly thereafter and received a cortisone shot last week.

"He's got some bridges to cross," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He's feeling better than a few weeks ago when he was trying to pitch through some discomfort."

On Sunday, the Padres recalled left-handed pitcher Cesar Ramos to take Thatcher's place on the roster.

Black said there's no timetable as to when Thatcher will return. He's stint on the DL is retroactive to March 26. He'll likely need a Minor League rehabilitation stint before returning to the Padres bullpen.

Thatcher, who turns 29 on April 10, is coming off what qualifies as a breakout year for him. After starting last season with Triple-A Portland, on the heels of a disastrous 2008, he posted a 2.80 ERA in 52 games, holding left-handers to a .182 batting average.

Better still, Thatcher had a 1.65 ERA in 36 appearances following the All-Star break.

Black expects dogfight in NL West

PHOENIX -- The Padres have been a popular pick nationally to finish in fifth place in the National League West Division.

While Padres manager Bud Black might disagree with that assessment, he certainly won't argue the merits of what he expects to be a hotly-contested division.

"I think it's going to be competitive from top to bottom," Black said. "You can go to each team and pick out strengths that each team out-does the other teams in the division.

"Four of the last five Cy Young Award winners have come from this division. You look at the depth of the rotations, the stuff and it's very good."

Arizona's Brandon Webb won the Cy Young Award in 2006 a year before former Padres pitcher Jake Peavy did so. Finally, Tim Lincecum of the Giants has won the last two Cy Young Awards.

What does Black consider the strength of his team?

"I like our bullpen, the depth of our rotation and our speed and defense," he said.

Black reflects on Opening Day

PHOENIX -- There's no need to convince Padres' manager Bud Black that Opening Day is a day unlike any other in baseball.

"The first one is really exciting," Black said Monday. "They're all fun. They're all great."

Black, in his fourth season as manager of the Padres, took time before Monday's game at Chase Field against Arizona to reflect on the three starts he made as a pitcher on Opening Day.

Black was the Opening Day starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals from 1984-86. He defeated Ron Guidry of the Yankees (in 1984) and Dave Stieb of the Blue Jays (1985).

Oddly enough, Black's lone loss on Opening Day came in 1986 against Guidry, the same pitcher he defeated two years earlier. That loss came in old Yankee Stadium.

In the 1984 game, Black defeated Guidry and the Yankees by allowing two runs on two hits over seven innings.

The two runs he allowed came on a two-run home run to Dave Winfield, who is now an executive vice president and senior advisor for the Padres.