SAN DIEGO -- Second baseman Cory Spangenberg said he wanted to sign with the Padres fast, and boy did he deliver.

The Padres' first selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft agreed to a $1.86 million signing bonus, approximately Major League Baseball's slot recommendation for the 10th overall pick.

"I just wanted to sign and start playing as soon as possible," said Spangenberg, who took his physical, signed his contract and took batting practice Friday at PETCO Park.

"I've just always wanted play as a kid, and it's not about the money," Spangenberg said. "It's about playing ball."

Spangenberg can continue to move quickly. He is going to the Padres' Spring Training facility in Peoria, Ariz., for a few weeks before he's sent to Eugene, where the Padres' short-season Class A team plays.

The Padres would like to see him advance to Class A Fort Wayne by the end of the season.

"His bat's advanced," said Jaron Madison, the Padres' director of scouting. "He had to have been one of the top two or three hitters in the whole Draft. And defensively, as long as he makes the transition back to second base like we think he will, he'll move quick."

But before Spangenberg leaves San Diego to start his professional career, he took some time to enjoy the life of a newly signed rookie, including absorbing some heckling from Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson. Hudson yelled out during Spangenberg's interview, among other things, "What are you, the LeBron James of baseball or something?"

Spangenberg is excited to be in the Padres organization with a ballpark he said is second to none, and the Padres are happy to have found a guy they think fits that park.

"One of our big emphases were finding guys who can not only defend, but can run and take advantage of the spaciousness of the ballpark, and he fits that perfect," Madison said. "He's going to hit a lot of line drives, and hit a lot of doubles and triples. Home runs are going to be there, but his strength is line drives and doubles and triples."

Venable gives Padres boost with Maybin out

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres don't have many guys like Cameron Maybin. For that matter, Major League Baseball doesn't have many players who can defend center field like Maybin.

But with the Padres recalling outfielder Will Venable from Triple-A Tucson, which is where Maybin is on his rehab assignment, he gives San Diego a good defensive option to fill Maybin's void.

"I think they're comparable," Padres manager Bud Black said of Maybin and Venable. "Will really hasn't gotten the written attention that he deserves.

"I mean, there's 400 position players and there's probably 10 guys you can talk about on defense. But Will is a really good defender. Well above average."

Venable showed that in Thursday's game. He entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter, and in the top of the eighth inning Venable saved a home run by reaching over the center-field fence on a ball hit by Danny Espinosa.

"I don't want to say it wasn't a high-effort play, but it was as routine a play up against the wall as you're going to get," Venable said.

The reason it was so routine was that Venable said he had plenty of time to position himself. The ball took so long to reach to the fence that Venable mentally had time to process the play as it happened.

Venable said he'll make a good defensive play every now and then, but he takes more pride in his consistency to make the routine plays.

Venable has a .986 fielding percentage in the outfield this season, with one error in 38 games.

"Center field is the easiest position in the outfield to play because you just have to get there," Venable said.

Padres pay tribute to Negro League legends

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres honored former Negro League players before Friday's game against the Nationals at PETCO Park with a pregame ceremony as part of their eighth annual Salute to the Negro Leagues.

San Diego executive vice president/senior advisor Dave Winfield and Bob Kendrick, the current president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, took part in the ceremony with eight former Negro League players.

The players who attended the event were Don Newcombe, Art 'Superman' Pennington, Neale 'California Comet' Henderson, Walter McCoy, Ernie Johnson, John 'Mule' Miles, Chuck Harmon and John Wilson.

Kendrick, who presides over the museum in Kansas City, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

The Padres will make a $10,000 donation to the museum, as well as a contribution to the Negro Leagues Baseball Grave Marker Project to support its efforts to provide proper grave markers to the unmarked graves of former Negro Leagues players.

Earlier in the day Friday, the Padres hosted a Legends, Lore and Legacy luncheon at the PETCO Park auditorium, which was followed by a Q&A session with the former Negro Leaguers.