03/30/08 7:20 PM ET
Padres' Black psyched about opener
Manager will be busy with no off-day through first 10 games
By Sandy Burgin / Special to MLB.com
"I love Opening Day" said Black, who begins his second year at the helm of the Friars. "I think we all do, whether it's the players, coaches or front office. It's just a special day in our American culture. It's weaved into the fabric of what we are, and I think it's a great day."
Black, himself, pitched three times on Opening Day. "I loved the experience," said Black. "I remember pitching against Ron Guidry and Dave Stieb. I'm 2-1 on Opening Days."
As for the starting lineup Monday, Black reeled off the names and the batting order: Brian Giles in right, Tad Iguchi at second, Kevin Kouzmanoff at third, Adrian Gonzalez at first base, batting cleanup, followed by Scott Hairston in center field, Khalil Greene at shortstop, Josh Bard catching, Paul McAnulty in left and Jake Peavy on the mound.
Peavy, the National League Cy Young Award winner last year, will be pitching against friend and Astros ace Roy Oswalt.
"There are a lot of great pitching matchups on Opening Day throughout baseball," said Black. "But this is a good one with two All-Stars -- two guys with great track records over the last two years, two guys with great stuff [and who are] extremely competitive, have a passion to pitch and are fun to watch."
In addition to their similar baseball prowess, Peavy and Oswalt, who became good friends in 2003, share properties together -- owning ranches together in both Missouri and Illinois as well their own ranches in Alabama and Mississippi.
"People talk a lot about our friendship and what it means," said Peavy, "but come 7:05 [p.m. MT], there is no friendship."
Oswalt will be staying with Peavy and his family Monday night after the game and for the rest of the four-game series.
McAnulty will get the Opening Day start in left field as the Padres wait for the return of center fielder Jim Edmonds, who is on the disabled list but will be working out with the Padres before Monday's game.
"McAnulty had a good spring, as did Jody Gerut," said Black. "We feel as though Mac is a guy we felt good about in our lineup, so we're going with him."
Black said McAnulty would likely start the first two games of the series, with Gerut likely to get his first start Wednesday night against Astros left-hander Wandy Rodriguez.
"We'll look at a lot of different matchups and who is swinging the bat well," said Black, who noted that it's too early to figure out whether platooning would be part of the equation until Edmonds returns.
The Padres' schedule this year is a little different in that there are no off-days through the first 10 days of the season, with seven home games against the Astros and Dodgers before three games in San Francisco against the Giants. Thus the Padres will need a fifth starter, likely Justin Germano, right off the bat.
"There is some roster flexibility with the pitching staff when you have a day or two in the opening weeks," said Black. "You can go with a four-man rotation and keep an extra guy on the bench, but that is not the case this year.
Black was asked how he feels about this 2008 Padres team after Spring Training is over compared to last year.
"When this team was assembled basically in the offseason and we went through the process of potential guys we'd like to sign and or acquire, we were happy with it going into Spring Training," said Black. "And that hasn't changed. "Nothing happened in the spring that changed how we felt about the team when it was put together in January.
Black is happy to have two able catchers in Bard and Michael Barrett.
"Having two front-line catchers makes us stronger," said Black. "I talked to Michael [Barrett] today about Josh getting to start. Both are unselfish players and they are both going to play. Michael had a great spring, hitting over .350, and I thought he did a great job of handling the staff -- particularly after a full spring. Josh did a lot of positive things for us last year, and they can't be overlooked.
Black said there were a number of things he was pleased about during Spring Training, beginning with Brian Giles' recovery from knee surgery, the play of Chase Headley, the competition from the outfielders including Gerut, McAnulty and Callix Crabbe, who made the Opening Day roster as a Rule 5 draftee.
"Justin Germano's changeup was a big plus for him breaking through," said Black. "He pitched very well in the spring. The three young catchers [Nick Hundley, Jose Lobaton, and Colt Morton], I liked what I saw there. And there are good signs of things to come with Matt Antonelli, Wade LeBlanc and Josh Geer and others, who are in [Class A] and Double-A."
And what state of the state would be complete without a look at closer Trevor Hoffman?
Black believes Hoffman -- who had elbow surgery in the offseason -- could reach 600 saves by next season, and said "It looks like the same old Trevor" to him.
"With the way that his elbow felt last year, you wouldn't have known that he was in pain," said Black. "He's one of those old-school guys who doesn't complain, doesn't make excuses. He just goes out and plays.
"I know that at times during the later part of last season that he was in discomfort," said Black. "I don't know how from outing to outing or pitch to pitch how some bone chips can move and bone spurs can get aggravated and how much it affected him. But this spring, it looks like he's throwing free and easy; the velocity looks the same as last year; the changeup. He continues to tinker with the cutter and the curveball. I'm happy that he feels physically good."
Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.