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04/16/08 8:25 PM ET

Padres skipper Black chats with fans

Manager fields questions from San Diego's faithful

Padres manager Bud Black answered fans' questions on Wednesday in on online chat, discussing San Diego's World Series hopes, Mark Prior's health and the club's trip to China this spring.

Bud Black: Hello everybody, this is Bud Black. I'm looking forward to answering some of your questions today. Let's get started.

23gonzalez: Do you think that the Padres will be World Series Contenders? I do. :)

Black: Our goal every year is to win our division and reach the playoffs. When we gather in spring training, that is our focus. We feel as though we have the team to accomplish that.

padreavy44: What was the best part about the team's trip to China?

Black: 5:36 pm I think all of us felt, that representing Major League Baseball and the Padres was an honor for us. It was a great cultural and life experience for the team and our entire San Diego traveling party. The Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square are filled with such long history, going way back, and it was very impressive.

PadFan: Bud, What do you see as the biggest challenge that you face on a daily basis as a big league manager?

Black: I don't think there is one biggest challenge on a daily basis. There are many challenges. They start from the night before, you're thinking about your players, the lineup and making sure that the team is always headed and focused in the right direction. That entails a great deal of daily communication with not only everybody in uniform, but those connected with Baseball Operations as well. It totally is a team effort, all of us working together and I realize that I have to be one of the leaders of making that happen.

nashville8: What is the update on Mark Prior's status?

Black: Mark is progressing along a timeline that we're comfortable with on the baseball side, and the doctors are comfortable with on the medical side. He continues to work his way towards rehab starts. We feel as though he is a few weeks away from that goal. Everything is in order, Mark's confidence is high, he is excited to be a Padre, and we look forward to seeing him in a Padre uniform, hopefully around the first of June.

t_j_b_: Do you see Kouzmanoff progressing in the 4 spot, or do you think Gonzalez, with proven power, might merit a switch with him at some time? Both are great hitters, Go Pads!

Black: Kooz and Gonzo both fit nicely in the middle of our order. There is a reason to put Kouzmanoff in between Gonzalez and Edmonds, so it doesn't give the opposing manager and easy move to bring in a left-handed specialist who might be very tough on left-handed hitters. This way, without bunching left-handed and right-handed hitters, we might get more favorable matchups as we move deeper into the game.

padspastor: How is Chase doing down in AAA? While LF hasn't been bad for us it also hasn't been a position of strength. When do you think we might see him up?

Black: We feel as though Chase is close to the big leagues, but yet there still is some developing in his game. With the position change to left field, we felt it was necessary for him to get regular season experience in triple-A. Triple-A caliber baseball is a great stepping stone for the big leagues. He played roughly less than a 100 innings in the OF in Spring Training, all day games. It made sense for him to get experience under the lights and be exposed to all different ballparks and conditions. He is off to a little bit of a slow start in Portland, but we feel that in time, those numbers will improve and he will give us an option if we feel as though LF is not being productive for us.

pdrfan4lif: Is Jake Peavy the best pitcher you have had the pleasure to coach?

Black: I've been fortunate in my seven years in Anaheim and now my second year here, to be around a number of great pitchers. Bartolo Colon won the Cy Young with the Angels, had a fabulous year. Francisco Rodriguez, John Lackey, were All-Stars as well and great pitchers in their own right. Jake Peavy can stand right next to those guys and the thing that I like about Jake is I do feel there is room for improvement in his game. He can be a pitcher that can be thought of as one of the best pitchers of his era.

PadFan: As a kid growing up who was your favorite Baseball player?

Black: I got a couple. Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax. It is kind of ironic that a Giant and a Dodger were my two favorite players, and now I am a Padre. But growing up in Southwest Washington, I was able to get Giants games on the radio faintly, and was able to hear Willie play through the radio which was awesome.

nashville8: Love those Padres commercials. Great job by whoever did those! Looks like you have a future in acting. Were they fun to do?

Black: The commercials were very fun to do and I can speak for the players on that regard. It was a great couple of days for the guys involved. My kudos go out to the Padres Marketing Department for their great ingenuity and helping us non-actors get through something that we are not very comfortable doing. I'm glad you like them, the players love them and again, the people behind the scenes are responsible for the commercial's success.

23gonzalez: What is your Favorite ballpark to manage in?

Black: The traditionalist that I am, I always enjoy being in Wrigley Field and this year, we are going to play in Yankee Stadium. All of the new ballparks are wonderful, but there is something about the history of an older park that makes me sentimental and reflect on the great history of this game.

padreavy44: Do you think the bells will ring someday in the future for Heath Bell as the Padres closer?

Black: Heath Bell had a breakout year last year, no doubt. I think if Heath continues to throw the ball like he has as a Padre, he has a bright future in the back end of our bullpen. There is a period of development that all pitchers go through before they seize and nail down a new role. Heath is going through that now. On those days that Trevor is unavailable, we will use Heath as the closer. Heath is learning a great deal from Trevor about the mentality and responsibility it takes to pitch in the ninth inning, which will serve him well as Heath's career continues.

crittergp: Would you have pulled Randy Wolfe yesterday after 7 innings if he had still been throwing a no hitter?

Black: Good question. Yes I would have. The reason being, first of all, Randy's pitch count was getting to that point where I felt he was being pushed physically. The early innings were quite taxing on him. Coming off shoulder surgery in September, I didn't deem it necessary for him to try to throw a no-hitter at the expense of risking a pitcher who might be tiring into his 130th to 140th pitch to go nine innings. In the back of my mind, I was hoping for a combined no-hitter, but it is so tough to throw one at any level.

Black: Thank you everyone for the great questions. Sorry I didn't get to all of you, but I love talking baseball and thank you again for your support of the Padres. Go Pads!

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