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03/08/11 6:03 PM ET

Baxter making most of playing time

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Outfielder Mike Baxter put himself on the map with a monster season at Triple-A Portland in 2010.

This spring, Baxter is attempting to forge his way into the Padres' packed outfield picture.

Baxter is hitting .357 this spring for the Padres after going 0-for-3 in a game on Tuesday against the A's in Phoenix.

"I'm feeling good right now," Baxter said. "I'm staying slow at the plate and, like [hitting coach Randy Ready] has said, trying to stay in the middle of the field."

Baxter likely has a slim chance of cracking the Padres' 25-man Opening Day roster with Ryan Ludwick, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable as the starters. Chris Denorfia is set to be the fourth outfielder.

Eric Patterson, who appears to have a good chance to win a bench job, plays second base and the outfield, giving the Padres five players who can play the outfield.

Baxter, 26, isn't too concerned. He's been getting steady playing time in the outfield, and on Saturday, his sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning gave the Padres a 7-6 victory over the A's in Peoria.

"It's been great getting the reps," he said.

Last season, Baxter had a breakout season with Portland, hitting .301 with 18 home runs, 72 RBIs and 58 extra-base hits. He earned a promotion in September, where he hit .125 in nine at-bats.

Stauffer makes Padres' longest spring start

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Tim Stauffer became the first Padres starting pitcher to go four innings in a game this spring on Tuesday against the A's in Phoenix.

Stauffer allowed two hits, struck out five and allowed two unearned runs, with the lone blight on his mark being a two-run home run to left field by Andy LaRoche during the second inning after an error by Jorge Cantu.

"I felt great from the get-go, my command was sharp and I was able to execute pitches," said Stauffer, who will likely be the fourth starter in the Padres' starting rotation behind Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Aaron Harang.

Stauffer, a long reliever last season until he bumped Wade LeBlanc from the rotation in September, threw 59 pitches and worked well with new catcher Rob Johnson, who was able to catch his first game of the spring after being out with a strained side.

"Today, as far as fastball command goes, I felt as good as I ever have," Stauffer said. "I threw early strikes and was able to get out of there with some quicker innings."

Johnson sees first spring action behind plate

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Rob Johnson can't tell you the last time he felt comfortable and entirely pain-free behind the plate, though he thinks it might have last happened in 2008 while he was with the Mariners.

On Tuesday, Johnson caught six innings against the A's -- his first appearance in a game defensively this spring -- and had a hard time disguising afterwards just how good it felt to do his job without being encumbered by injury.

"Emotions are riding high," Johnson said, smiling.

Johnson had separate surgeries during October 2009 to repair labrum tears in each of his hips and admitted to coming back too quickly last season.

This past offseason, Johnson underwent a comprehensive stretching program to help him regain the flexibility he had lost since he was last truly healthy.

"I was excited," Johnson said of catching on Tuesday. "My flexibility took over and I got in positions today I felt good about. It was fun, moving the ball in and out like we did."

With veteran Gregg Zaun retiring on Monday, Johnson might be the likely favorite to win the backup catching job to Nick Hundley.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.