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02/27/12 4:22 PM EST

Darnell's shoulder stronger after surgery

PEORIA, Ariz. -- By no means does Padres third baseman/outfielder James Darnell consider himself to be a pure power hitter.

Sure, Darnell has topped 20 home runs twice in his first four seasons in the Padres' Minor League system, though he pegs more as an average/on-base guy after producing a .301/.401/.508 slash line to show for over his first 1,344 Minor League at-bats.

That might change this season after what Darnell was told following surgery in September to repair the labrum in his left shoulder.

"It's 100 percent now and feels great," Darnell said. "I've been told it's actually better than before ... a little stronger than before. It's stronger in the joint than ever before."

Darnell said he first started to notice a difference during his offseason workouts, and also here in Peoria.

"I'm getting more bat speed on my follow through," he said. "The doctor said I might have more power. I told him that I would take it. I'll always take more power. It felt great."

Darnell hit .222 in 45 at-bats with the Padres in 2011 after hitting .310 with 23 home runs and 79 RBIs between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tuscon. He will see time this spring at third base and in the outfield.

"They talked to me about that last year, about working in the outfield," Darnell said. "I'm going to do both and roll with it. The biggest thing is just to hit."

Kotsay brings veteran leadership to Padres

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Mark Kotsay didn't need any time away from the game this past offseason to decide if he would play again in 2012.

He pretty much knew the answer right after his Brewers were eliminated in six games by the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

Not that Kotsay, 36, likes to think about that series -- or the final at-bat of it -- too much.

"I made the last out versus the Cardinals," he said. "I struck out to end the game."

St. Louis relief pitcher Jason Motte struck out the Brewers outfielder/first baseman to send the Cardinals to the World Series, which they went on to win over the Texas Rangers in seven games.

As for Kotsay, making his second tour of duty with the Padres, this time on a one-year contract, he knew right away that he wanted to play in 2012 -- no matter where that was.

"I knew I wanted to come back. I had too much fun with that team," Kotsay said. "We had a great run. It was a special team. I knew I wanted to come back and compete and do the same thing I did last year in a role that utilizes my strengths and doesn't expose my weakness."

That role with the Padres will be to provide a left-handed bat off the bench and someone to play some first base and some outfield duty in a pinch. The team also signed Kotsay to provide leadership, which was lacking a year ago when the Padres lost 91 games.

"It's not about the words you speak ... it's about your actions. The way you go about handling yourself as a professional day in and day out, both on and off the field," Kotsay said. "Hopefully I can come across in a positive manner. Hopefully that flows over and the guys learn that you've got to put in the work and effort to get the result in the field."

Cashner dials it up in live BP session

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Andrew Cashner sounded a little empathetic on Monday afternoon when he was asked about facing actual hitters for the first time in camp.

"Their timing is not there yet," Cashner said of the hitters.

Cashner showed his usual live arm by throwing a handful of two-seam fastballs during an eight-minute session on a back field. But it was a changeup he threw to Jeremy Hermida that caused a big stir -- in a good way.

Either way, everyone could agree that the pitchers -- who have been here a full week longer than the position players -- are well ahead of the hitters.

"I think that it's good for them," said Huston Street, who also faced hitters. "The pitchers are always ahead of the hitters, even going into the season. Some guys find it quicker. But you get in the season, though, and the level raises another notch."

Still, that didn't stop the hitting group of Hermida, Kyle Blanks, Jesus Guzman and Yonder Alonso from doing more than just tracking pitches on Monday.

"The guys here were really aggressive and wanted to swing the bat," Cashner said.

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.