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3/16/2014 4:10 P.M. ET

Rivera impressing with strong bat this spring

Padres catcher working with hitting coaches to improve, shorten swing

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres feel strongly about Rene Rivera's ability to call a big league game from behind the plate, how he handles a pitching staff and the other components that go into catching.

They're starting to feel better about his bat, too.

Rivera took a .474 (9-for-19) average into Sunday's game against the Royals, the result, he said, of work he's put in the cage, work on his swing that at various points last season had become too long.

"Since spring last year, [hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell] and I have worked to get more consistent on staying shorter to the ball," Rivera said. "By the end of last year, it really clicked. I tried to do the same routine in winter ball. I'm just trying to get a good pitch and put a quality swing on it."

That was certainly the case in 2013. Rivera was the starting catcher for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in Tucson, when he hit .343 in 276 plate appearances. He was later recalled by the Padres after Yasmani Grandal was lost for the season in July with a knee injury.

Rivera hit .254 in his 71 plate appearances with the Padres after his promotion.

"Last year was a work in progress. I was trying to be more consistent on a daily basis. So I think this year will be a good one," Rivera said. "I feel like I have a chance now. I'm recognizing pitches and am able to better put a good swing on the fastball."

Rivera doesn't have any remaining Minor League options, so the Padres risk losing him if he's not on the team's 25-man Opening Day roster. The club still isn't certain if Grandal will be ready for the start of the season on March 30 against the Dodgers.

Decker, Spangenberg assigned to Minors camp

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Getting called into the manager's office and being told you're being reassigned to Minor League camp likely wasn't what infielder Cory Spangenberg had in mind for his 23rd birthday, though he certainly wasn't stunned by the news.

Spangenberg and catcher/first baseman Cody Decker were reassigned to Minor League camp on Sunday, while right-hander Burch Smith was optioned to Triple-A El Paso.

The Padres now have 44 players in big league camp.

For Spangenberg, the 10th overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, he knew he was headed back to the Minor Leagues at some point, as he'll likely begin the season with El Paso.

If anything, Spangenberg was thankful for his time in his first big league camp.

"It was a great experience ... being here every day, watching big leaguers, how they go about their day, how they get their work done and prepare for the game was a great experience for me," Spangenberg said.

Spangenberg hit .261 in 16 games this spring in 26 plate appearances with two RBIs and two steals.

"I actually played more than I thought I would. I was playing every day, at least getting one at-bat," he said. "I was going in the fifth or sixth inning of each game and I got a few starts."

Smith, who came to camp with a shot to win a bullpen job, allowed nine earned runs and 14 hits in 3 2/3 innings.

"I felt like he was pressing a little," manager Bud Black said. "He didn't relax and pitch like he was capable of. But he'll be back. He has good stuff."

Decker hit .300 in 10 at-bats with one home run and four RBIs. He'll likely see time at first base as well as catcher with El Paso.

Short hops

• Outfielder Alex Dickerson sprained his left ankle during the team's warmup drills on Saturday morning and will likely miss more than just a few days. Dickerson, who wouldn't have made the Padres' 25-man Opening Day roster, could miss a week or even longer, manager Bud Black said. Dickerson, after a slow start, was hitting .280 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 29 plate appearances this spring.

• Free-agent pitcher Jason Marquis, who pitched for the Padres last season before having his season end because of Tommy John surgery in July, stopped by camp on Sunday to throw a bullpen session. Marquis, 35, is hoping to sign with a team. Pitching coach Darren Balsley, who watched the bullpen session, said it was "excellent."

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.