This Spring Training I’ve been watching most of Cleveland and Cincinnati’s games along with San Diego’s, and one thing that catches my eye more than most is familiar faces in new places. It’s always interesting seeing someone in a strange uniform, and even more so when it’s a fringe guy who might never play a regular-season game with the team.
I was going to mention just a few guys but then I got carried away as I tend to do. I ended up looking over depth charts for all 29 other teams, but I’m sure I’ve missed some guys, so let me know in the comments.
Pictured above, both Yonder Alonso and the junior Melvin Upton are in camp with the reigning A.L. Central champs. Alonso was signed to be their starting first baseman, while Melvin, Jr. is a non-roster invitee on a minor league deal; he’s up against strong competition for a bench spot, and his bat is going to have to warm up immediately if he’s to have a chance.
The Reds also brought a couple of former Friars in to compete for jobs.
Kevin Quackenbush has done well in his small sample size so far; he’s struck out six in five innings over five outings, walking a pair and allowing nary a run. Oliver Perez, on the other hand, has been getting lit up to the tune of about two earned runs every inning. He probably won’t latch on with the Reds, but I doubt we’ve seen the last of him. He is still somehow “only” 36 years old, and if you’re left-handed, teams will let you try to pitch until your children tell you to stop embarrassing your grandchildren.
Another job that gets you endless opportunities right up until your funeral is backup catcher.
Jose Lobaton should have many Spring Trainings ahead of him. He’s 33 and in camp as a non-roster invitee after four years with the Nationals. Lobaton started his career with seven games for the Padres in 2009, where he was teammates with one of his new teammates.
Like Alonso, Adrian Gonzalez was signed with a starting first base job in mind. He is inspiring less confidence in his new club, batting .192/ .276/ .231 in 29 PA in 10 games so far. Even if he doesn’t pan out, at least he’s costing the Mets next to nothing, since the Braves are on the hook for the remainder of his old mega-contract after they released him immediately following acquiring him from the Dodgers in a convoluted salary shuffle.
Speaking of which, Kemp was also expected to be released by his “new” team, or at least traded before Spring Training, but here we are with him the frontrunner for their left field job. I’m not including a photo of him, because it’s definitely not hard to imagine him wearing a number 27 Dodgers jersey. Also, I don’t feel like looking at a picture of some Dodger, and that also includes Rocky Gale.
I do, however, feel like looking at a picture of Alexi Amarista.
He’s a non-roster invitee with the Tigers now after a year with the Rockies, and not exactly playing his way into a job. Another former Padre trying to earn a job in Detroit is Derek Norris, but I’m not going to bother looking up how he’s faring, because eff him, that’s why. The Tigers had invited another ex-Padre in camp, but just released Travis Wood.
Another underacheiving infielder has also moved to the A.L. Central and has continued to pave his way back to AAA at best. Jose Rondon was designated for assignment by the Padres around the beginning of the year, and promptly traded to the White Sox. He has only three hits in 21 at-bats, but two of them are triples. The White Sox also got another Jose from the Padres, one Jose Ruiz, who pitched his lone major league game last year.
Elsewhere in that division, the Royals have three new guys who spent time in San Diego.
Blaine Boyer is competing for a spot as an NRI, joining curveballer Jesse Hahn, who was snagged up from Oakland, and recently signed outfielder Jon Jay, who is on his fourth team in four seasons.
Fernando Rodney will be firing his arrows as a member of a heavily fortified Twins club after a year in Arizona, and he might be joined by the last Band-Aid the Padres tried at shortstop before acquiring Freddy Galvis.
Erick Aybar has been hitting well as an NRI, albeit in just seven games so far.
He’s joined by former prospect Rymer Liriano, who is soldiering on after time with the White Sox and Brewers’ organizations. Speaking of the Brewers’ organization, they’ve invited a couple former Friars to camp and added another to their rotation.
Christian Bethancourt is a catcher again. He’ll likely head to AAA or elsewhere before April, but he’s hitting well against legitimate competition.
Ernesto Frieri is having a rough spring. He’s on a minor league deal after appearing in just six major league games last year — with the Rangers — and none the year before.
Jhoulys Chacin got a two-year deal to start in Milwaukee, and has been cruising along so far this spring. Completely off topic, but those hats are phenomenal.
The favorites to win the Brewers’ division, the Cubs, have stocked up on former Padres, both on and off the field. Will Venable is their new first base coach, and his old platoon-mate Chris Denorfia recently joined their front office.
On the field, the Cubs brought on Brandon Morrow, who put his name in the national conscience last season with the Dodgers.
Morrow will likely be joined in their bullpen by Anthony Bass, who has yet to allow an earned run in his four appearances as an NRI, and possibly by another former Friar.
Chicago picked Cory Mazzoni up off of waivers early in the offseason, but he isn’t having too great of a spring. Even much less likely to make the Cubs is catcher Ali Solis.
Their chief rivals signed three former Padres relievers to major league deals.
Miles Mikolas made a name for himself while playing in Japan, and is facing a completely different set of expectations than when he was trying to stick with the Padres and Rangers.
Bud Norris somehow got a major league deal after being perfectly average last year for the Angels, and subpar the year before with the Braves and Dodgers; plus he’s an obnoxious, dog-whistling xenophobe to boot, although that last part will play well with “the best fans in baseball”.
Another reliever who had on off-year last season was Joaquin Benoit, who is with his sixth team since the beginning of the 2015 season.
That team is the Nationals, who he joined after splitting last season between both Pennsylvania clubs. Washington also brought inWas NRI and seven-game member of the 2016 Padres, Cesar Vargas.
Another reliever who spent part of last year with the Phillies is Pat Neshek. He went to the Rockies in a trade last summer, but returned as a free agent. He was joined in camp by a couple of other free agents who also once played for the Padres.
Will Middlebrooks won’t be in action any time soon, as he fractured his fibula early in camp.
Adam Rosales, the Ecksteinest player since David himself, is making a good case to crack the Phillies’ Opening Day roster. An NRI, he’s hitting .278/ .333/ .500 with a triple and pair of doubles in 21 trips to the plate over a dozen games.
Elsewhere in the N.L. East, the Marlins have added another one-time Padre to the few they already had around.
This is Cameron Maybin’s second stint with the Marlins, but back before the Padres got him for Wade LeBlanc, Maybin played for the black-and-teal Florida Marlins. Since leaving San Diego, he has played for the Braves, the Tigers for a second time, Angels, and Astros.
Atlanta brought in two former Padres over the offseason.
Jaff Decker signed a minor league deal in December; he was invited to major league camp and has been looking overmatched.
The Blue Jays have a couple of former Padres fresh to their camp, one of them more apparent than the other.
Now 37, Craig Breslow had a down season last year, and is with the Jays as an NRI. He appeared in 14 games with the Padres as a rookie in 2005.
And of course Yangervis Solarte is with the Blue Jays, since they just traded for him this past winter.
Elsewhere, another ornithologically named team fighting for third place in the A.L. East picked up one of Solarte’s teammates from the 2014, ‘15, and ‘16 Padres teams.
Andrew Cashner is wearing black and Baltimorange after a puzzlingly successful year in his home state of Texas with the Rangers. He’s in camp with an NRI whose career consists of three games with the Reds in 2016, and two with the Padres and one with the Twins last year.
That would be Tim Melville.
The Yankees may not have held on to Jabari Blash, but they did bring in a couple of other former Padres as non-roster invitees.
Jace Peterson has just two singles in 14 at-bats, but he has also walked seven times for a .143/ .429/ .143 line.
Wade LeBlanc is trying to catch on with the Yankees for a second time. Back in 2014, he pitched one inning in one game between two stints with the Angels.
Another lefty who used to relieve for the Padres has a new home with an American League team.
In late January the Royals sent Ryan Buchter to Oakland in a deal for another former Friar, Jesse Hahn.
Across the bay, the Giants could open the season with at least one of three former Padres they’ve invited to big league camp on minor league deals. It isn’t hard to imagine Hector Sanchez in a Giants uniform since he’s spent most of his career in one.
Jose Valdez has done well in five appearances as he tries to make the San Francisco bullpen. He got knocked around in 13 relief appearances with the Padres last year after they picked him up off waivers from the Angels.
Chase d’Arnaud is making his case to man the Giants’ bench. He’s hitting .308/ .379/ .423 with two doubles in 29 PA. If nothing else, he’ll do wonders for the team’s social media for a couple weeks.
Elsewhere in the division, the Diamondbacks got themselves a reliever who has added All-Star to his resume since he left San Diego.
Brad Boxberger was outstanding in three out of his four years in Tampa Bay, making the A.L. All-Star team in 2015. In six seasons, he has 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings. That’s a lot of strikeouts.
That’s 50 guys, and I feel like I’m probably missing at very least one really obvious one.