PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 11: Starting pitcher Ian Kennedy #22 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 11, 2014 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Padres rode a solid start from Ian Kennedy to a 7-2 win over the Mariners on Friday night. Kennedy gave up two runs in 5.2 innings, striking out seven. His spot on the Opening Day roster has never been in question.
However, the last few spots on the 25-man team are going right down to the wire.
The Padres are looking at Xavier Nady, Kyle Blanks and Tommy Medica to fill the role of reserve position player/bat off the bench.
All three guys have experience at first base. Medica has had the best Spring Training numbers, but has also had the most opportunities. He's really the wild card in this conversation, mostly because he is just starting to learn the outfield, a position the other two have MLB experience with.
Medica would benefit more from starting the season in the minor leagues to get more consistent at-bats and returning to San Diego when there's a need. Besides, given the Padres' recent injury history, that need won't take long to materialize.
So, more realistically, it's Nady and Blanks who are the front runners, and their numbers during Cactus League play are doppelgangers. Take a look at the traditional stats for Blanks:
11 hits in 38 at-bats (.289 average), 7 runs scored, 2 HR, 5 RBI.
Now here's what Nady has done:
11 hits in 38 at-bats (.289 average), 8 runs scored, 2 HR, 5 RBI.
To differentiate these two contenders, we have to go deeper in to the box score, and here's where Blanks has the clear advantage. Kyle has more walks (7 to 0), fewer strikeouts (7 to 11), and a higher OPS (.966 to .808).
Plus, Blanks is heating up at the right time. He had a pair of hits on Friday night and hit a mammoth home run on Thursday night against the Giants.
So, if there is only one roster spot open, it seems fairly obvious it should go to Blanks. However, if they can keep them both, having Nady and his deep knowledge of opposing team's pitching staffs would not be a bad idea, either.