The Padres very nearly passed on A.J. Preller in the club’s 2014 general manager hiring process, Bryce Miller of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. President Mike Dee says he had settled on another candidate — very likely, now-Angels GM Billy Eppler, but took Preller up on his request for a final sit-down “just as a kind of courtesy, because he was so good throughout the process.” Preller obviously made a great final impression, because Dee left the meeting convinced in the young executive and told San Diego chairman Ron Fowler the next morning that he’d “had a change of heart overnight.” The story details how the organization’s current leadership group came together, and is well worth a full read.
Here’s more from out west:
- The Giants plan to meet with representatives of first baseman Brandon Belt this week to discuss a long-term contract, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports. Baggarly takes a deep and excellent look at the complicated matter of valuing the soon-to-be 28-year-old, talking with Belt and GM Bobby Evans about the upcoming talks. For his part, Belt says he hopes to remain in San Francisco but notes: “It’s all going to come down to what’s fair. And, you know, I hate to say it like that, but that’s the reality.” Evans declined to offer any thoughts on what might be fair from the team’s perspective, but said that the organization “believe[s] in his bat, his defense, his character and the continuity that he, if healthy, can add to our lineup.” He went on to note some of the matters that may hold down the team’s bottom-line on price: “Strikeouts are certainly a challenge for him, but he’s also a guy who gets on base at a pretty fair clip. It’s a fair debate in the sense of the different perspectives. But on some level, injuries have been more of an issue than performance.”
- While Angel Pagan is showing well this spring, the Giants are dealing with concerns at the catching position, Baggarly further reports. In particular, presumed backup Andrew Susac is struggling with soreness in his right wrist, which was operated on last fall. While there are options on hand, including veterans George Kottaras and Miguel Olivo, and the younger Trevor Brown, Susac has long been viewed as a legitimate talent and will be looking to play an increasingly important role in support of the great Buster Posey.
- Trevor Story has made a strong case to take over at shortstop for the Rockies this spring, as Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post writes. GM Jeff Bridich wouldn’t commit to a decision, but praised Story’s ability and approach in camp and certainly suggested he’d continue to have every opportunity to win the job as camp draws to a closer — regardless of service-time considerations. Meanwhile, promising backstop Tom Murphy has been sent down to minor league camp, with expectations that he’ll get plenty of time at Triple-A, but could well find his way to the majors at some point during the season to come.
- Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs will return to competitive action on Thursday for the first time since his Tommy John procedure, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. The Halos’ rotation hasn’t developed quite as hoped this spring, making Skaggs’ already-important comeback all the more critical. Fletcher suggests he could be ready for regular season action as soon as late April.
- The Astros are getting close to making some decisions in rounding out their bullpen, as MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart explains. Lefties Wandy Rodriguez and Neal Cotts have opt-out dates of Saturday, per the report, and they are embroiled in competition with a group of other arms — including the out-of-options Dan Straily.