It's February, which means: The Padres play a baseball game this month.
An exhibition baseball game, but a baseball game nonetheless. In fact, the Padres' busy month gets underway Wednesday, when the team's trucks depart for Spring Training, hauling loads of equipment and gear to Peoria, Ariz., where pitchers and catchers will begin reporting for camp on Feb. 13. The first full-squad workout is slated for Feb. 21, and the first Cactus League game is slated for Feb. 24.
Folks, it's almost baseball season.
Of course, there's a long way to go until the season opener against the Rockies on March 30. And in the interim, there's quite a bit for the team to settle roster-wise.
With camp set to begin later this month, here's a look at the Padres’ roster battles this spring:
TWO BENCH SPOTS
40-man roster candidates: José Azocar, Matthew Batten, Brandon Dixon, Brett Sullivan, Eguy Rosario
And that's just the players on the 40-man roster. A handful of others will compete for an Opening Day spot as non-roster invitees -- a list which is expected to be announced over the next week or so.
This race is wide open, largely because there's an extra place available on the Opening Day roster. With Fernando Tatis Jr.'s suspension continuing through April 19, the Padres' bench seemingly has two spots available.
That is, of course, assuming that both Nelson Cruz and Matt Carpenter will be in the starting lineup together while Tatis is sidelined. It's also assuming that Luis Campusano backs up Austin Nola behind the plate and Adam Engel, who signed a big league deal, serves as the No. 4 outfielder.
So who's joining Campusano and Engel on the Padres' Opening Day bench? An early favorite is Azocar, considering how well he played the role of fourth outfielder last year. His speed and defense make him a prime candidate to back up all three outfield spots -- especially with Tatis unavailable.
But if Cruz and Carpenter are in the starting lineup, that means the Padres could use a bat-first option off their bench as well. Once Tatis returns, those two would presumably platoon, with one starting at DH and the other serving as the primary bench bat. In the meantime, Dixon is an option. So is non-roster invitee David Dahl, a left-handed hitter on what would otherwise be a very righty-heavy bench.