The Early Birds


Friday is the mandatory reporting day for all position players. Busses, planes, and cabs are being commissioned across the country to bring Padres players to Peoria. However, there are a few position player who are already in camp. They’re getting a jump start, getting acclimated, or just working towards one last shot. Of those reporting early (and there are quite a few of them – I respect and admire each’s dedication), Yonder Alonso, Austin Hedges, and Drew Cumberland offer some interesting story lines.

Those three players represent three different reasons for being at camp early. According to Tom Krasovic of Inside the Padres, a select group of players will participate in a mini camp to get a jump start of sorts. Hedges and Cumberland will be part of that and must arrive to Peoria early. Alonso, on the other hand, arrived in camp Monday on his own accord. For him, a starting spot at first base is basically a lock, but he must acclimate himself with the Padres staff and his new teammates.

Alonso spent his entire short career with the Red organization.  He’s gotten to know the Reds’ players.  He’s gotten to know the coaches.  Now, he is making the transition to sunny San Diego, and to be the best player he can be, he’s arrived early.  It’s the type of move that endears a player to fans, it shows coaches you’re ready to play, and not truly does help prepare you for the season better.

For those eager few, those willing to sacrifice an extra week off, reporting early can make all the difference. Hedges is a talented catcher, a highly touted prospect according to most, but he finds himself suddenly behind Yasmani Grandal. Extra time during the spring and a specialized mini camp certainly won’t hurt him. The Padres have a lot of depth at multiple positions and it’s up to each player to prove where he belongs on the depth chart.

Drew Cumberland is a different story entirely.  His career was over in 2010.  He missed the entire 2011 season thinking he was retired from baseball.  He never filed the papers though.  An ear condition caused him to have migraines and balance issues, things an infielder – or any baseball player for that matter – just can’t deal with. Doctors told him they couldn’t correct the issue and told him he couldn’t play baseball anymore.  However, Cumberland kept going to doctors and was eventually able to find one who did help.  Cumberland was cleared to play not long before the Rule 5 Draft.  The Padres didn’t protect him because they thought he was retired, but all teams involved in the draft passed on him.  Now, Cumberland must start his comeback journey.  This will be his last shot.  He’s still young, but with a condition that almost ended his career and a full year out of baseball, there will be no shortage of critics.  Arriving early to camp and participating in the mini camp will hopefully allow Cumberland to shake off the rust and earn that coveted title of “prospect” back again.

Spring training is many things to many different players.  For those who choose to arrive early, it’s an opportunity.  Now that they’ve arrived, they must prove themselves.