Padres News: Competition Breeding Friendship for Solarte, Middlebrooks


Yangervis Solarte and Will Middlebrooks may be competing for the starting third base job for the San Diego Padres, but so far, they can agree on one thing.

Arizona is a better place to have Spring Training than Florida.

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Both Solarte and Middlebrooks started last season in the AL East, which plays its Spring games in the humid clime of Florida. The Cactus League training sites in Arizona are all pretty close to each other, with the Royals’ and Rangers’ complex in Surprise, AZ being only an hour’s drive to the Cubs home in Mesa. The commutes on the Grapefruit Circuit are much longer, with the trip from the Blue Jays’ gulf-coast home in Dunedin, FL being nearly four hours away from the Cardinals’ and Marlins’ site in Jupiter.

Although the games aren’t being played yet, the prospect of the quick drives instead of half-day trips is very appealing to the infielders.

Until the games start later this week, Solarte and Middlebrooks are enjoying the competition to determine who will be the Padres’ starting third baseman, pushing one another to be as good as they can be. According to Dennis Lin of the Union Tribune, the two players are focused on the fact that they are teammates first, and competitors second.

"“I’m trying to help him, he’s trying to help me,” Lin quotes Middlebrooks. “We’re working together, we’re having fun and we’re competing. It’s for the team, and I think it’ll be good if we both push each other.”“That’s competing. For me, it’s my teammate. I want to work hard with him and make it fun, too,” Solarte concurred."

Aside from the change in preseason venues, Solarte and Middlebrooks may be facing a largely different environment than they did in the northeast. Playing home games in San Diego’s Petco Park instead of Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park holds the potential for some major culture shock, although Solarte got a taste of Petco last season. The duo are moving from two of the loudest, most supportive ballparks in baseball to what has traditionally been one of the quietest, most sedate crowds in the big leagues. The potential for some letdown exists. Even with the Padres ticket sales soaring, the fan base has some catching up to do to match the intensity of the crowds in New York and Boston.

It will be up to the San Diego fans to show if they can bring it with the most passionate fans in baseball. But for now, Solarte and Middlebrooks are focused on bringing it to the ballpark every day, and making sure the fans have something worth cheering about.

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