Padres introduce Upton, Myers, Norris, Middlebrooks
SAN DIEGO (AP) Justin Upton isn’t intimidated by hitting in Petco Park.
Wil Myers knows nothing about Petco Park.
Derek Norris knew nothing about the San Diego Padres, other than Tony Gwynn once played for them.
Will Middlebrooks said he was excited to be going from ”the East Coast to the best coast.”
The Padres on Tuesday introduced four-fifths of their big haul from general manager A.J. Preller’s busy December wheeling and dealing. The news conference came some three weeks after they introduced slugger Matt Kemp, whom Preller calls ”the starting point” in his effort to transform the worst offense in the major leagues into a contender.
”We think, if you go position by position, we match up against teams in our division, we match up against other teams in the league,” manager Bud Black said. ”Now it’s a matter of doing it between the lines. Anything can happen in the course of a year but we feel pretty good about it right now.”
The five stars were obtained in separate deals during mid-December.
”You want to give your coaching staff a chance,” said Preller, who was hired in August. ”You want to give them guys that if they go out and perform we have a chance to win and have an offensive unit that’s championship-caliber.”
The Padres will control Norris, Middlebrooks, Myers and Kemp for several seasons. Upton is entering the final year of his contract, at $14.5 million.
The Padres, who’ve missed the playoffs eighth straight seasons, had a historically awful offense in the first half of 2014. Although they played better in the second half, they finished at the bottom of the majors with a .226 average, .292 on-base percentage and 535 runs. Their 109 homers were the second fewest in baseball.
Black envisions Upton in left, Myers in center and Kemp in right. All are right-handed hitters, and the hope is they’ll wear out left field at Petco Park. Norris, a catcher, and Middlebrooks, a third baseman, also are right-handed hitters.
Upton, who was obtained from Atlanta, has 10 homers and a .291 average in 46 career games at Petco Park, where the spacious dimensions have gotten into some Padres hitters’ heads.
”Everybody says it’s big. I don’t think so,” he said. ”It usually plays pretty fair. It’s one of those places where if you hit a home run, it’s going to be a home run. I’ve enjoyed a bit of success here and I enjoy playing here. I think the park’s great. It’s a great atmosphere. I mean, how can you beat playing in San Diego every day? The new guys are going to love it, the guys who haven’t played here.”
Upton had 29 homers and 102 RBIs last season for the Braves.
Myers came over from Tampa Bay in an 11-player, three-team trade. He was the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year.
He’s never played at Petco Park.
”Everybody talks about how it’s a huge park but some of the players I’ve talked to said it’s normal. It plays fair. If you hit it, it’s going to go. If you don’t, it’s not.”
Norris was an All-Star last year with Oakland.
Asked about his reaction when he found out he’d been traded, Norris said: ”I was trying to figure out what a Padre was. I didn’t really know. Growing up watching guys like Tony Gwynn represent this organization, that was about the closest I got to knowing what the organization was. I was happy to be part of something like that.”
Norris trimmed the bushy beard he sported with the A’s.
”You’ve got to tame the beast before you can let it go,” he quipped. ”You don’t want to show up with it out of control, you know?”
Padres executive chairman Ron Fowler said he’s pleased with what Preller has done.
”When we brought A.J. in, we found someone who embraced the task,” Fowler said. ”He wasn’t afraid of the San Francisco Giants or the Dodgers. He just had this David-Goliath mentality that he wanted to do it. He had this sort of look and this swagger about him.
”We had confidence he would do what he said he would do and he had priorities set up. We thought we’d get maybe 60 percent of what we were looking at. He basically got everything he set out to do.”
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson