Headley, Antonelli out fielding

Chase Headley

Top infield prospects Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley were at Petco Park recently auditioning for possible openings in the outfield.

"They are pieces of the puzzle," said Padres manager Bud Black. "We are exploring the possibilities. What we're going to do this spring is look at a lot of different possibilities."

Those possibilities include looking at Chase Headley, a third baseman who was the Texas League Player of the Year last season, in left field and Matt Antonelli, a former first-round draft pick, in center.

Left is wide open for the Padres with Scott Hairston being the leading candidate going into spring training. And while the Padres have starters in center (Jim Edmonds) and right (Brian Giles), there are injury concerns with both veterans.

In addition to Hairston, Antonelli and Headley, minor league outfielder Chad Huffman was also in San Diego shagging flies and taking batting practice as Black and general manager Kevin Towers watched.

Like Headley, Antonelli and Huffman both finished 2007 with Class AA San Antonio after opening the season with Class A Lake Elsinore.

Headley hasn't played outfield since spending two weeks in right as a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, and Antonelli has never played outfield regularly. But they won't be infield candidates because the Padres have Kevin Kouzmanoff at third baseman and signed Tad Iguchi as a free agent to play second.

Black said he also intends to take a look at Hairston in center as well as left during spring training because the Padres have no proven backup for Edmonds, who has had injury problems the past three seasons.

Antonelli, the Padres' first-round pick in 2006, admitted to being surprised when he first heard his name mentioned as a potential center fielder of the future.

"I've taken more balls in the outfield in the last two days than I've taken in my life," Antonelli said. "They just called me and said, 'We'd like to get a look at you in center.' ... It was good to get out there. The more I can play the outfield, the more balls I see, the better. We'll just see how it goes."

Antonelli, 22, moved to second from third last year because of the talent backup in the Padres system at third. He hit .294 with seven homers and 24 RBI in 49 games at San Antonio after hitting .314 with 14 homers and 54 RBI in 82 games with Class A Lake Elsinore.

Headley, 23, the Padres' second-round pick in 2005, hit .330 with San Antonio last season with 20 homers and 78 RBI.

Huffman, 22, the Padres' second-round pick in 2006, is a natural outfielder. He hit .269 with seven homers and 28 RBI in 49 games with San Antonio late last season after hitting .307 with 15 homers and 76 RBI in 84 games with Lake Elsinore.

Headley said he's "a long way off from being considered an outfielder."

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