PEORIA, Ariz. -- A year ago, Cody Decker was a first baseman trying his hand at catching. Today, Decker is in big league camp with an eye on one specific goal for the upcoming season.
"I want to catch a lot more this year," Decker said.
Decker appeared in nine games last season as a catcher with Triple-A Tucson. He spent most of the year learning the position, putting in extra time before games and learning from one of the best, former San Diego special assistant Brad Ausmus, who has moved on to managing the Tigers.
The position isn't completely foreign to Decker, who caught in high school and at UCLA. But, after several attempts of trying to talk himself into a position change -- or adding a position is more like it -- the team finally gave him a shot.
"He's continued to push it. If he can catch and make himself a viable third catcher and first baseman ... he's put up good numbers everywhere," said Randy Smith, the team's vice president of player development and international scouting.
"He's flies under the radar. But Cody finds a way to do damage every year. He's a guy you root for. He wants it and tries really hard."
In parts of five seasons with the Padres, Decker has a .269/.353/.534 line with 106 home runs. A year ago, Decker hit a combined .262 with 19 home runs between Double-A San Antonio and Tucson.
Chances are, Decker will get a lot more time behind the plate this season with Triple-A El Paso. His time in big league camp will allow him time to improve at the position and handle many of the same pitchers he will during the regular season.
"I want to get to the big leagues," Decker said. "First base, so far, hasn't really done it. I like catching. I was a catcher in college, high school. Anything I can do to make myself more attractive to anyone, I'll do."
Jackson seeks permanent place with Padres
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It was a busy winter for Padres' shortstop Ryan Jackson, who in the span of a month was actually a member of three different organizations -- the Cardinals, Astros, and now the Padres.
But that's not all.
While trying to figure where he was going professionally, Jackson was trying to settle down personally, as he was married in December.
"I was with Houston for something like two weeks," said Jackson, who was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals in November, a month before being dealt to the Padres. "And then a couple of days before we left for our honeymoon, I was traded to San Diego."
It's been a lot to digest for Jackson, who has a better idea today where he stands. He's here in camp trying to win a job as a reserve infielder with the team.
"It seems like a very good opportunity for me moving forward," Jackson said. "I'm really [happy] that I'm here. Camp has been going very well."
The Padres parted with one of their better bench options in first baseman/outfielder Jesus Guzman to land Jackson, who is considered a plus-defender at shortstop -- a premium position that's not always easy to fill, especially on the fly.
The Padres discovered that a year ago when Everth Cabrera -- the team's lone All-Star representative -- landed on the disabled list in July with a hamstring injury. The team had to go outside the organization to sign Pedro Ciriaco.
Then, when Cabrera was suspended for the final 50 games of the season, the team went out and signed free agent Ronny Cedeno to fill in at shortstop.
By acquiring Jackson, the Padres add to options in terms of having a player on the roster or in Triple-A -- and Jackson still has Minor League options -- who can fill in quickly if needed.
"In his college days, he was a really good defender," said general manager Josh Byrnes. "He has actually swung the bat pretty well in the Minor Leagues, but his strength is his defense."
Jackson hit .278 with a .352 on-base percentage in 2013 for the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate. Jackson has 24 Major League at-bats over the last two seasons, collecting two hits. He's a career .270 hitter in the Minor Leagues, though it's obvious his strength is his defense.
"I like his glove. Ryan has looked good," said Padres manager Bud Black. "He has good actions, solid arm stroke, good feet and good hands. I know [coaches Rich Dauer and Glenn Hoffman] have said that they like what they have seen as well."
Jackson realizes that his calling card is his defense. He's embraced that.
"It's something I take very seriously," Jackson said. "Especially playing shortstop you have to be sure-handed, you don't have time for mistakes. You make a mistake, and the guy is on base and then a big inning can happen. I take a lot of time on my craft and trying to be solid for the pitching staff."
• Black said infielder Jonathan Galvez, who sustained a groin injury on Thursday, was doing better at last check. The team will still hold him out of drills for at least five more days before a determination is made whether he can rejoin the position players in drills. Galvez is expected to begin the year with Triple-A El Paso.
• The Padres are getting closer to their first game of spring on Thursday, their annual charity game against the Mariners at the Peoria Sports Complex -- the ballpark the teams share each spring. Black said the team will likely use six or seven pitchers in that game, and he has an idea who will throw that day. However, Black wasn't quite ready to give the reporters the list on Saturday.
• The Padres will play 28 games in Arizona before breaking camp after their March 26 game against the Royals. That's plenty of innings as far as Black is concerned, as the team, at this point, won't pursue any 'B' games to get position players and pitching additional innings.