SAN DIEGO -- Pitcher Joe Wieland didn't have to search too far this winter for someone to commiserate with about his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
That is, unless you consider the other side of the living room far.
Wieland spent the offseason in San Diego, a roommate of fellow pitcher Cory Luebke, who purchased a home in La Jolla a year ago. Like Wieland, Luebke is also coming off major elbow surgery.
"I think it's been really important for me to talk to him," said Wieland, who had his surgery in July. "He's two months ahead of me so I'm able to see what he's doing and ask him questions -- What did your arm feel like at this point of recovery? -- those kind of things."
Luebke, who had his surgery in May, is to the point where he'll play catch from 45 feet off a mound on Tuesday when pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, Ariz., for the start of Spring Training. His recovery has gone well, aside from a small scare in December.
"I had some scar tissue let loose so I thought I had actually torn it again," Luebke said. "But two or three days later, it felt good again."
Wieland has been playing catch at around 70 feet and will continue to do so in Arizona. While Luebke could return midseason, Wieland will be about two months behind.
"So far, it's gone really well, maybe even better than expected," he said. "Hopefully the next six months will go the same way."
Wieland and Luebke are carefully about attaching any expectation -- realistic or otherwise -- to a date of return. There are small victories on the road to recovery, many of them measured in feet and in days. That's fine for now.
The idea of getting back up on the mound Tuesday for Luebke is one of those victories. It's something he hasn't done since April 27, his last start before surgery.
"I think I'll be able to find it [mound]," Luebke said, smiling.
FanFest fuels optimism for Padres in coming season
SAN DIEGO -- Threatening skies Saturday morning didn't deter fans from attending FanFest at Petco Park.
The Padres had 13,944 fans attend their annual FanFest event, the unofficial start to the 2013 baseball season.
"It was a great day," said Padres president and CEO Tom Garfinkel. "All of the fans I talked to were excited and optimistic about the season, and to see the players interacting directly with them so much was fantastic."
Over 20 current players attended the event and took part in autograph sessions as well as question-and-answer segments. Manager Bud Black was on hand to meet fans as well, conducting a forum atop the home dugout with assistant general manager A.J. Hinch.
The Padres Garage Sale was a big hit. Merchandise like one-of-a-kind autographed jerseys, game-used equipment and clubhouse memorabilia were sold to raise $64,395 to benefit the Padres Foundation.
Several Padres players who attended the event were flying to Arizona late Saturday or Sunday for the start of Spring Training. Pitchers and catchers report to the team's facility in Peoria on Tuesday.
Portillo eager to learn in first big league camp
SAN DIEGO -- Adys Portillo felt like his head was spinning on Saturday as he attended his first FanFest at Petco Park.
If Portillo's name doesn't sound familiar, it might soon. The 21-year-old right-hander will be the second-youngest player in big league camp next week -- catcher Austin Hedges won't turn 21 until Aug. 18.
Portillo, who is on the 40-man roster, will be at his first big league camp, alongside pitchers with considerably more experience.
"I'm so excited," Portillo said. "I just want to get experience from the pitching coaches, the older guys … like Clayton Richard. I want to learn more about how to pitch, what count to throw certain pitches. For me, I can't wait for the first day of Spring Training."
Portillo is rated as the sixth-best prospect in the Padres' Minor League system.
Last season, Portillo started at Class A Fort Wayne and was 6-6 with a 1.87 ERA in 18 starts. The Padres then decided to challenge him, having him skip over Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore for Double-A San Antonio, and he was among the youngest players in the league.
Portillo was 2-5 with a 7.20 ERA in eight starts for San Antonio. But he said that time proved valuable for him, as he knows a little better what to expect there this season.
"That helped me a lot," he said. "I'll start in Double-A again this year and I feel I know the league, all the different stadiums. Hopefully I'll have a good year in Double-A and eventually get here [San Diego]."
Padres will have plenty of arms to look over in Peoria
SAN DIEGO -- Come Wednesday morning, the first workout in Arizona for Padres pitchers and catchers, there will be a total of 36 pitchers on the field.
Not all are at full strength, as several players like Andrew Cashner, Joe Wieland and Cory Luebke are coming off surgery and won't be ready until midseason or later.
But from a standpoint of sheer volume, 36 pitchers are a lot to track. Part of this was by design. The Padres will play the most Spring Training games (38) in club history. More games equals more innings to cover.
The other is for manager Bud Black and his staff to get a glance at some of the top Minor League arms, such as Adys Portillo or non-roster invitees like Johnny Barbato, Kevin Quackenbush, Donn Roach and Matt Stites. All of the aforementioned players are regarded as top prospects.
"It's a great opportunity for us to put our eyeballs on these guys every day," said Black, who is entering his seventh season as manager. "It's a chance for us to watch them, to help them, to get to know them, their pitching style and their mentality … so when they do get sent out, we've got a great recollection and vision of them."
None of those pitchers are expected to break camp with the team at the end of March. All will begin their 2013 season in the Minor Leagues. That said, Black hopes the experience of being in a big league clubhouse and pitching in Cactus League games will help in their development.
"I think it's also great from a learning standpoint to rub shoulders with Huston Street, Clayton Richard, Jason Marquis, Luke Gregerson, some veteran pitchers who go about it the right way," Black said. "It's a great opportunity for them to pick the brains of those guys."