Throughout the winter and into the spring, there were rumors that the Padres were in the market for a second catcher.
That had to be a bit disconcerting to Bruce Bochy, who already filled that role behind Terry Kennedy.
"I just never let that talk bother me," Bochy said Wednesday. "I don't think I've ever had anything handed me. There's always competition. I've never gone to spring training thinking I had a job, and I don't think that today."
However, the 29-year-old Bochy would appear set as the No. 2 guy. And it is a position he readily accepts.
"It might have been harder if I was just getting started," he said, "but now I know my role and I can handle it. It takes a certain type of ballplayer to be able to come off the bench and do a job."
Kennedy caught a National League-leading 147 games in 1984. Bochy caught 36. On days when Kennedy was getting a rest, Bochy delivered two game-winning RBIs.
"Sometimes I think you've got to work harder than the regulars as a backup," Bochy said. "You never know when you're going to be called on. And you can't afford to have a bad game because you don't want to hurt the club when you're out there."
And Bochy is a veteran backup catcher. Only once has he had an opportunity to be The Guy.
"When I first came up with Houston in July of 1978," he said, "I was the No. 1 catcher after two or three weeks. I felt I did a pretty good job."
Bochy hit .266 for 54 games--and then went back to the bench for the 1979 and 1980 seasons. Houston traded him to the New York Mets and he batted .306 during a brief trial in 1982--and then he was released.
When he signed with San Diego in 1983, he knew what his role would be. After all, the Padres already had Mr. Kennedy.
Would he welcome an opportunity to go elsewhere as a starter?
"Personally, it would be nice to see what kind of numbers I could put on the board, but I'm satisfied in San Diego," he said. "The Padres have treated me well, and you can't beat the city of San Diego."
And Bochy is a well-traveled young man. In fact, he was born in Landes de Boussac, France, while his father was in the service.
"The people up on Montreal harass me," he said. "I guess they think I speak French, but I really don't even remember being over there."
But his birthplace did give him a certain distinction.
"When the L.A. Times ran a list of home run leaders by country," he laughed, "I was the guy from France."
He hit four home runs in 1984, one of them a game-winner in Montreal. He didn't need an interpreter to know how the natives felt about that one.
When Bochy's family finally settled down, it was in Melbourne, Fla.
"It sure gave me a chance to watch a lot of baseball in the spring," he said. "I kid Garv about going down to Vero Beach to harass him."
Even though he stands 6-feet 4-inches and weighs 229 pounds, baseball was always his game. He never got into football.
"For one thing," he said, "I was only 6-0 when I finished high school. I didn't get my size until college."
Bochy signed with the Houston organization out of Brevard Community College and finished up at Florida State after he signed.
Somehow, he managed all of that in spite of the fact that he played winter baseball for six straight years.
This was the first off-season he did not spend in Venezuela, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. Instead, he spent the winter in Padre trainer Dick Dent's conditioning program.
"I'm in the best shape I've ever been in," he said. "I feel strong and my legs feel good. I wish it would start showing in my stats. I've got to pick up the tempo in spring training. I'm always trying to win a job in spring training."
One of Bochy's statistics is likely to remain constant, be it spring training or the regular season.
"I definitely need a stolen base," he mused. "I've got to get rid of that goose egg on my baseball card. I don't know if I ever will."
It shouldn't be any big deal. The Padres will ask Bochy to give Kennedy a rest, not pinch-run for him.
Tony Gwynn has hit safely in all nine games this spring and has a .462 average. He singled in each of the first two innings of the Padres' 6-3 win over Seattle on Wednesday and took the rest of the day off. . . . The Padres stole six bases against Seattle catchers, one each by James Steels, Jerry Royster, Bobby Brown, Jerry Davis, Alan Wiggins and Eddie Miller. . . . Steve Garvey on height: "I've always wanted to be 6-3 and weigh 210. In my next life, I'll probably come back 6-3, 210--and I'll be an archeologist."