San Diego Padres owner Jeff Moorad strongly indicated Kino Stadium can be a long-term option for the Triple-A Tucson Padres when he visited the ballpark Friday for their home opener.
Moorad heads North County Baseball, which owns the Tucson Padres. The team relocated from Portland, Ore., and will play in Tucson for two years before a ballpark is possibly built in Escondido, Calif.
However, the ballpark project faces numerous hurdles in Escondido, raising the question whether Tucson could be a more permanent site for the Padres' highest-level minor-league team.
"We're certainly open-minded to it, and we'll monitor things back in San Diego County," Moorad said. "For the time being, we're very happy to be here."
He revealed the deal for Tucson has been extended to two years.
Initially, the agreement called for the team to play in Tucson for one year, with the option for an additional year.
"It was a natural thing to extend the agreement to a firm two years," Moorad said. "I think it's helpful to the Tucson organization, helpful to (general manager) Mike Feder and his group, and a function of politics in California. They've already played into the Tucson hands to an extent, and they may very well (do) so in the future."
Originally, the ballpark was scheduled to open in April 2013, but the future of long-term redevelopment revenue in California is unclear.
Escondido officials had planned to use the revenue to pay for the ballpark.
But Gov. Jerry Brown has planned to abolish redevelopment revenue.
Moreover, the project faces other hurdles, including negotiations on properties, removing hazardous waste and capping costs at $50 million, according to the North County Times.
"We made some progress, but frankly, the progress has slowed over the last year," Moorad said. "At this point, we're excited to be in Tucson. I'm not sure how long it will last. We started talking about a year. That's turned into two years. I suppose I'd make a mistake if I tried to say an exact amount of time. We're just excited to have the two cities linked together."
Moorad praised the condition of the Kino field, which had been a concern when the Arizona Diamondbacks' Triple-A team played at the ballpark.
Moorad refrained from saying he might sell the team if the Escondido ballpark project fails. He said he has received some interest from ownership groups in the Tucson area, but he indicated North County Baseball prefers to keep the team.
"Truth be told, I'm not so sure we wouldn't want to just run the club here and continue to own it, even if things didn't work out in Escondido," he said.
Starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc received a call-up to the big leagues Sunday, albeit a brief one.
The Padres promoted him for bullpen help, but he returned to Triple-A later the same day to make room for Mat Latos being activated from the disabled list. LeBlanc did not get in a game.
"It's a lot of fun; saw a lot of airports," LeBlanc said.
"They could have gone with someone else, so I'm glad they still thought of me. They had said it could be for a day or it could be for longer."
LeBlanc bounced back from a rough first start by allowing three runs in seven innings Tuesday. He gave up nine runs, eight earned, in 4 1/3 innings in the season opener.
"It wasn't hard to do. It didn't take much to get better," he said.
"Try to keep going from there."
Before the game, the Padres took infield and batting practice. Manager Terry Kennedy said the routine will be regular for a while - the team was unable to take infield and committed 14 errors during its road trip.
"These eight days we're home and have good weather, we're going to get on it," Kennedy said.