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Padres slugger Quentin says his knees feel good heading into spring training

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SAN DIEGO - Carlos Quentin made it to 82 games and 276 at-bats last season before his knees let him down again.

A little more than five months removed from another surgery on his right knee, the San Diego Padres slugger said he's pain-free going into spring training.

"My legs feel good," Quentin said during a recent workout at Petco Park. "I feel like I'll be able to run. I'll feel athletic out there. It's really important for me heading into spring training."

He had surgery on his right knee in September. It was his third operation on the joint in 18 months.

"My knee feels really good right now, compared to how I felt last year," Quentin said. "Last year I was in quite a bit of pain going into spring training. This year I'm feeling really good going into spring training."

Quentin reported to camp in Peoria, Ariz., on Monday, two days before the first full-squad workout.

Quentin is one of five players coming off surgery that the Padres are relying on as they try to end a string of three straight losing seasons. The others are third baseman Chase Headley (knee), pitcher Josh Johnson (elbow), centre fielder Cameron Maybin (wrist) and catcher Yasmani Grandal (knee). Grandal might not be ready for opening day.

Manager Bud Black has a lofty target for Quentin, who had 13 homers and 44 RBIs last year.

"He wants to play. He wants to get those 450 to 500 at-bats. That's 120 to 125 games," Black said. "If his knee feels where he thinks it can feel and our doctors feel the same way, he can get to those numbers."

Black plans to monitor Quentin during spring training and once the season starts.

"We've talked about that a lot over the last couple of years," the manager said. "Last year he got off to a tough start. He didn't feel good in spring training. His winter workouts didn't go as expected, so he came into spring training really behind. This year's different as far as how he feels, which is a good thing. With that, we're going to monitor what he does in the spring, we're going to monitor what he does during the season. I don't have a crystal ball, but I know Q feels better this February than he did last February by leaps and bounds. We've got to watch his workload."

Quentin knows he'll need to be monitored, and said it has to do more with the dwindling amount of cartilage in his right knee than his age, 31.

"That's a real thing. A lot of other players have issues with that," Quentin said. "That'll be something we'll have to watch and monitor during spring training. But like I said, it's a nice, fresh start going into this spring training how I feel running-wise, just moving-wise. I think it's going to be something to monitor to prolong just how good my knee feels."

Quentin switched to a more upright batting stance last season to deal with his balky knees. Other adjustments, though, might be a little harder for a guy known for his intensity.

"It's tough to try to change the way you play and where it's gotten you to where you are in your career," he said. "There may be things that we talk about to minimize that. When the game is on the line, I fully expect, and so does Buddy, to play the game as hard as possible. If it's necessary to break up a double play or something, you've got to do that at that point. The game will dictate those scenarios."

Quentin served an eight-game suspension for his part in a brawl against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 11. Quentin rushed the mound after he was hit by a pitch by Zack Greinke. The two players lowered their shoulders and Quentin slammed into Greinke, who broke his left collarbone.

Quentin has yet to play in 100 games or have more than 300 at-bats in a season since coming to the Padres in a trade with the Chicago White Sox on Dec. 31, 2011.

In 2012, he was limited to 86 games and 284 at-bats. He had 16 homers and 46 RBIs that season.

Quentin didn't want to discuss a target number for at-bats and games played.

"I like to work on a day-to-day basis," he said. "I'm sure in my head and their head there's a good number there that if I get to it, it's great and everything else is all gravy. I'd like to get to the point where it's not an issue."

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Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson

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