San Diego Padres
There’s no telling what the future holds for the Padres in 2013, though it’s fairly safe to say the success and durability of their starting rotation will play a large role in determining how they fare. That’s why general manager Josh Byrnes and his staff have worked to build as much depth as possible, hoping that strong competition in Spring Training will yield five starting pitchers they’re happy with. And maybe five healthy ones, at that. This was certainly very difficult to come by in 2012 when the Padres were buried early under the weight over several notable injuries, many to their pitching staff.
How bad was it? All told, the Padres cobbled together 59 starts out of pitchers who weren't on their 40-man roster when the season began and -- if you can believe this -- 51 starts from pitchers who weren't even a part of their organization when the 2012 season opened. Those starters were Jeff Suppan, Kip Wells, Ross Ohlendorf, Eric Stults, Andrew Werner and, the best of the bunch, Jason Marquis, who signed a one-year deal to return to San Diego in December.
"You spend all winter building depth and we went into Spring Training thinking that our depth beyond our Major League team was really good," said Padres assistant general manager A.J. Hinch said. "As it turned out, we tested that theory quite a bit." In fact, only Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez made more than 16 starts for the team a year ago. That can’t happen again if the Padres are to improve upon their 76-86 finish in what looks to be an improved National League West Division.
The Padres headed to Arizona for Spring Training with 10 legitimate starting rotation candidates. A few are on Minor League deals (veteran Freddy Garcia, Tim Stauffer), a few were part of the rotation a year ago (Richard, Volquez, Eric Stults, Anthony Bass, Casey Kelly and Marquis) and there’s a handful of other names of note (Tyson Ross, Robbie Erlin). On top of that, the Padres are encouraged they’ll have three arms coming back from the disabled list at some point – Andrew Cashner, Joe Wieland and Cory Luebke. Cashner will miss the start of the season after suffering a lacerated thumb tendon in December while Wieland and Luebke had Tommy John surgery a year ago. Luebke could potentially return in late May with Wieland potentially set for his return sometime in July, though those dates aren’t firm.
The club will build its rotation around Richard, who made all 33 of his starts in 2012 and tied his career-high with 14 victories. Volquez won 11 games and made 32 starts, missing one start because of a blister issue. After that, though, the next closest pitchers in terms of starts were Bass and Marquis (15 starts each). Marquis wasn't even part of the organization when the season started. The Padres used 15 starters last season after early injuries shelved Dustin Moseley and then Stauffer. Luebke -- who was being counted on heavily -- and Wieland found the disabled list early. "It was, hopefully, as bad as it ever gets," Byrnes said of the injuries.
Left-hander Eric Stults, who started the season with the White Sox, impressed over a 14-start stint, as he finished the season with a 2.92 ERA. Marquis won six games. In addition to bringing Marquis back on a one-year deal, the Padres traded for former A’s pitcher Tyson Ross, the older brother of San Diego pitching prospect, Joe Ross. Ross was 2-11 with a 6.50 ERA in 18 games (13 starts) for the A's and went 6-2 with a 2.99 ERA in 15 games (13 starts) for Triple-A Sacramento. The 25-year-old was originally selected in the second round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft and had appeared in 53 games for the A's the past three seasons.
“We sort of follow a long trail of scouting reports of guys we’ve liked for a while, guys who haven’t quite established themselves,” Byrnes said of the Ross deal. “We feel like with [manager Bud Black] and [pitching coach Darren Balsley] and a lot of things we do here, and pitching here, this is a place where they can be successful.”
Playing in a big ballpark (Petco Park) can often yield good results for pitchers, even though the Padres made some fence modifications in store for the 2013 season. That said, the ballpark figures to cater to pitchers and the Padres are counting on a better performance from their starting staff. They can’t afford another repeat of 2012.
“I think it [2013 success] depends on how you pitch,” said Black, who is entering his seventh season. “Last year was a tough year for us on the mound, primarily health-wise. Down the line, I think we have to have a healthy year on the mound.”
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