Padres Full Of Hope As Baseball Season Begins
Monday, March 31, 2014
Credit: Jay Buffington
Sports columnist Jay Paris is interviewed about the start of the San Diego Padres season.
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Fans get ready for another season of Padres baseball. Sports columnist Jay Paris tells them what they can look forward to after the team's disappointing record last year.
A new Padres season is here and so, too, a fresh result?
There's a sense of optimism as the Padres get ready to face the Los Angeles Dodgers in Tuesday's opening day. The Padres already had their opening night Sunday, beating the Dodgers 3-1 to christen the domestic baseball season.
Not much can be absorbed from one March game, other than the Padres have 161 more. What remains a mystery: Will the Padres be playing meaningful September games?
While the Padres are full of hope, their resume says otherwise. They've finished the past two seasons 10 games under .500 and have finished above the break-even mark just five times in the past 15 years.
But with a record payroll estimated at $87 million and an influx of talent some are wondering if the Padres might just be this year's sleeper team.
If so, they can't smack the snooze alarm in the first month. The Padres staggered from the gate last year with a 5-15 record and started 2-10 in 2012.
The Padres' biggest concern is staying fit as injuries in 2013 decimated any chance they had of competing. Already they've kept their medical staff busy.
Newcomer Josh Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA two years ago with the Marlins. But an elbow ailment derailed the pitcher’s spring, and he's expected to miss the first month with a tender forearm.
Center fielder Cameron Maybin played but 14 games for the Padres last year, and he's out until at least May after suffering a biceps injury in camp.
If Johnson returns, he fortifies a staff that includes an emerging ace in hard-thrower Andrew Cashner, an electric Tyson Ross and, the Padres hope, a resurgent Ian Kennedy.
The Padres enticed free-agent reliever Joaquin Benoit to San Diego on a two-year, $15.5 million deal. He'll serve as an eighth-inning bridge to closer Huston Street, giving the Padres a dynamite back end of the bullpen.
But with the Padres it's always about scoring, and that remains suspect.
Slugging left fielder Carlos Quentin opens the season on the disabled list, chased there by his chronically sore knees.
The Padres are banking on outfielder Will Venable continuing the surge he had last year, and that third baseman Chase Headley will resemble his 2012 version when he led the National League with 115 RBIs.
If second baseman Jedd Gyorko can skip the sophomore jinx, the Padres have a steady hitter who led National League rookies last year with 23 home runs.
Shortstop Everth Cabrera's 50-game suspension for ties to baseball’s performance-enhancing drug scandal is behind him, but can he be the same player? He's a potential spark plug at the top of the order and gifted at swiping bases.
Possibly, but again that's two more "ifs" for a team overloaded with them.
The Padres have long peddled hope, with a certain mix of smoke and mirrors. This year, when holding the team up for reflection, a case can be made that the youngsters are ready to blossom and the veterans reliable enough to be productive.
Then again, when residing in the National League West Division that features the fat-cat Dodgers, the Giants, with their two World Series titles in four years, and the revamped Diamondbacks and Rockies, nothing is certain.
Still, Padres baseball is in the San Diego air. Just maybe, this season's promises aren't supported by so much hot air.
Jay Paris, a freelance sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @jparis_sports.
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