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5 Things To Know About San Diego Padres As They Start Camp

SAN DIEGO — Five things to know about the San Diego Padres as they start spring training camp:

WHAT IFS: The penurious Padres cracked open their wallet a bit more than normal to add a handful of players in the offseason and some outsiders have actually picked them to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. There are still some tricky issues the Padres have to get past in order to make fans forget consecutive 76-86 seasons. Will the right elbow of newcomer Josh Johnson hold up after offseason surgery? Will Carlos Quentin's knee problems flare up? Will third baseman Chase Headley still be with the Padres after the July 31 trade deadline, and if so, will he be the hot Headley of 2012 or the ho-hum Headley of 2013? Will the Padres fall on their faces out of the gate as they did the previous two seasons? The Padres will have as big of a challenge as any when they open the season at home against the division rival Los Angeles Dodgers and their 1-2 punch of $215 million man Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

THE ARMS: The Padres are optimistic because of a rotation that includes Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, Johnson and Eric Stults. Kennedy was picked up at the trading deadline last year and Johnson was signed to an $8 million, one-year free agent deal in November. Catcher Nick Hundley must have been hungry when discussing the rotation. "As a catcher, as a chef, I go to the kitchen cabinet and it's full of spices and oregano and pepper and whatever you want," Hundley said. "We've got all these guys, and good young arms; we have a lot to work with. As a chef you have a lot of ingredients. It's awesome to go there and know you can try to prepare this meal and it's really, really quality arms and quality guys and a lot of different pitches in their repertoire." The Padres already have had a setback when it was announced that left-hander Cory Luebke needs a second reconstructive elbow surgery and will miss the 2014 season. He missed all of last season while rehabbing after having his first surgery in May 2012. The Padres expect young pitchers Joe Wieland and Casey Kelly to return at some point from reconstructive elbow surgeries. In the bullpen, the Padres have added setup man Joaquin Benoit and left-hander Alex Torres.


CARLOS QUENTIN'S LEGS: Balky knees have limited the slugging left fielder to 86 games and 340 plate appearances in 2012 and 82 games and 320 plate appearances last year. He had surgery on his right knee in September, the third operation on the joint in 18 months. His knees didn't feel right in spring training last year, but he says he's pain free going into this camp. "This year I'm feeling really good about going to spring training. My legs feel good. 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."

START 'EM UP: The Padres started 2-10 in 2012 and 5-15 last year. After getting to .500 on June 28 last year, they were undone by a 10-game losing streak. Hundley said San Diego will have to focus on a strong start, and having a good rotation should help. "When you've got the arms we have now, it's kind of hard to lose that many games in a row with the quality of arms that we have. Saying it and doing it are two different things. We have to go from Day One in spring training and expect to win. That needs to be our mindset. Internally we need to get that message across as a staff and as players that this will be a good year for us."

YASMANI GRANDAL: The young catcher was suspended the first 50 games of last season after testing positive for testosterone, and then tore up his right knee during a collision at the plate on July 6, requiring reconstructive surgery. Manager Bud Black said it's possible Grandal could be back by opening day. "He's doing well. He's young, he's strong, he's healing, so it's not out of the question," Black said. "But we're preparing as though he won't be ready, and if he's ready, it's a great bonus." He hit .297 with eight homers and 36 RBIs in 60 games as a rookie in 2012. After coming back from his drug punishment, he hit .216 with one homer and nine RBIs in 28 games before getting hurt.