Jeff Smith 6:35 p.m., June 27
Meanwhile in Peoria, relief pitchers threw bullpen sessions today, ten to fifteen minutes each in most cases, mostly fastballs and change-ups and mostly just the beginning of an effort to loosen arms as needed.
Tomorrow, the starters will do the same, and as camp moves forward, this will continue with the goal of building stamina. They run, too, leg strength is key in delivery. Some pitchers will require more evaluation than others.
There isn't likely to be many battles for spots between position players, but pitchers are another matter.
Huston Street is set as the Padres opening day closer, coming to the club in a December trade with the Colorado Rockies in exchange for minor league pitcher Nick Schmidt. In the deal, Colorado will cover $1 million of Street's salary for 2012 with the Padres picking up the other $7.5 million.
Street also has a $9 million mutual option with the Padres for 2013 that includes a half-million dollar buyout. He should expect even better results playing half of his games at Petco Park rather than in the high altitude of Colorado, giving Street the ability to pitch to contact on a field where the ball rarely carries well.
Street has yet to give up an earned run at Petco Park.
Another sure thing (barring injury) will be Tim Stauffer, the very likely opening day starter. Stauffer posted a record of 9 wins against 12 losses last season with a respectable earned run average of 3.73 in 185-plus innings.
While giving up 20 home runs in 2011, it was by far his most complete season, starting in 31 games. The Padres will rely on Stauffer to anchor a starting pitching staff with a few concerns early on.
Dustin Moseley and Clayton Richard are both coming off of surgery, Moseley's in August and Richard's last July. The Padres are optimistic that both pitchers have recovered and both say they feel great, but they will be cautiously limited to around 20 pitches early on, and carefully examined often.
Setbacks can occur as a pitcher recovering from injury pushes himself too hard. And since Moseley hurt himself while batting rather than pitching, it's a good bet that part of his spring training will take place in the batting cage.
As part of a trade with the Cincinnati Reds for Mat Latos, Edinson Volquez will likely enjoy the new scenery at pitcher-friendly Petco, having come from the extreme opposite environment in Cincinnati. Likely slotted in the number four spot in the rotation, Volquez will be trying to recapture some of the form he had in 2008, where he went 17-6 with the Reds while striking out over 200 batters.
One key will be in having the opportunity to pitch to contact in Petco, rather than having to avoid leaving pitches out over the plate in a small park like Great American Ballpark, where the Reds play.
Also of note, Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley has stated that he believes he's found a flaw in Volquez's delivery watching film of him pitch last year, and it's something they planning on trying to fix this spring.
The fifth starter is still up in the air. Cory Leubke does have a chance based on his work last season, while Anthony Bass could be considered, and even Josh Spence has come up in conversation.
One observation that can be made about this year's Padres pitching is that while losing Latos and Aaron Harang is certainly a concern, there seems to be a depth in this squad's pack of hurlers that was missing last season. Even veteran Jeff Suppan - a non-roster invitee - could find himself in the hunt at the age of 37.
Apart from closer Street, the bullpen looks to be made up of whichever two potential fifth starters lose out (between Leubke, Bass, and Spence, as Suppan is a confirmed starter and would likely be optioned to Tuscon or San Antonio in order to continue starting), along with some others.
Luke Gregerson had a down year last season, perhaps caused by fatigue. Newcomer Andrew Cashner and his 100 mph fast ball will begin the season in relief. Ernesto Frieri is out of options, so is Joe Thatcher, which increases the odds of seeing them in the bullpen this season. Micah Owings looks to round things out.
But with pitching depth like Padres possess, anything can happen.
Less than one week after undergoing 14 hours worth of surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, receive a nerve graft, and have biopsies performed to ensure that no cancer remained, Tony Gwynn called in and spoke to radio host Darren Smith this afternoon on the Padres flagship station, XX1090. He sounded every bit as fluid and energetic and optimistic and humorous as he always sounds.
The conversation went a long way toward comforting concerned fans, and while he expects his full recovery to take up to a year and possibly a little longer, his spirits are high. Upon awaking post-surgery, Gwynn said that the first words from his mouth were, "All right, I made it!" And that unlike the previous surgery, he was elated that he understood what he said. Continued recovery, Tony, great to hear your voice again.
Tom Krasovic, from insidethepadres.blogspot.com, wrote a great piece on Sunday that explained how the Padres run a 2-week intense camp for certain minor league Padres prospects, trying to stock the camp with instructors to provide as much one-on-one teaching as possible.
The article is here and feel free to familiarize yourself with a lot of those names. You'll start seeing them very soon.
Pictured: Huston Street