Walter Mencken 9:15 a.m., March 28
There has been a small vacuum here in San Diego, so far as baseball goes, so far as identity of the franchise goes. Not that the Padres haven't tried. Not for a lack of good veteran players like catcher Nick Hundley, third baseman Chase Headley, pitcher Tim Stauffer, and several others who have been part of the club for a while, working hard, improving, contributing, players we love to watch do their thing on the field. What this is about, since some first baseman named Adrian Gonzalez left for greener pastures and an even greener and larger left field wall, is the face of the franchise.
Perhaps the cameras are now pointed at center fielder Cameron Maybin.
Maybin wasn't a home grown product, he comes to the Padres originally from North Carolina, where he excelled in baseball during high school. A highly-rated prospect, the Detroit Tigers drafted Maybin in the first round of the 2005 draft with the 10th overall selection. He was so good in the minors that the Tigers called him up for a taste of the big leagues in 2007. He was so good that he was a key piece in the trade in the off-season afterwards that brought Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to Detroit from the Florida Marlins.
As he did with Detroit, Maybin continued to thrive in the Marlins minor league system and was again called up in 2008. In 2009 and 2010, Maybin played in a lot more big league games, but his stellar minor league performance fell short of expectations that the Marlins had for him at the major league level. Many scouts felt that Maybin had been brought up too soon. In November of 2010 the Marlins traded Maybin to the Padres in return for pitchers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb.
Cameron Maybin was the starting center fielder for the Padres last season. Most of his numbers were not impressive. A .264 batting average and 125 strikeouts are not numbers most clubs want to see from their lead-off hitter. However, there is every reason to believe those numbers will improve. Maybin was second in the National League in stolen bases, with 40. His speed and glove in the outfield is among the best in baseball. The organization voted Cameron Maybin as the most valuable player on the team.
The first thing you'll notice about Maybin is his infectious positive energy. He's smart, witty, someone you would want to have at your table during a banquet. The second thing you'll notice is his relaxed, easy-going manner. What you won't notice is his quiet intensity when it comes to his job. He works hard at what he does, he doesn't take anything for granted.
The Padres rewarded Maybin with a five-year $25 million extension, with a club option for a sixth year which includes a $1 million buy-out clause. That's a lot of confidence to have in a player for a small-market team that usually limits its extensions to three years. It defies conventional baseball economics. It is also an outstanding contract for the Padres to have landed.
Face of the franchise type of outstanding.
On Monday, the Padres were beaten soundly by the Colorado Rockies, 11-2. But Cameron Maybin finally got off of the schneid, going 2 for 3 with a double and a home run. They were the first two hits of the season for Maybin. Carlos Quentin continued to have a good spring, also going 2 for 3. Jeudy Valdez and Jesus Guzman accounted for the other Padres hits.
Cory Leubke continued to have an impressive spring, throwing three scoreless innings, giving up only a hit and a walk while striking out two Rockies. Jeff Suppan had a rough outing, in three innings he gave up 3 runs on 7 hits and a walk, but Erik Hamren had it worse. Hamren gave up 6 runs on 2 hits and 3 walks without recording an out. Alex Hinshaw and Dale Thayer each got in an inning of work.
Tuesday, the Padres beat the White Sox in Peoria, 6-3. Maybin continued his spring going 1 for 2 with a walk and stole his first base in Cactus League play. The Padres pounded out 13 hits, led by catcher Nick Hundley who went 3 for 3. Jesus Guzman and Jaff Decker each went 2 for 3, both of Decker's hits going as doubles. Matt Clark, Will Venable, Blake Tekotte, Jason Bartlett, and Jeremy Hermida also contributed a hit apiece.
Although starting pitcher Edinson Volquez gave up 2 runs on a hit and 2 walks, he struck out 3 in his three innings of work and looked sharper than his numbers indicate. Anthony Bass also went three innings, giving up a run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out three. Miles Mikolas, Luke Gregerson, and Huston Street each pitched a scoreless inning in relief. Street saved his first game of spring training.
Orlando Hudson is day-to-day with a groin sprain that apparently occurred during Tuesday's game. Hudson has a history with this injury. Still no solid word on Chris Denorfia's back issues, but he expects to get as much time as he can in at minor league camp should he not be able to go soon. Denorfia will need to make up some of the work he would have otherwise gotten in with the big league camp. He is optimistic that he can be ready in April.
While Maybin's bat seems to be warming up, other bats are not. Some hitters not having an impressive March include Jedd Gyorko (.167), Hudson (.176), and Bartlett (.125). It's approaching the halfway point of Cactus League play. Hitters should be catching up to the pitchers right about now.
(Image: Cameron Maybin during a radio interview)