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As the Padres stir around in the clubhouse, or get ready to take batting practice on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles, some notes are probably in order as we slide into September. The Dodgers used to be in last place early this season, while the Padres were at one point poised to attempt to take the division lead.

Things went back to normal after that, at least based on how much cash each club spent on their rosters. What changed? Why isn’t this club in San Diego performing better and why did the Dodgers suddenly get hot?

The Padres were probably doomed from the start. You need solid starting pitching to contend. Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, and Casey Kelly were all out of service before the season began, requiring Tommy John surgery, out for a year.

You can try and plug people into a rotation, but on a shoestring budget, that rarely works. The club signed Jason Marquis for another year, and he proved to be an effective enough arm until injury also ended his season.

Eric Stults has found a groove he never really had until late last year, but with Stults you get a very clever cunnythumber who will burn up innings but not exactly dominate an opposing lineup every start. Edinson Volquez was so erratic that he’s been released and now finds himself in the Dodgers’ bull pen.

Andrew Cashner has been solid, but he’s just one arm. Tyson Ross shows promise. That’s two, or perhaps one and a half. Remember Clayton Richard? It’s doubtful that he’ll play for the Padres next season after he gets through his season-ending injury.

The up-side for Padres pitching remains in 2014. Robbie Erlin looks promising, and you get Luebke back, and along with Cashner and perhaps Ross, you have four good ones. Kelly and Wieland can duke it out for the fifth spot. What they do with Stults is anyone’s guess, but the more the merrier. Ian Kennedy is also in the mix, but the jury is still out on how effective he will be.

In other words, the Padres have a chance to build their bull pen for next season around the injuries that happened this year. And future rookies like Kevin Quackenbush look good to eventually take over the closing role after perhaps spending a season or so in the bull pen.

Hitting is another matter. Do you really want to know why Chase Headley is struggling? The lack of Carlos Quentin being in the lineup. With Quentin there, Headley is protected in front of him. Quentin’s season is done and he’s having surgery on Tuesday, but if the Padres can get Carlos healthy, then it’s a good guess that Chase will improve next season presuming he’s still with the club.

The starting catcher, Yasmani Grandal, was suspended for steroids for 50 games and came back only to get hurt and is out for the season. Starting shortstop Everth Cabrera got to enjoy being an All-Star only to suffer a similar suspension to Grandal’s, for using performance enhancing drugs.

Center fielder Cameron Maybin, out for the season. It goes on and on. But it also provides opportunities, unfortunately for 2014, but opportunities none-the-less.

Kyle Blanks is recovering and rehabbing through a foot injury, but looked good this season. Will Venable has been hitting the cover off of the ball, and regardless of the caution prescribed by a baseball scribe I very much admire, I’m willing to give Venable credit for not teasing me, but that he’s finally found his groove.

Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko are growing, and both are definitely Major League material. There are plenty of bright spots. But injuries decimated the Padres while the Dodgers got healthy.

That’s the difference. That, and around $140 million more dollars in payroll, and the Dodgers had that opportunity to add the pitching they lacked early in the season. And they have. And they will next year as well.

What the Padres will do for next year is a complete mystery. What they’ve done this year, we can explain, and they get a pass. But to compete against a club that spends far more than double the player payroll than the Padres spend, well, that’s going to require some sort of awesome magic to compete next season.


Notes:

Chase Headley is out of the lineup again on Friday. He was pulled Tuesday with back spasms. We’ll see how serious this injury is as the series progresses. In a couple of days, players on the 40-man roster can be called up, so perhaps resting Chase isn’t the worst thing that could happen.

Friday night, the Padres and the Dodgers go at it at Chavez Ravine. Eric Stults (8-11, 3.72) will go for the Padres and face Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-5, 3.08). Game time is at 7:10 PM PDST, on radio 1090 AM and televised on Fox Sports San Diego.

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