Jeff Smith 2 p.m., April 16
Padres roll into last two weeks of the season
Not an ideal season but a lot was learned
The Padres are currently in Pittsburgh playing the first of four games there before coming home for their last two series at Petco Park, against the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Then they wind up the season in San Francisco for three with the Giants, and while the 162-game season was not ideal, a lot was learned about some of the personnel and possibly the direction of the club going into next year.
I was asked before the beginning of the season what I thought a realistic finish for the Padres would be. At the time I said the Padres should be disappointed (because any club that doesn’t make the playoffs should be disappointed), but encouraged to finish the 2013 season with 81 wins and 81 losses.
The Padres are currently 12 games below .500 with 14 games left. Finishing at a fifty-fifty split doesn’t look good, to say the least. My hope for an even season rested on the fact that the Padres had added nothing really notable after 2012, other than to mostly resign existing talent where they could only reach 76-86 on the year, and that perhaps some of the young pitching talent would improve the club.
And some did. Andrew Cashner is going to be a number two starter at least, judging by this season. The acquisition of Tyson Ross turned out be better than most expected, and he looks solid for the rotation in 2014. Others that came onto the scene late include Robbie Erlin and while Burch Smith looked a little lost when called up early on, his last start appeared as though he’s close.
Ian Kennedy is a veteran who has looked much better with the Padres after being acquired by trade from Arizona this season. There are at least three starting pitchers who one can expect to be in the mix in the starting rotation in 2014, with some others waiting in the wing.
With pitching, the Padres hopes went down somewhat early, mostly to injury. While Edinson Volquez failed to find his location so bad that the Padres released him last month, a bigger issue was early Tommy John surgery for three promising arms.
Cory Luebke was the most promising, but even Joe Wieland – while statistically not so attractive – showed the ability to command his pitches and had a mature presence on the mound. Casey Kelly was entirely promising before he got hurt. If these guys heal up, even by a third of the way into next season, the Padres could find themselves with one of the top-ten rotations in baseball.
Offensively, one plus is Will Venable, who has had a break-out year now that he gets to face left-handers and play every day. Will has hit 22 home runs to go along with 20 stolen bases, and was very deserving of the 2-year contract that will keep him with the Friars through 2015.
Another plus is Jedd Gyorko, a rookie, who converted from third to second base and has performed magnificently defensively. And the bat? He can hit at the big league level. Perhaps the batting average could come up, but it’s difficult to argue with the 18 home runs and 47 runs batted in his first season.
Offense seemed to be the biggest disappointment, combining both injury and suspension. Yasmani Grandal sat out his first fifty games due to testing positive, and while Everth Cabrera didn’t test out negatively, he did admit to taking performance enhancing drugs after the Biogenesis scandal and is missing the last 50 games.
Carlos Quentin barely played more than half of a season due to injury and Chase Headley broke his thumb and never seemed to recover. Yonder Alonso suffered two injuries and is out, while Kyle Blanks only recently recovered.
Center fielder Cameron Maybin barely played all year. And when Grandal came back, he had a season-ending injury that might take until halfway into next season to get better.
This is a lot to overcome. Both on offense and defense, between injuries and suspensions, the Padres had more than enough excuses to be even worse than their record indicates.
That’s not an excuse for the poor record. It’s just a reason that the Padres haven’t come close to breaking even. Too many breaks, none of which seemed to go their way.
As I finish this piece, the Padres have beaten the Pirates, 2-0, and Cashner pitched a complete game, one-hit shutout, facing the minimum 27 batters from the opposition. More on that later. What I would appreciate is anyone who told me that after the Padres acquired Cashner that he should be a reliever instead of the starter I thought he should be telling me how right I was. I know it won’t happen, but I can dream.
Tommy Medica, a minor league first baseman, came up about a week ago, and although his defense isn’t what Alonso’s is, the guy can hit. Although he went 0-5 tonight, he’s already hit two homers. No idea what the Padres have in mind for him, but if they don’t keep him up next season, he would make great trade bait. By the way, Medica can play a little bit in left field as well. Played some catcher in the minors as well
Mark Kotsay announced his retirement the other day, after a nice career that saw him two different times in his career in a Padres uniform. I’ve put off writing about it until the Padres come back to town and I can hopefully talk with him about it. I see a managerial career at some point in his future, although Mark claims he isn’t thinking about that right now. He should. He would make a good one.