The team that departed Arizona on March 29, bound for St. Louis and the March 31 season opener against the Cardinals, is not the team the Padres expected to field.
For one, the Opening Day roster will be without RHP Mat Latos, who until late March was ticketed to be the season-opening starter. Latos, 23, will open the year on the disabled list due to right shoulder bursitis.
RHP Tim Stauffer will be the Opening Day starter, and he will be followed by LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Dustin Moseley and RHP Aaron Harang. The Padres will not need a fifth starter until April 11-13, and the club hopes Latos will return by then.
Latos wasn't the only surprise on the cut-down date. He will be joined on the 15-day disabled list by OF/2B Eric Patterson (hamstring), LHP Joe Thatcher (shoulder strain), 1B/OF Kyle Blanks (rehabbing from elbow reconstruction surgery) and INF Jarrett Hoffpauir (quadriceps strain). OF Mike Baxter will be on the 60-day disabled list following surgery to repair torn ligaments in his right thumb.
At the last minute, the Padres also traded minor league RHP Erik Davis to Washington for backup middle infielder Alberto Gonzalez, 28. The trade was finalized two days after the Padres decided Kevin Frandsen couldn't play shortstop well enough to be the utility middle infielder.
The Padres actually dipped into the cast of players previously sent to their minor league camp to fill out the Opening Day roster. Last-minute recalls were OF Cedric Hunter (for Patterson) and RHP Samuel Deduno (who will be the long man in the bullpen because Moseley is opening the season in the rotation).
The Padres' dependable pitchers struggled more than expected this spring, and the defense wasn't as sharp as it was last spring -- and those were the key elements of only the fourth 90-win season in franchise history. San Diego is counting on four new faces -- 1B Brad Hawpe, 2B Orlando Hudson, SS Jason Bartlett and CF Cameron Maybin -- to deliver. The Padres also hope LF Ryan Ludwick rebounds from a futile final two months of 2010, and RF Will Venable and 3B Chase Headley finally step up as consistent and productive major-leaguers.
1. RHP Tim Stauffer
2. LHP Clayton Richard
3. RHP Dustin Moseley
4. RHP Aaron Harang
Ace RHP Mat Latos opens the season on the disabled list with bursitis in his shoulder. The Padres aren't planning to use a fifth starter until April 11-13. They hope Latos will be ready when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 7.
Latos, Harang and LeBlanc weren't the sharpest this spring, and Latos let his emotions play through three times already after keeping that negative aspect of his game in check throughout a breakout 2010 season.
The most dependable of the five are Richard and Stauffer, and both missed time with injuries this spring -- Richard with a sore shoulder that delayed his first two starts and Stauffer with a hip flexor that developed on March 15. Harang has shown signs of bouncing back.
RHP Heath Bell (closer)
RHP Mike Adams
RHP Luke Gregerson
RHP Chad Qualls
RHP Ernesto Frieri
RHP Pat Neshek
LHP Cory Luebke
RHP Samuel Deduno
The Padres will carry eight relievers to start the season, the late additions being Luebke (the lone left-hander in the bullpen) and Deduno, who is the long man with Moseley in the rotation. Qualls appears to have bounced back from last year's 7.32 ERA over 70 appearances.
No one has a better late-game trio than the Padres in Gregerson and Adams leading up to Bell.
LHP Joe Thatcher starts a second consecutive season on the disabled list with a shoulder strain.
1. RF Will Venable
2. SS Jason Bartlett
3. 1B Brad Hawpe or LF Ryan Ludwick
4. LF Ryan Ludwick or 1B Brad Hawpe
5. 3B Chase Headley
6. 2B Orlando Hudson
7. CF Cameron Maybin
8. C Nick Hundley
Over the winter, manager Bud Black hinted he would use Hudson in the third hole, but he seemed to have changed his mind and dropped Hudson into the sixth spot. Hawpe, a left-handed hitter, and Ludwick, a right-handed hitter, likely will move around depending on the starting pitcher.
Remember, the Padres have a wild card on the bench in veteran Jorge Cantu, who can sub at first base, second base and third base and give the Padres a right-handed bat capable of reaching the seats in left at Petco Park.
But the switch-hitting Headley looked much sharper against left-handed pitching this spring. And Venable looked solid as the full-time leadoff man, although a sore side muscle slowed the outfielder who twice missed time last season with lower back problems.
The Padres are going to miss 1B Adrian Gonzalez in the middle. No one makes up his numbers, but they look stronger at both the top and bottom of the lineup.
C Rob Johnson
INF Jorge Cantu
OF Cedric Hunter
OF Chris Denorfia
INF Alberto Gonzalez
The Padres are going to miss super-sub Jerry Hairston Jr., who was really a regular -- and a good one at that -- last season. They also are going to miss having the catching combination of Hundley and Yorvit Torrealba.
Backup catcher is a major concern. The Padres are really weak in the area above Class A.
Alberto Gonzalez was acquired in a trade with Washington to fill the middle-infield void on the bench -- his acquisition coming two days after Kevin Frandsen was released.
Denorfia and Cantu have punch. In that area, the bench is better than a year ago.
--RHP Mat Latos (right shoulder bursitis) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He hopes to return to action as soon as he is eligible.
--LHP Joe Thatcher (left shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. He hopes to return by mid-April.
--OF/2B Eric Patterson (strained left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. The injury wasn't considered serious.
--OF Mike Baxter (left thumb surgery in March 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 28. He might be able to return in late May.
--1B Kyle Blanks (Tommy John surgery in July 2010) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22.
--INF Jarrett Hoffpauir (right quadriceps strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22. The injury was not considered serious.
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