Spring Training in Arizona is over. The Padres are coming home to San Diego, first to play two final exhibition games at University of San Diego’s Fowler Field on Friday and Saturday, then, may I have a drum roll, please… Opening Night against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a nationally-televised game on Sunday. It’s so close I can almost taste it.
Bud Black used the final two games in Arizona to set up his number one and two starters for the regular season. On Tuesday, Andrew Cashner pitched three innings in his final tune-up, allowing one run on two hits, while inducing 8 ground ball outs and recording one strikeout. He looks regular season-ready. It’s going to be a good year for Cash, building on his strong rookie season last year.
Number 2 starter Ian Kennedy looked like he could use another Spring start or two, allowing six hits and three runs in two innings of work. He looked strong in the first inning, allowing only a single after a long at-bat by leadoff hitter Norichika Aoki. But the Padres sent 11 men to the plate in the first, spotting Kennedy to a 7-0 lead. One batter into the second inning, it was 7-1. One pitch later, it was 7-2. Back-to-back homers by Alex Gordon and Salvador Perez. A double and two singles later, and it was 7-3 Padres, turning a potential laugher back into a competitive game. There was a strong wind blowing out to center field, and both homers were hit in that direction, but we’d like to see Ian pitch a little better with a big lead.
That seven-run first was fun to watch:
Everth Cabrera: Walk
Will Venable: Double
Chase Headley: RBI groundout to the right side, advancing Venable to third and scoring Cabrera
Jedd Gyorko: RBI double off the wall in right
Yonder Alonso: RBI single to center
Tommy Medica: hit by pitch
Alexi Amarista: RBI single to right
Nick Hundley: RBI single to center
Ian Kennedy: successful sacrifice bunt, RBI
Everth Cabrera: RBI single to center
Will Venable: groundout
Every player in the lineup contributed offensively in the first inning, against Royals veteran starter James Shields. That was a good time at the old ballyard. 7-0 Pads.
After Kennedy’s departure, minor-leaguer Johnny Barbato took the hill, and had a tough third inning, beaning Royals catcher Salvador Perez and allowing two runs. After throwing a scoreless fourth, the score remained at 7-5 San Diego. Good news: Perez appeared unfazed walking off the field later in the game.
Enter Robbie Erlin, the right-handed control artist and most likely replacement for Josh Johnson in the starting rotation. After a mediocre start by the other replacement candidate, Matt Wisler, earlier this week, the door seemed to be open for Robbie. After a scoreless fifth, he ran into some trouble in the sixth, loading the bases with two singles and a walk with nobody out. Problem? Apparently not. Erlin pulled the string on a changeup, striking out Edinson Rincon, then induced an inning-ending double-play.
Erlin got stronger as the game wore on, striking out two in the seventh, and three in the eighth. As he walked into the dugout following his fourth inning of relief, he turned to ask a question to manager Bud Black, presumably to find out if he was done for the day. “You’re gonna get back out there!” was Black’s mildly-annoyed response, followed by a smile. That’s a great thing about Spring Training. Reasonably-priced seats in the second row behind the dugout.
The Pads gave Erlin a couple of insurance runs in the eighth with an RBI single by Rene Rivera. Tommy Medica got plunked for the second time in the game. Tough finish in Arizona for the young Padres slugger. But he can soothe his wounds looking at his Peoria Diamond Club Rookie of the Spring award, given to him in a ceremony before Tuesday’s game. Heck, Medica might have been the player of the Spring.
Erlin finished off the ninth with ease, and finished with 5 IP, 6 hits, 0 runs, and 6 Ks. Welcome to the rotation, Robbie!
Final score: San Diego 9, Kansas City 5.
Tuesday’s game finished in a 5-5 deadlock, with no extra innings played. Notable performances in that game included Padres reliever Alex Torres striking out the side in dominant fashion, with plenty of swings and misses. A foul tip was the only contact the Cubs made with a Torres pitch that night. Padres reliever Donn Roach, a very likely candidate to make the 25-man roster as a long reliever, pitched out of trouble twice in two innings, putting zeroes on the board both times. Roach has really impressed this Spring, and it was nice to see that he’s still able to pitch effectively even when things aren’t going as well.
And a shoutout to Tawna Leah. You’re right, that long drive that Rene Rivera hit did sound real pretty off the bat. Speaking of Rivera, he showed both a real gun and a great game awareness in picking a runner off second base. When was the last time you saw a catcher not named Yadier Molina do that? Chances are we’ll see Rivera as one of three catchers on the Pads Opening Day squad.
Final impressions of our four-game jaunt to Spring Training: The team scored 11, 7, 5, and 9 runs in the four games, earning three wins and a sister-kisser. Headley, Nady, Smith, Cabrera, Amarista, Rivera, Medica, and Hundley all appear to be hitting the ball well. The bullpen looks like it will once again be a strength, with Stauffer, Torres, Thayer, Benoit, Street, and newcomer Roach all looking good. Andrew Cashner looks ready to step into the role of staff ace. Robbie Erlin is fun to watch, and appears ready for a rotation spot. Ian Kennedy looked a little shaky today, and had only a fair Spring. Eric Stults looked good against a weak Cubs lineup. We didn’t see Tyson Ross, but he had his best outing in his last start, with six innings of one-run ball. Without Johnson, the rotation doesn’t seem quite as playoff-worthy, but I think fans, and Bud Black, are going to love Erlin. It will be interesting to see who gets taken out of the rotation once Johnson is healthy. Pitching depth is a very good thing.
In short, it looks like it’s going to be a fun season. Now, beat L.A.!