Carlos Quentin is back.
After missing the final 54 games last season and the first 39 this season, the Padres clean-up hitter will return to the lineup tonight, when the team faces the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ballpark.
Bud Black announced on MLB Network Radio this morning:
Carlos Quentin is back with us, he’s active and will be in the lineup tonight. Good to get Q and Headley back.
Quentin’s presence in the lineup has been sorely missed. Although the team appeared to be breaking out of its collective slump this past weekend, scoring 24 runs in the final three games of the Miami series, the Padres have still had the worst offensive production in the majors in 2014, ranking dead last in runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.
Quentin’s return will instantly bring some stability to Black’s lineup. In 39 games this season, Black has started no less than six different hitters in the number 4 position, with Jedd Gyorko and Yasmani Grandal logging the most games there. None of the six are capable clean-up hitters at this stage in their career, while Quentin has spent much of his career hitting there. His 150 career homers and .492 career SLG are the highest on the team.
With Quentin hitting fourth, other hitters on the team can now be slotted into less high-profile spots in the lineup. Being relieved of the pressure to be the main run producer is likely to help younger, less established players like Gyorko, Grandal, and Yonder Alonso.
The unfortunate aspect of Quentin’s return is that he plays Left Field. The man currently filling that position is Seth Smith, who has been the Padres’ most productive hitter this year. Smith is absolutely on fire right now, carrying an 8-game hitting streak in which he has racked up 17 hits, including 7 doubles, 3 triples and a homer. Black will need to find a way to keep both Quentin’s and Smith’s bats in the lineup.
It is, as they say, a good problem to have.