If you were a Padres fan who watched Edinson Volquez take his flat bill hat to the mound at Petco Park from 2013-14 you might be surprised to hear that he is starting Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night for the Kansas City Royals. He won’t be the only former Padres starting a World Series game however, as former Padre Chris Young is also expected to take the hill Game 4 for the Royals. He was a Padres from 2006-10 after being acquired along with Adrian Gonzalez.
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Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley has been the pitching coach for the Padres in 2003, though there are rumors that if Bud Black takes the managing job in Washington he could bring Balsley with him. Until then, he is still the Padres pitching coach as well, and he feels pride in seeing his former pupils on the games biggest stage as reported by Corey Brock of MLB.com, “…it’s fun to tune in and see former players playing in meaningful games. For me, there’s a sense of pride watching former Padres pitching in the playoffs.”
As there should be. Though it is hard to say that Balsley had much positive returns with Volquez, who was known for being feast or famine while with the Padres, he certainly got better after leaving the Padres for whatever that is worth. After leaving the Padres late 2013 for 5 starts with the Dodgers, he spent 2014 in Pittsburgh where he seemed to find his groove. He ended up going 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA which included a stretch of 6 straight dazzling starts that he won.
This season he surpassed 200 innings for the first time in his career while winning 13 games again. He ERA went up a bit to 3.55 but when you consider in just 2013 it was 5.71 you can see his margin of improvement. These Royals pitchers may not have the velocity and youth of the Mets, but don’t rule out veteran poise as a factor in the Fall Classic. During his tenure with the Padres Balsley noted that he had “flashes of brilliance”.
Chris Young meanwhile formed a formidable 1-2 punch with Jake Peavy during his Padres days. The Princeton graduate made the All Star Team in 2007 while with the Padres and saw his two years with his highest innings total, getting all the way to 179 IP in 2006. After injuries limited him to just 14 starts in 2009, he only made it to 4 in 2010 (though for good measure allowed only 2 runs in 20 innings), and 4 more in 2011 with the Mets. The following season he got back to 20 starts with decent results for the Mets, in 2013 he was out of baseball.
He resurfaced with Seattle in 2014 and won AL Comeback Player of the Year, going 12-9 with a 3.65 ERA before signing on with the Royals this season. He was used as a starter and reliever to help save his arm, starting 18 in 34 total appearances. He has pitched well in the playoffs so far and must be looking forward to the first World Series in his 11 year career. Said Balsley about Chris: “He was very coachable. He’s a very good athlete. He was very good to work with. His work ethic is great. I never had to worry about that. It wasn’t even work. I’d say it was more fun.”
If you were wondering, I’m picking the Royals in 6.