Padres April 2016 Key Things to Watch

Mar 19, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres manager Andy Green (14) signs autographs prior to the game against the Colorado Rockies at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2016; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres manager Andy Green (14) signs autographs prior to the game against the Colorado Rockies at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

The calendar page has finally switched to April. The confetti has landed from the Royals World Series parade last November, the Hot Stove has come and gone(without much noise for Padres fans in particular), and Spring Training has come to an end without any major injuries for the Padres. Now it is time to start playing games. What should we expect out of the first month for the Padres and what are some keys to watch for? You can’t win or lose the division in April, but you can certainly gain an idea of how the rest of the season will play out.

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The Padres open the 2016 season at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers Monday April 4th at 4:05PM. This will pit Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw against the Padres Tyson Ross, who is looking to make a statement that his Opening Day start is both merited and that he too can be one of the NL’s top arms after back-to-back impressive seasons. James Shields follows in Game 2 for the Padres looking to make a statement of his own about that Tyson Ross Opening Day nod, and the Dodgers will likely send Alex Wood or Scott Kazmir as other starting rotation options were decimated in Spring Training. Andrew Cashner will close out the opening series on Wednesday.

After the Dodgers series, the Padres play seven on the road against Colorado and Philadelphia, and these games are the easiest on the schedule for the month. To come out of April above .500, they have to win 5 of 7 at least in these two series. After that, they come home to face revamped Arizona, followed by defending NL Wild Card Champions St. Louis Cardinals and Wild Card team Pittsburgh Pirates. The good news there is that they miss the Cubs this go around through the Central, the bad news is both teams mentioned are both very good and expected to contend once more in 2016. They leave town again for 3 against the Giants and finish up with playing the Dodgers up in LA to end the month.

For the Padres, their position players appear relatively set and stable, but a few positions will be interesting to watch as bench players will battle for playing time.

Left field right now is penciled in for Melvin Upton Jr. who had a relatively good 2015 with the Padres and decent Spring Training. He is still just 30 years old, but count me as a major detractor who doesn’t believe he should play over other Padres players like Jabari Blash or even giving Travis Jankowski more playing time. Still, by means of his massive contract the Padres traded for by ditching Carlos Quentin‘s similarly bad contract, it does make financial sense for Upton Jr to get first right of refusal. Jon Jay is coming off a bad season for the Cardinals as well so if he falters in center field that could also be a way to get Jankowski in or move Upton Jr to center and get Blash into left field.

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The bullpen will have to sort itself out as well, and April is a good time for a few guys to settle into defined roles. Brandon Maurer experimented with a rotation spot in Spring Training but it did not work out. He will likely be the first candidate for the 7th or 8th inning spot to set up for Fernando Rodney. Rodney hurt himself in winter ball heading into Spring Training so only got a handful of appearances, but a veteran like him knows what he needs to do and will start as the closer. It won’t be pretty but he should benefit from Petco Park the same way he did from Safeco in 2014 before falling apart in 2015.

Rotation battle. The Padres have yet to settle on a 4th and 5th starter definitely, though it appears Colin Rea and Robbie Erlin have the upper hands.

but both have some question marks heading into the season. Rookies only get to veterans with experience, and with the expectations the Padres have realistically for 2016 it is a great time to give young promising pitchers that experience. How they respond will be a big part in shaping what this team will look like for 2017 and beyond.