The San Diego Padres will have quite a tough time competing in the National League West in 2017, needing to match up with two consistent powerhouses and two improving young clubs.
Opening Day. The day beckons from the last out of the World Series through the long winter nights without baseball. For Padres’ fans the first game of 2016 sucked the air out of that balloon, which landed with a thud.
The generally agreed upon “best pitcher on the planet” shut out the team in a resounding 15-0 beat down. Tyson Ross faced Clayton Kershaw, exited after 5 1/3 innings, was pronounced day-to-day and then never seen again on the mound for the Padres.
The odds are that April 3 can’t match that disheartening result. However, Kershaw will again be on the mound for Los Angeles. Thus will begin a long slog through a relatively tough division.
The National League West may not be the strongest division in baseball, but both the Dodgers, the wealthiest team in baseball with the highest payroll, and San Francisco Giants would surprise no one by ending up as one of the last teams standing at the end of the regular season. After all, the Giants do have a shocking (to their fans) two-year World Series drought to overcome.
In 2014 Madison Bumgarner almost single-handedly won the World Series, even pitching five innings on two days rest in Game 7. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija will join him, as they did last year. The Dodgers boast rookie-of-the year winner Corey Seager, as well as a strong starting rotation headed by Kershaw with Luis Urias, a potential phenom, in the mix.
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The Padres must also face the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies multiple times, and both should be stronger than last year. The addition of Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller backfired last year, but the Diamondbacks have restructured and regrouped.
The Rockies, of course, pitch better on the road and hit better at home. Bud Black, a former pitcher, should be able to get the best from his starting rotation, but pitching at Coors Field is like pitching on the moon, as Ted Leitner often says. For visiting pitchers including the Padres’ staff, the conditions pose an even greater challenge.
Facing seemingly insurmountable odds this opening day, Andy Green just might want to throw Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts a curve by deploying one of the novel approaches he’s discussed. He could start a reliever, who would pitch for an inning or two, then deploy one of his starters for several innings, and mix and match through the end of the game. It’s worth a try to avoid a repeat of 2016’s Game 1.