San Diego Padres: Spring Training Wrap up and Season Preview
By Cheri Bell
With Opening Day just several days away, we assess the top stories of San Diego Padres spring training and look forward to regular season play.
With spring training coming to a close and the regular season a week away, the San Diego Padres are still working on their roster construction for the season. Over the past two weeks the Padres have not used their supposed regular day lineup with any regularity and the pitchers slated for the starting rotation have not been identified.
We know that the first three spots will be filled with the three veterans brought in to anchor the rotation, Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. But after that we are still waiting for the final two spots to shake out.
Christian Friederich will start the season on the DL and Paul Clemens has been released so those final spots will be filled by two of the three remaining candidates; Jarred Cosart, Trevor Cahill or Luis Perdomo. There has been speculation in the media that Perdomo will begin the year in the minors in order to save service time and increase control for an additional year. The Padres have made no comment on this topic and in reality, that service time could be saved at any time during the season.
My personal preference would be to open with Cahill and Perdomo in the rotation and Cosart in the bullpen as using our young talent is more appealing and Cosart seems to have difficulty getting deep into games and has been inconsistent.
San Diego Padres
The position issues seem to have been mostly worked out with the help of injuries. Alex Dickerson will start the season on the DL which provides Jabari Blash the opportunity to make the roster. Manuel Margot has missed most of the spring with a sore knee and will most probably start the season at Triple A to get his bat going. Cory Spangenberg‘s success at third base has provided the Padres the flexibility to use Yangervis Solarte at second base, Ryan Schimpf at third and Spangenberg as a valuable player to insert into the lineup based on the team and pitcher they are opposing.
The shortstop position seems to belong to Erick Aybar with Luis Sardinas unable to step up and seize the opportunity to prove himself an everyday player, Aybar has played and hit well over the last two weeks. Assuming the inability to trade for another shortstop, the Padres will begin the season with the veteran holding the spot.
The catcher position remains an interesting situation. Austin Hedges is the everyday catcher but non roster veteran Hector Sanchez has performed well during the spring with home run power, a strong throwing arm and veteran leadership skills. Rule V’er Luis Torrens has shown tools and the team has expressed a desire to keep him, if possible.
That brings us to Christian Bethancourt, last season’s backup catcher, who was brought into camp with the hope of making him a super utility player with skills behind the plate, in the outfield and as a reliever. Through the course of the past four weeks it has become clear that Bethancourt will make the team as a pitcher or not at all.
Bethancourt has had minimal time behind the plate or in the outfield and has almost exclusively appeared as a reliever. He has shown well in that capacity and it will be a big advantage to the Padres to keep Bethancourt on the roster. Although he would primarily be a pitcher, his ability to pinch hit or be an emergency catcher or outfielder would be invaluable to this young team.
The last two weeks of spring training have been pretty ugly with a 3-11 record and lots of bad pitching in the box scores. Although Wil Myers, Spangenberg, Travis Jankowski and Hunter Renfroe have had great springs at the plate, the lower half of the line up has not fared as well and the pitching has been spotty at best.
The spring is the time to find out what you have and make those critical roster decisions for the regular season, the last couple weeks of spring is also a good time to put your regular line up on the field more consistently to get momentum going into the regular season. With Schimpf and Manuel Margot spending most of the spring injured, the hoped for regular lineup has not played together.
The bullpen is the area where the biggest decisions need to be made over the course of this week.
There are multiple quality pitchers for the limited amount of positions available. As the spring has progressed several have stepped forward and drawn attention to themselves. If you assume that Brad Hand, Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer are locks for the rear of the pen; then Bethancourt, Jose Torres, Miguel Diaz, Craig Stammen and either Cosart or Cahill will most likely be competing for the other four positions.
Torres is the only one with options and Diaz is the Rule V pitcher they view as a rotation piece down the road. This is how I feel it will play out with Stammen and Bethancourt making the pen and Torres brought up from Triple A when needed for injury.
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Reliever and closer candidate Carter Capps will start on the DL and most likely keep working in Arizona until ready for a rehab assignment in the minors.
The bullpen is easily the deepest and most talented part of this pitching staff and could be heavily leaned on as the season progresses.
Many pitchers have shown great potential this spring and will be maturing in the minor leagues, providing the Padres tremendous depth in case of injury. Don’t be surprised if you see Phil Maton and Torres in the bullpen during the year.
My guess for the Opening Day roster includes Bethancourt, Blash and all three of the Rule V guys (Cordoba, Diaz, Torrens). When Dickerson, Margot and Capps are ready to join the team then tough decisions will need to be made. Of course, my guess is based on my own desire to see guys rewarded for their hard work. The first month of the season is likely to be difficult with lots of road games and difficult opponents to deal with. If Dickerson and Margot are able to join the team during the second month that would provide a lift after a draining start and hopefully help this team to improve as the season goes along.