Padres prepare for MLB season
Team chemistry begins to form as Spring Training continues
The San Diego Padres, after a whirlwind offseason that provided fans with almost more excitement than they might have been able to bear, have officially begun playing games.
Granted, these exhibitions are nothing more than spring tune-ups as they prepare for the challenge of living up to the enormous hype bestowed on them.
But despite the lack of significance these games hold in the final standings, fans still had the opportunity to glean more than a few noteworthy nuggets from the team’s performance so far. Position battles, prospect debuts, and the impacts of new faces in new places can all be watched as the regular season draws near.
For the Padres, a number of these questions have begun to be answered. The impact of having new outfielders Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp in the line-up has already been felt, as each member of the trio has already hit their first home run in a Padres uniform.
How this trio will fare on defense in PETCO Park’s expansive outfield remains to be seen, but interviews with the three have seemed positive so far.
Myers especially has garnered focus after having been tasked with learning a new position in center field, but Padres manager Bud Black already seems impressed with his routes, reads on fly balls, and overall athleticism.
The other big question facing the Padres appears a bit more difficult to answer at the moment. The team still does not seem to have a legitimate starter at third base, with incumbent Yangervis Solarte and newcomer Will Middlebrooks both battling for playing time.
With only five games under the belt as of this writing, neither has had too many opportunities to separate from the other, although Solarte has showcased a little more power at the plate to this point. As spring training draws to a close, it will be interesting to see which one emerges as the frontrunner at the hot corner.
On the pitching side of things, the Padres are looking as strong as ever. Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy, and free agent signee James Shields all threw well in their spring training debuts.
Despite an abundance of worthy options, the fifth spot in the starting rotation looks to be a battle between Odrisamer Despaigne, who impressed in a limited role last season – even challenging for a no-hitter in one start-and newly-acquired Brandon Morrow, who has electrifying stuff but has also been challenged by injuries in past seasons.
In the bullpen, closer Joaquin Benoit has dazzled, with five strikeouts in just two innings of work, while Alex Torres, Jose Valverde, and top prospect Matt Wisler have also put up solid numbers so far.
With as many new faces as general manager A.J. Preller brought to San Diego over the winter, a final question mark is how well all these players will mesh into a cohesive unit.
Any season will bring its ups and downs, and team chemistry is a must for any organization looking to be playing baseball come October. So far, reports from the team appear to be positive, with several players taking advantage of time away from the field to get to know one another.
Jedd Gyorko and Matt Kemp played basketball a few days ago, while Andrew Cashner, Josh Johnson, Wil Myers, and James Shields were spotted on the golf course.
Several other players have gone out to dinner together. Bud Black has also tabbed several players — including Kemp, Shields, Tyson Ross, and Will Venable — as potential leaders who will look to further solidify the team’s clubhouse dynamics.
Ultimately, while it is dangerous to put too much stock into any reports from spring training, every team is “optimistic” or “looking forward to the seasons,” and every player is “looking strong” or “showing good promise.”
It looks as if the Padres have continued their strong winter into the spring and still have the feel of legitimate division title contenders. With Opening Day drawing closer, all that’s left to do now is play the games that count.