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2014 San Francisco Gameday HQ

FIELDING The Padres may be on the verge of something special here, with a team that ranked 12th in defensive efficiency (according to Baseball Prospectus) that has everybody coming back. In fact, with the exception of Gyorko, the other seven position players also played together in 2012, as well. With that chemistry in effect, expect everything to start breaking good for the D that complements an improved staff. Headley embodies that spirit best, ranking among the league leaders at third base in assists (4th), putouts (5th) and range factor/game (5th), despite playing only 140 games at the corner and also being four years removed as a standout leftfielder. STARTING PITCHING The Padres got rid of a lot of the dead weight on last year’s pitching staff that was dragged down to 19th in ERA (3.98), but San Diego did not throw the baby out with the bath water, retaining standouts Eric Stults (11-13, 3.93 ERA) and Andrew Cashner (10-9, 3.09) to mix-and-match with part-time starters Tyson Ross (3-8, 3.17), Ian Kennedy (4-2, 4.24) and injury-prone $8 million free agent Josh Johnson, who last pitched well in 2012 and 2010. Robbie Erlin and Burch Smith, who both had nine and seven starts for the Padres last year respectively, may even be called into duty if San Diego’s staff struggles again. RELIEF PITCHING Because closer Huston Street spent time on the disabled list three of the past four seasons, Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit was signed, giving the Padres the insurance and assurance of having two right-handers who can finish off ballgames (Street was 33 of 35 in his save opportunities in 2013; Benoit was 24 of 26). Most likely, Benoit will take the Luke Gregerson role for most of the season, with the ace setup man traded to Oakland. The remaining setup chores will likely fall on righties Dale Thayer (3.32 ERA and 1.246 WHIP in 65 innings) and Tim Stauffer (3.75 ERA and 1.134 WHIP in 70 innings), who both pitched as many innings for the Pads as Gregerson last year (2.71 ERA and 1.010 WHIP in 66 innings). MANAGING Bud Black is the stability that symbolizes San Diego, with his eight years tenure as Padres manager marked consistently by Black trying to field .500 teams on a small-market budget. He may have used 145 different lineups in 2013, but his players know he is the picture of stability with his no-nonsense, always-open communicative style. With Padres GM Josh Byrnes getting a $13 million budgetary increase for team payroll (after previous leaps of $10 million and $8 million), it’s time the Padres hit that .500 mark. Jedd Gyorko THEARON W. HENDERSON/GETTY IMAGES SPORT


2014 San Francisco Gameday HQ
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