February 2012

The back end

One of the major differences between the 2011 and 2012 Padres will be the way the back-end of the bullpen lines up. This year’s squad welcomes new closer Huston Street along with the likes of flame-throwing Andrew Cashner.

Street comes to the Padres from Colorado, where he served as closer for the last three seasons, finishing third on the Rockies all-time list with 84 saves. Prior to the Rockies, Street pitched in relief for the A’s, who drafted him with the 40th overall pick in the 2004 Draft. He flew through the minors, making his Big League debut in 2005 and winning AL Rookie of the Year honors.

Huston Street tosses live batting practice with pitching Coach Darren Balsley looking on.

Since making his Big League debut in 2005, Street ranks among the top ML relievers in saves (10th), strikeouts (T-14th) and wins (T-7th). He has made at least 60 appearances in five of his seven Major League seasons, reaching 70.0 innings pitched on three occasions.

With 97 of his 417 career appearances coming at Coors Field, there is a feeling that his numbers (strong as they are) may even be inflated due to his home pitching environment. Over his seven-year career, Street has posted a 2.83 ERA (107 ER/340.0 IP) away from Denver, compared to a 4.11 mark (44 ER/96.1 IP) at Coors Field that has nudged his lifetime ERA to 3.11 (151 ER/436.1 IP).

Cashner, 25, was acquired by the the Padres from the Cubs in exchange for Anthony Rizzo. Projected to fill a bullpen void in the eighth inning this season, many think it won’t be long before he is slotted into the starting rotation. The right-hander features a fastball that has been known to touch triple-digits, giving him a high ceiling and providing plenty of excitement for Padres fans.

Andrew Cashner unleashing one of his blistering fastballs in live batting practice this morning.

He made his Big League debut for the Cubs in 2010, pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. Cashner made 53 relief appearances that year, posting a 4.80 ERA (29 ER/54.1 IP) that was largely affected by back-to-back outings in which he surrendered six runs. Without those appearances, his ERA on the season would have been 2.89 (17 ER/53.0 IP).

Cashner was placed into the starting rotation for the Cubs in 2011, making one appearance before going down with a right rotator cuff strain. He returned on 9/5 and worked in six relief outings, tossing scoreless ball in five of those appearances.

For more on Cashner and the Padres expectations, check out this story by MLB.com’s Corey Brock.

A strong return

In acquiring outfielder Carlos Quentin this offseason, GM Josh Byrnes made a big step towards addressing the Padres need for a legitimate power threat in 2012. Originally signed by the Diamondbacks in the first round (29th overall) of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft, Quentin has displayed consistent pop at the plate over his 616 Major League games.

Since joining the White Sox for the 2008 campaign, the slugging outfielder has hit 20 home runs in each of his last four seasons, averaging 26.75/year. During his career, Quentin has averaged a home run every 17.36 at-bats, ranking 17th among all active players with at least 2,000 plate appearances. He has averaged an RBI every 5.48 at-bats, ranking 18th among active players.

While spending the majority of his career in the outfield, Quentin has also seen time as a DH (45 starts). Over his six-year career, he has made 526 starts in the outfield, with his team going 282-224 (.536) in those games.

Quentin joins the Padres following three years of consistent improvement in batting average (.236>.243>.254), slugging percentage (.456>.479>.499) and OPS (.779>.821>.838). In 2011 he was rewarded for his performance by being named to his second All-Star team (also 2008).

The right-hander boasts a .346 career on-base percentage that is helped by his incredible knack for getting hit by pitches. Entering the 2012 season, he has been hit by 211 pitches over 1,009 games in an eight-year professional career (counts minor league games). He ranks tied for 13th among active Major Leaguers with 97 HBP’s, despite having over 900 fewer at bats than anyone else in the top 20.

A local boy, Quentin graduated from University of San Diego High School, where he set school records in home runs and RBI. In addition, he was named the league Defensive Player of the Year in football and was a member of the state champion basketball team. Quentin then attended Stanford University, where he played in three consecutive College World Series from 2001-03 and was a finalist for the 2003 Golden Spikes Award.

I hope you’re a morning person, because lots of people will see this

A necessary evil…organized chaos…both terms fit when it comes to Photo Day.

Each year, player headshots are used all over the country. You’ll see them on all your favorite sports websites, in magazines, in media guides, on TV, on scoresheets, in video games and on scoreboards. Unfortunately, there is only one time when all players who can potentially make a Big League team are in the same place at the same time. That time is at Spring Training before a workout.

Hence the creation of the dreaded Photo Day: With workouts starting early each morning, all of the 60 players in Big League camp along with all coaches, bullpen catchers, trainers and clubhouse staff need to get their headshots taken prior to 9:00 AM.

Today, the players had to hit nine photography stations to complete their Photo Day. The stations included (in order): Padres headshot, MLB, Getty headshot, Getty full-body photo, AP, UT San Diego, Padres portrait photographer, Topps and green screen video for the scoreboard.

Here’s a look at some of the sights from this morning’s Photo Day:

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A day at Spring Training with Cameron Maybin

Each day at Spring Training can be a whirlwind of activity. Bouncing from station to station, working either in the cage or off the mound, hitting the weight room, team meetings and interviews…all before noon.

This morning, Cameron Maybin was kind enough to let us follow him around to document his day. Hopefully this will give you an idea of what it’s like to be a Major League player as you spend six weeks in the desert, preparing your body for the 162 game season ahead.

For Maybin, like most players, his day starts around 7:00 a.m. as he arrives at the Peoria Sports Complex. On a typical day, he’ll grab a quick breakfast before heading off to the weight room to warm up around 7:30. By 8:00 he is in the batting cage taking some early cuts prior to the daily 9:00 team meeting. What happens next depends on the daily schedule posted in the clubhouse.

On most days (like today), Maybin will join his teammates for running, stretching, then throwing. As the pitchers and infielders break off for fielding practice, the outfielders meet up for some defensive work of their own.  The team then breaks into small groups of about 4-5 and cycles through stations for the rest of the afternoon, fitting in some time for the batting cages, BP on Field 1, baserunning drills and outfield work.

The formal workout is over by 11:30 each day, leaving time for players to get in some extra work in the cage or a lift in the weight room.

Click through the slide show below to check out Maybin’s day, and thanks again to Cameron for letting us harass follow him all day. Click HERE for some video of Maybin taking BP this morning:

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The U

One of the glaring notes about this year’s Spring Training attendees is the number of former Miami Hurricanes that are in Big League camp. With the addition of both infielder Yonder Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal, the Padres now feature five former members of The U. They combine with outfielder Blake Tekotte and catchers Eddy Rodriguez and Jason Hagerty.

With Grandal  joining the Padres catching corps, nearly everyone who caught a game for the Hurricanes from 2004-2010 is now a Friar.

Grandal, Hagerty, Tekotte and Alonso were all members of the 2008 Miami team that went 53-10 and entered the College World Series as the No. 1 seed.

Here is a look at each of the former Hurricanes and where they were drafted:

Eddy Rodriguez, C: 2004-06, drafted by CIN in the 20th round in 2006

Yonder Alonso, INF: 2006-08, drafted by CIN in the 1st round in 2008

Blake Tekotte, OF: 2006-08, drated by SD in the 3rd round in 2008

Jason Hagerty, C: 2007-09, drafted by SD in the 5th round in 2009

Yasmani Grandal, C: 2008-10, drafted by CIN in the 1st round in 2010

The gang’s all here

Position players reported to Spring Training and went through physicals today. Over the coming weeks, the list of 60 players will be whittled down until 25 men will head west to San Diego for Opening Day.

As an overview, here’s a look at the Padres Spring Training roster (Non-roster invites are in bold):

21 RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS: Anthony Bass, Brad Boxberger, Brad Brach, Cory Burns, Andrew Cashner, Ernesto Frieri, Luke Gregerson, Erik Hamren, Casey Kelly, Miles Mikolas, Dustin Moseley, Micah Owings, Matt Palmer, Jorge Reyes, Tim Stauffer, Huston Street, Jeff Suppan, Dale Thayer, Nick Vincent, Edinson Volquez, Joe Wieland.

 8 LEFT-HANDED PITCHERS: Jose De Paula, Robbie Erlin, Alex Hinshaw, Cory Luebke, Juan Oramas, Clayton Richard, Josh Spence, Joe Thatcher.

 7 CATCHERS: John Baker, Brad Davis, Yasmani Grandal, Jason Hagerty, Nick Hundley, Eddy Rodriguez, Ali Solis.

 14 INFIELDERS: Yonder Alonso, Jason Bartlett, Everth Cabrera, Matt Clark, James Darnell, Logan Forsythe, Jonathan Galvez, Jesus Guzman, Jedd Gyorko, Chase Headley, Orlando Hudson, Andy Parrino, Edinson Rincon, Jeudy Valdez.

10 OUTFIELDERS: Kyle Blanks, Jaff Decker, Chris Denorfia, Jeremy Hermida, Mark Kotsay, Rymer Liriano, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin, Blake Tekotte, Will Venable.

In workout news, the Padres pitchers and catchers went through the normal routine today while position players took physicals and got situated in camp. This morning’s workout featured a pop-up competition among the seven catchers in camp while pitchers worked on fielding followed by their usual bullpen sessions.

A tour of the Peoria Sports Complex

Most fans don’t get the chance to visit Arizona and get the up close season preview that Spring Training provides. With that in mind, today we’ve decided to give you a brief tour of the Peoria Sports Complex. Hopefully this will give you a glimpse of where the Pads spend their days, preparing for the 2012 campaign. What more could you want? Right? Right!

Worst case scenario, at least we’ll provide plenty of content for Bad Spring Training Twit Pics. (If you don’t tweet them, do they still count?)

With that in mind, here goes nothing…

Welcome to the Peoria Sports Complex. Located in beautiful Peoria, Ariz., down the street from Chick-fil-A, behind the Target and adjacent to the Salty Senorita. Flip through the slideshow below and use the map at the bottom for reference as you make your way from the player parking lot, through the clubhouse, to the weight room, out to the fields and finally back to the cafeteria for lunch. The players typically arrive around 6:30 or 7:00 each morning, squeezing in a morning workout in the weight room before a 9:00 team meeting followed by workouts on the field until noon.

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Power pitcher

One of the Padres last Spring Training additions has one of baseball’s most interesting player profiles. Micah Owings, a 6-5 right-hander from Gainesville, Ga., has appeared in 180 Major League games over parts of five seasons, making 68 starts and 64 relief appearances. So what happened in the remaining 48 games?

Owings, a career .286 hitter, has regularly been used as a pinch-hitter…and a powerful one at that, belting nine home runs in his career.

His .507 slugging percentage ranks 27th among all active players with at least 200 at-bats, besting some of baseball’s top sluggers. In fact, here are the 10 players who rank immediately below Owings on that list (in order): Hanley Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Troy Tulowitzki, Chase Utley, Nelson Cruz, Allen Craig, Adam Dunn, Maglio Ordonez, Kendry Moralez and Pablo Sandoval.

His hitting prowess was apparent early in his career, winning the Silver Slugger his rookie year as he thrashed opposing pitchers to the tune of a .333 average (20-for-60) with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs and 15 RBI. He averaged a home run every 15 at-bats and an RBI every four at-bats that season. On 8/18/07 at ATL, he established Diamondbacks’ single-game records for pitchers with four hits, two home runs, six RBI and four runs scored. It was the first time in 50 years that a pitcher tallied 11 total bases in a single game.

Over the next two years, he was used a combined 34 times as a pinch-hitter between ARI and CIN, hitting .273 with a .545 slugging percentage in the pinch.

For a complete look at his batting statistics, check out Owings’ player page at baseball-reference.com. His home run list can be found here.

While his role with the Padres has yet to be determined, don’t look for this hurler to be squaring around to move the runner when he comes to the plate in 2012.

Catching Depth

The Padres come to Spring Training with a new-found depth at catcher, a strength that goes beyond the seven players in Big League camp.

Reporting along with the pitchers on Sunday were Nick Hundley (no introduction needed), John Baker (acquired from MIA in exchange for Wade LeBlanc) and Yasmani Grandal (acquired from CIN in Mat Latos trade), all off the 40-man roster. Also in camp are non-roster invites Brad Davis, Jason Hagerty, Eddy Rodriguez and Ali Solis.

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Not far behind is one of the Padres most exciting prospects. Austin Hedges, a 19-year-old catcher out of San Juan Capistrano, was selected by San Diego in the second round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Hundley enters camp expected to be the Padres go-to man behind the dish. He is coming off a year in which he set career highs in nearly every offensive category, including runs, hits, triples, home runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Hundley also started a career-high-tying 73 games behind the plate, a total he is likely to top in 2012.

The acquisition of Grandal from MIA instantly inserted a top catching prospect into the Padres organization, strengthening the club’s position as having one of the top minor league systems. Ranked by Baseball-America as the Padres’ No. 2 prospect and No. 53 in all of baseball, Grandal flew through the minors last season, playing at High-A, Double-A and Triple-A in the Reds organziation.

Hedges has been named the Padres No. 6 prospect by Baseball-America despite playing just nine games as a professional. He was widely considered the top defensive catching prospect when selected 82nd overall in the 2011 draft.

All about arms

With all pitchers and catchers now accounted for, the team hit the field today for the first official workout of the Spring. Manager Bud Black addressed the club’s battery candidates at 9:00 this morning and then it was off to Field 1 for running, stretching, PFP (pitchers fielding practice) and then bullpen sessions.

The Padres have 29 pitchers in camp this year, split into squads A and B. The 14 pitchers in squad B were the first to take the mound this Spring (naturally?) with squad A throwing in the bullpens tomorrow. Today’s hurlers included Gregerson, Frieri, Street, Brach, Hamren, Vincent, Cashner, Mikolas, Thayer, Boxberger, Burns, Thatcher, Spence and Hinshaw.

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While we’re on the subject, let’s glance back at the often overlooked accomplishments of last year’s staff. Led by coaches Darren Balsley and Darrel Akerfelds, the 2011 Padres ranked 3rd in the Majors with a 3.42 ERA. Starters posted a 3.62 mark that ranked 4th among all NL clubs while relievers were 3rd in the league with a 3.03 ERA.

2011 marked the second consecutive year the Padres posted a sub-3.50 team ERA and the fourth time in the last six years that the club has had a sub-4.00 team ERA.

In the eight full seasons that Balsley and Akerfelds have been working together as pitching coach and bullpen coach (dating back to 2004), the club has posted a 3.91 ERA that ranks tops in the Majors over that span. During that stretch, the Padres have finished among the top three NL clubs in team ERA on four occasions (’06, ’07, ’10, ’11), including two first place finishes (’06, ’07).