It’s tourney time, and with 48 players still in Big League camp there was bound to be some rooting interest in the Padres clubhouse. Of the players on the Padres 40-man roster and remaining Spring Training invitees, there are eight players who attended a school that made it to the 2012 NCAA Tournament: Cory Luebke (Ohio State), Clayton Richard (Michigan), Huston Street (Texas), John Baker (Cal), Brad Davis and Nick Vincent (Long Beach State), Alex Hinshaw (SDSU) and Jedd Gyorko (West Virginia). In addition, Bud Black will join Alex Hinshaw in pulling for the Aztecs tomorrow morning vs. NC State.
Baker’s Cal Bears were eliminated last night in the tournament’s “First Four” round vs. USF. Each of the other six teams earned spots in the tournament’s round of 64. While none of the players will face each other in the first round, there is the possibility of a West Virginia (Gyorko)/Ohio State (Luebke) matchup in the second round.
Six of the seven teams are slotted on the right side of the bracket, leaving Davis and Vincent (Long Beach State) an uphill battle to face one of their Padres teammates.
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.
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.
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.