*From Protect the Plate
The San Diego Padres enter the season as possibly the most dysfunctional franchise in all of baseball.
The team was recently purchased by an ownership group led by Jeff Moorad, the former part-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, that also features Troy Aikman. The change in ownership should benefit the franchise, as soon to be former owner John Moores has been focused on dumping salary while dealing with a difficult divorce.
The Padres are lucky to play in one of the worst divisions in baseball, but who knows how long it will be before the front office holds a fire sale.
After four-straight winning seasons, the Padres came crashing down, going 63-99 to finish last in the NL West. It was their worst year since 1993.
They finished dead last in the majors in runs, on-base percentage and stolen bases. Things are looking just as bad for San Diego this spring, as the Padres are 8-18.
Padres fans are going to have to get used to Heath Bell replacing Hell's Bells, the song that blared every time Trevor Hoffman took the mound.Hoffman is the all-time saves leader with 554 while Bell has just two saves to his credit.
The 31-year-old has been a dominant setup man for the Padres over the past two seasons, and did tally 108 saves in the minors.
On the Block
Ace Jake Peavy is still with the Padres after an offseason of trade rumors circulated.
Both 24-year-old left fielder Chase Headley and 25-year-old catcher Nick Hundley will take over as everyday regulars for the Padres this season.
Headley has hit .301 with a .900 OPS in four minor league seasons. Last year, Headley had a successful first stint in Triple-A and went on to make his Major League debut. He finished the year with a .269 average and nine home runs in 91 games for the Padres.
Hundley had some difficulties adjusting to Major League pitching, hitting .237 in 198 at-bats. The former Arizona Wildcat flexed his muscles in 2007, hitting 20 home runs in 101 Double-A games that year.
Back from the Depths
Jody Gerut broke onto the scene with the Cleveland Indians in 2003.
He made his Major League debut that year and hit .279 with 22 home runs and 75 RBI and was named Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News.
He failed to duplicate those numbers the next year, and was traded twice in 2005, going from the Indians to the Cubs to the Pirates. Gerut didn't play a single game, not even in the minors, in both 2006 and 2007.
The Padres gave Gerut a shot last year, and he delivered an impressive comeback performance, hitting .296 with 14 homers in 328 games. The 31-year-old begins the year as the starting center fielder.
Adrian Gonzalez has been one of the most consistent producers in the game in three seasons in San Diego, averaging 30 homers and 100 RBI while playing Gold Glove defense at first base.
Chris Young was hit in the face by an Albert Pujols line drive and suffered a forearm strain last year.
After Peavy and Young, the Padres have Shawn Hill, Cha Seung Baek, Kevin Correia and Walter Silva battling for the final three spots in the rotation.
The team's new double-play combination will be David Eckstein and Luis Rodriguez.
Among the relievers auditioning to take over as the setup man are Cla Meredith and Duaner Sanchez.
The Padres are still holding out hope that Mark Prior, who hasn't pitched a game since 2006, can contribute.
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