San Diego Padres: 2009 Keys To Success

Darren FeeneyCorrespondent IApril 6, 2009

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 24:  Heath Bell #21 of the San Diego Padres poses during photo day at Peoria Stadium on February 24, 2009 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

The San Diego Padres open the season having done little to improve a roster that fielded 99 losses last season. With the offseason purchase of the franchise by a group led by former Diamondbacks Chief Executive Officer Jeff Moorad, the Padres are in full-force rebuilding mode.


No Time To Waste


The Padres are the consensus choice to finish in the cellar of the National League West.  If the Padres are going to silence their critics early, they are going to have to do so facing one of the toughest schedules in the month of April.


The Padres open the season with a key seven-game homestand against the top-two projected teams in their division, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the much-improved San Francisco Giants.


The Padres then hit the road for a three-game series against a revamped New York Mets squad followed by a four-game set against the reigning World Champion Philadelphia Phillies.


Facing three top-tier National League teams, the Padres are going to be battle-tested early.


The "Ring" of a New Era


For the better part of 16 years, ninth inning duties in San Diego meant only one thing: the trot of future hall of fame closer Trevor Hoffman from bullpen to mound, while the bells and electric strings of ACDC’s "Hell’s Bells" linger.


From Hell’s Bells to Heath Bell, the Padres hand over the reigns to Bell with two career saves after an unpleasant parting with Hoffman, the all-time saves leader (554.)


After posting career bests in 2007 in both ERA (2.02) and WHIP (0.96,)  Bell logged respectable numbers in 2008 (3.58 ERA and 1.21 WHIP) serving as Hoffman’s set-up man. 


With ninth inning leads and save opportunities expected to be few and far between, the Padres will need Bell to anchor a bullpen that’s had a dramatic turnover.


With or Without You


San Diego will look to leave behind a tumultuous off-season headlined by the tried and failed attempt to trade ace Jake Peavy. Peavy is owed $11 million for this year, $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011 and $17 million in 2012.  


The Padres are the likely candidate to finish the 2009 campaign in the cellar of the NL West, without or without the services of Peavy. From a logistical standpoint, it would make sense to ship Peavy to a team willing to overpay with young talent while saving $11 million this year.


With rumors of trade talks resurfacing as recent as three weeks ago, it seems a reality that Peavy won’t be a Padre by summers’ end.


With the probability of a wide array of teams in the market for a pitcher of Peavy’s caliber, general manager Kevin Towers should be able to bid and milk Peavy for all he’s worth and more.


In return for Peavy, Towers will be in search for at least three top-tier prospects, most notably some middle-infield talent, along with some young wings to bolster a future starting rotation.


The Blanks Factor


The Padre who had the most impressive spring training campaign this season was Triple-A first baseman Kyle Blanks.  Blanks batted .319 with a .415 on-base percentage while also leading the team in home runs (4) and at-bats (69.)


The Padres could most certainly use Blank’s potent stick in their line-up, but Blanks currently has no place to play with All-Star and Gold Glove winner Adrian Gonzalez occupying first base.


Blanks is slatted to start the season playing first base with Triple-A Portland while also taking fly balls in left field before games. 


Ready or Not, Here They Come

The Padres will open the season with, in order, Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Walter Silva, Kevin Correia, and Shawn Hill in the starting rotation. Cha Seung Baek, projected to be the No. 3 starter, will begin the season on the disabled list with a strained right forearm.

Cla Meredith will set-up Bell, with Ed Mujica, Arturo Lopez, Edwin Moreno, Duaner Sanchez, and Eulogio De La Cruz holding down the rest of the bullpen duties.

The Padres will keep 13 position players: catchers Nick Hundley and Henry Blanco, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, second basemen David Eckstein and Edgar Gonzalez, shortstops Everth Cabrera and Luis Rodriguez, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff and outfielders Brian Giles, Scott Hairston, Chase Headley, Jody Gerut, and Cliff Floyd.

Cabrera, the Rule 5 pick from Colorado, will make the team. He offers speed (something the Padres lack) and gives them an upper-level shortstop who, even if he spends next season in the minor leagues, is still seen as worth keeping on the roster for the season.