I’m going to try my hardest for these “fixes” to be as realistic as possible. Obviously, anyone can make hypothetical choices such as acquiring Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, Felix Hernandez and David Price to replace our current starting rotation. However, Verlander and King Felix combined make up about the entire Padres’ team salary.
It would also be a cop-out to say an easy fix would be for Edinson Volquez to strike everyone out, keep his control and go deep into games. But alas, that’s not a realistic fix.
1. Move Andrew Cashner to the Rotation
As honest and realistic Padre fans, we cannot expect to contend this season. So why don’t the Padres show one of their top prospects they have the confidence in him to start?
I’m not claiming this will drastically improve the pitching rotation—or even improve it at all. However, the Padres will get the chance to really test Cashner and help him develop into a consistent starting pitcher.
Whose spot does he replace?
This is the tough question. The Padres’ default ace, Edinson Volquez, is performing the worst out of the squad. However, he still has the most talent. If it were up to me, I would move Eric Stults into a long relief role. Jason Marquis and Clayton Richard are relatively consistent starters who tend to eat a lot of innings and go late into games. Tyson Ross is still young and I’d like to see him tested still. Stults makes the most sense, in my opinion, followed by Richard.
2. Trade Bullpen Depth
The Padres bullpen is once again one of their strong suits.
Huston Street, Luke Gregerson and Dale Thayer are all tantalizing options for teams struggling with their bullpen. Contending teams such as the St. Louis Cardinals or Detroit Tigers are in desperate need of some bullpen help. The Tigers even resorted to bringing back their struggling closer, Jose Valverde, after letting him go following his meltdown last postseason.
There were talks before the season started of possibly trading the Tigers’ Rick Porcello for one of the Padres’ bullpen aces. This would have eased the pressure on the Padres’ current staff and possibly given relief to some struggling stars.
3. Call Up Robbie Erlin
Padres prospect Robbie Erlin was a candidate in a few people’s eyes to make this year's starting rotation. The Padres aren’t going anywhere; they should bring him up sometime soon.
My colleague Mike Rosenbaum, MLB Prospects Lead Writer for Bleacher Report, ranked Erlin as the team's No. 6 prospect. Rosenbaum goes on to note Erlin has “excellent command; knows how to pitch to opposing hitters’ weaknesses; sequences pitches and locates them exceptionally well throughout the strike zone.”
I would like to see Erlin called up sometime in May and be given extended relief innings to test his nerves. If he shows he’s physically and mentally tough enough, throw him in the rotation. By that time, if Volquez still isn’t performing up to standards, it’s time to move him as well.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution for the Padres to fix their pitching problems. Many of their stud pitching prospects are still a year or two away. However, the strength of the Padres farm system should prove optimistic to fans.
DISCLAIMER: This was written prior to Richard's abysmal "start" in which he gave up six earned runs in only 1.2 innings.
UPDATE: Friarhood.com is reporting Robbie Erlin is getting called up today.