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2010 Spring Training: San Diego Padres Will Live and Die by Chris Young

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IFebruary 25, 2010

There is hope Padre fans and there is life after Jake Peavy...I promise.

Not to put unneeded pressure on 6'10" righthander Chris Young, but, well, the San Diego Padres' 2010 season is riding on that over-the-top right arm. They're counting on him to be the new team ace and they're counting on him to stay healthy, something Young hasn't done over the last two seasons.

If you're surprised that I'm not putting the pressure squarely on the shoulders of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, you shouldn't be. Look at his 2009 numbers and then look at the Padres' final record and you'll understand why I say that.

Gonzalez hit .277 with 40 home runs, drove in 99 runs, and the Padres still finished with a 75-87 record, good for fourth in the NL West in front of the 70-92 Arizona Diamondbacks.

So, really, there isn't much more that Gonzalez can do. Truth be told, Gonzalez may not be a Padre past the trade deadline in July.

The Padres will go as Chris Young goes.

They can't take him sitting on the disabled list and watch for months on end as Kevin Correia tries to be the lead dog and Mat Latos tries to get more out of his young right arm than it allows.

Young is no stranger to set backs, suffering an oblique strain in 2007 a few weeks after the All-Star break.

A year later, CY took a line drive to the nose off the bat of Cardinals' first baseman Albert Pujols. It left Young with a nasal fracture and a deviated septum that required surgery.

Almost three months after that incident, Young made his return to the mound. But that return was short-lived, returning to the disabled list for three weeks with a strained right forearm.

There's no doubt that Young wants to be free of his injury past and, according to pitching coach Darren Balsley, he's off to a good start; “Mechanically, today was the best I’ve seen Chris in a long time,” Balsley told Bill Center of the San Diego Union Tribune .

Balsley also told Center, “In my mind, what finally happened last year was probably good. Because if he hadn’t stopped he would have gone on pitching until it was much, much worse.”

This has been the one problem I've had with both Young and former Padres' ace Jake Peavy. Both would pitch with injuries, both would take a beating, and then both would blame it on their competitiveness and say "the team needed me."

While that's all well and good, the team also needs to win, something you decided to put in jeopardy when you took the ball knowing full well you weren't 100 percent healthy.

With Jake Peavy now a member of the Chicago White Sox, it's up to Chris Young to be the leader of the pitching staff and the man they go to when they need a big win.

If Young can stay healthy for the entire 2010 season, the San Diego Padres will keep the wind in their proverbial sail. If he can't, that sail will flutter unable to find the wind they need to stay afloat in the NL West.

The Padres will go as Chris Young goes. How far that will be is yet to be seen.

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