Spring is in the air and with it arrives a dose of Padres optimism. Hopefully it’s a feel-good vibe that lasts longer than usual.
The Padres are in the dog days of training camp, meaning opening day on March 29 is right around the corner. But this year, the first of San Diego’s 162 games might not mean a painful journey toward a destination Padres followers are familiar with.
For seven consecutive losing seasons the Padres have resembled a CD with a skip in it. They’ve produced losing baseball, boring baseball and baseball that seems meant to entertain the visiting team’s fans instead of those faithful to the local nine.
But is change on the horizon? Could a youth movement that has been declared the path to sustainable success be more than a nifty catchphrase? Can the Padres catch not only the ball, but possibly snag lighting in the bottle and be competitive this year?
That’s a stretch and one glance of the starting pitching tells you why. But when eyeing the club, it’s just as clear that the painful process of getting good is taking shape.
First things first and that leads to first baseman Eric Hosmer. The Padres scratched out a $144 million check to an All-Star that can hopefully point the kids toward the promise land.
Hosmer, who is as smooth with the media as he is with his Gold Glove, appears to be a perfect fit as the face of the franchise. Wil Myers was anointed that role when he signed his big deal before last season, but it never took.
“It was one of those things I wasn’t equipped for,” Myers told the Mighty 1090. “The Padres went out and got that guy. That’s the leader we’re looking for.”
With Hosmer aboard Myers will land in a corner outfield spot, likely to be right field. That’s fine for Myers, who often looked out-of-sorts at first.
Luis Urias has turned heads at second base, unfortunately he hasn’t flipped many years on his calendar. At age 20, he seems to be an option for the future. Then again, his sizzling spring has some thinking the future is now.
“His at-bats,” manager Andy Green said, “have been scary good.”
The running horror show at shortstop has been halted and we’re not talking about Fernando Tatis, Jr. the Padres’ prized prospect. Freddy Galvis was acquired in the offseason and everyone is buying in to the Padres having an anchor at the infield’s most important spot.
A familiar face resides at third base as Chase Headley starts his second stint with the club. Headley will get on base and not on his teammates’ nerves. The veteran has embraced his responsibility of being a clubhouse mentor and the peach-fuzz brigade would be wise to follow his lead.
Austin Hedges returns to catcher after a year in which he proved he belonged. If his bat ever equals his glove, the Padres will have an All-Star.
With Myers in right, then left field could offer a platoon situation with Hunter Renfroe and Jose Pirela. The thought of Renfroe — a one-time savior — being a part-time player speaks to the Padres’ progress.
Manuel Margot mans center and there’s few other young talents the Padres would prefer roaming the wide-open spaces of Petco Park. His bat has some bite, too, which is why the Padres are excited about his development.
The bullpen looks decent with Brad Hand holding down the fort. What’s not as fortified is the rotation, as the Padres hope the young arms in the minors — Cal Quantrill, Mackenzie Gore, Michel Baez — grow up fast.
Two starters with potential are Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo. If castoffs Tyson Ross, Clayton Richard and Chris Young can contribute, that would be plus.
What’s not a negative is the track the Padres are on. It finally appears the light at the end of the Padres’ tunnel is no longer an oncoming train.
+ Contact Jay Paris at email@example.com. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports