The Coast News Group
Columns Sports Talk

Sports Talk: Padres look to improve in season’s second month

A month does not make a baseball season. But it’s a good point to gauge the Padres after 25 games or so.

So how are they doing?

It hasn’t been all swing-and-miss although the Padres do lead the league in strikeouts.

It hasn’t been all balls and no strikes, although starter Luis Perdomo was shipped to the minors, Dinelson Lamet’s elbow is shot for the season and Bryan Mitchell, who came over from the Big Apple, has nearly been rotten to the core.

The defense, predicted to be shored up by Gold Glove first baseman Eric Hosmer and shortstop Freddy Galvis has been spotty. Those two have been OK but the catch is others often don’t follow suit.

That game-winning, 15-foot pop up that found ground instead of glove in a loss to the Houston Astros will be a staple on the baseball blooper reel for generations.

Austin Hedges, the smooth-receiving catcher who rebuilt his offensive approach in the offseason, remains a smooth-receiving catcher. The bat remains quiet and many wonder if it will ever make a racket.

Wil Myers? The one-time face of the franchise, a distinction now belonging to Hosmer after he signed the richest deal in team history, has played peek-a-boo. After switching from first base to right field to make way for Hosmer, Myers hurt his shoulder. He’s returned and the Padres hope his bat that produced a career-high 30 home runs last year is back, along with an improved focus.

Chase Headley? The Padres $13 million man has regressed to being a part-time player on a rebuilding club. That’s a steep drop for someone in his second stint with the club.

Hunter Renfroe has been in the Padres’ bull’s-eye for years. A slugger throughout his minor league career, the same was expected of him in the big leagues. But along with the long fly balls have come extended stretches of no contact. Strikeouts, especially in key situations, have been his calling card. That often makes him the fourth outfielder and only three are used at a time.

The Padres pray Renfore’s day will come. But they also are baffled by his lack of comprehending the adjustments required in the Majors.

So as the Padres continue their long road to respectability, the expected speed bumps emerged. That they are higher and more plentiful isn’t what the Padres anticipated.

Their straight line to 2020 and being a club that can challenge for a playoff spot is no slam dunk. While the Cubs and Astros are among those that turned years of tanking into world championships, many more have failed to find that pot of gold at the end of the rebuilding rainbow.

What happens if the grand plan is a grand bust? What happens if this year ends with the eighth consecutive losing season with many more on the horizon? What are the limits on the dedicated Padres fans’ patience if the string of losing baseball continues with scant payoff?

But it’s wrong to suggest the Padres’ first month was a disaster.

Franchy Cordero is supplying a buzz that only a slugger with quickness and decent defense can produce. He’s smacked the Majors’ longest home run this season and the ball ricochets off his bat like an Elon Musk rocket.

“It’s an electric tool set that very few guys have in the game,” manager Andy Green said. “He can fly, he’s got power, he can go get it. He’s a big physical man who hits the ball hard.”

Manuel Margot had an uneven start then got hit by a pitch that waylaid him. But if Margot shows like he did last year, he’s an interesting piece atop the order as a base runner for Cordero to drive in.

Christian Villanueva is a rookie and there is a long line of those with the Padres. But the notion that Villanueva, who had three home runs in a game, has eclipsed more highly touted prospects at age 26 is indicative of just how unpredictable this great game is.

Tyson Ross has gone from being washed-up to nearly throwing a no-hitter. The classy right-hander is showing signs of overcoming his multiple injuries and wouldn’t that make for a nice story.

Youngster Joey Lucchesi, a lefty, seems to have top-of-the-rotation stuff.

Eric Lauer, another of the peach-fuzz brigade, was called up this week.

The Padres are the weak link in the powerful National League West, which was a given before the season. Now that it’s started, we’ll give the Padres a longer on-ramp to reveal a better brand of smarter, sharper and more consistent baseball.

As the Padres’ tank rolls on, wins are not as critical as growth. For the Padres, the strides are evident, but not spread over a roster where the learning curve has proved steeper than imagined.

Contact Jay Paris at Follow him @jparis_sports