The Friar Thermometer (9/22-9/28)

Check out next week's thermometer where we will identify three "On-Fire" Friars and three "Frozen" Friars for the entire 2003 season.

On-Fire Friars:

1) Ramon Vazquez - 6 for 13 (.462), 5 walks, .611 OBP
• Contained in Vazquez's big week was a 4-for-4 Wednesday night against Kevin Brown and the Dodgers in which he almost single-handedly carried the Padres to victory. If he is not traded in the offseason, Vazquez will more than likely become a very nice utility man with Khalil Greene starting at shortstop.

2) Xavier Nady – 10-for-23 (.435), 2 HR, 7 RBI, SB
• There is no doubt Nady had a roller coaster of a rookie season for the Padres. In mid-May, the 24-year-old outfielder looked like the front-runner for the rookie of the year award. But a two-month long slump sent Xavier to Portland (AAA). He returned on September 3 and hit .353 with a good .906 OPS (on-base plus slugging pct.). Like Vazquez, Nady may be trade bait this season since the Padres don't have a place for him to play regularly in 2004.

3) Ben Howard – 1 start, 7 innings, 2 hits, 1 run, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks, no decision
• The 24-year-old right-hander was once was one of the crown jewels of the Padres' minor league system. He struggled last season, but after a solid 2003 at Portland (AAA), Howard was called up and made six starts for the Padres. For the most part, Howard impressed, especially in his final start this past week where he dominated the Dodgers and showed great command of his above-average fastball and slider. He is definitely a major player for a rotation spot in 2004.

Frozen Friars:

1) Mark Loretta – 3 for 25 (.125), HR
• There is no doubt in my mind that Mark Loretta was the Padres' MVP in 2003, but he didn't fare well in his final week. Nonetheless, with his solo home run on Sunday, Loretta recorded his 185 hit of the season, surpassing Robert Alomar's previous team record for second baseman by one. Loretta will be back for 2004 continuing to solidify the Padres up-the-middle and in the lineup.

2) Luther Hackman – 2 appearances, 2 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 13.50 ERA
• Hackman had his ups and downs this season out of the Padres' bullpen. But overall, his 5.17 ERA and 114 hits and walks in only 76 2/3 innings will most assuredly find Hackman on the free agent market this offseason.

3) Jay Witasick– 4 appearances, 3 2/3 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs, 0-2 record
• Perhaps Witasick should have "thrown it in" this season from the very start after his unfortunate watermelon-tossing injury in spring training. The 31-year-old is a very solid reliever, but had a subpar season for the Padres compiling a 3-7 record and a 4.53 ERA. I expect Witasick, who was in the first year of a two-year deal, to pitch much better in 2004 as the Padres hopefully surround him with several other solid relievers.

Dave Holtzman can be reached at dholtzman@hotmail.com

Check out Dave's website to find more information on the Friars. The news is always fresh and insightful at:

http://friarfan.com

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