Padres Roster Report

The San Diego Padres roster is taking shape and it may be set before spring training even begins. The depth in the bullpen is far superior to a year ago, as is the bench. Couple that with a lineup that boasts a strong 1-8 and this team could very well compete in the NL West.

ARRIVALS: LHP David Wells (free agent from New York Yankees), LHP Sterling Hitchcock (free agent from St. Louis), RHP Ismael Valdes (free agent from Texas), RHP Akinori Otsuka (free agent from Japan), RHP Antonio Osuna (free agent from Yankees), LHP Edgar Huerta (free agent from Mexico), SS Rey Ordonez (free agent from Tampa Bay), C Tom Wilson (free agent from Toronto), CF Jay Payton (free agent from Colorado), C Ramon Hernandez and OF Terrence Long (trade from Oakland), 3B Jeff Cirillo (trade from Seattle).

DEPARTURES: CF Mark Kotsay (traded to Oakland for Hernandez and Long), C Wiki Gonzalez, RHP Kevin Jarvis and INF Dave Hansen (traded to Seattle for Cirillo), C Gary Bennett (released, signed with Milwaukee), 2B Keith Lockhart (released), OF Gary Matthews Jr. (waived, signed with Atlanta), SS Donaldo Mendez (released), RHP Brandon Villafuerte (released), LHP Mike Matthews (free agent).

PROJECTED ROTATION:

--LHP David Wells
--RHP Brian Lawrence
--RHP Adam Eaton
--RHP Jake Peavy
--LHP Sterling Hitchcock

If Wells earns all the incentives in his incentive-laden contract, the Padres will probably have a 17-to-20-game winner at less than agent Scott Boras wanted for Greg Maddux as a guarantee. So Wells was a good financial gamble. That said, it would have been nice to have the consistency of Maddux at No. 1. The middle three starters improved steadily last year. In case two of the candidates fail, RHP Ben Howard (24, 1-3 with a solid 3.63 ERA in six late season 2003 starts) could be ready.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:

--RHP Trevor Hoffman (closer)
--RHP Rod Beck
--RHP Akinori Otsuka
--RHP Antonio Osuna
--RHP Jay Witasick
--LHP Kevin Walker
--RHP Scott Linebrink
--LHP Edgar Huerta

The bullpen was a disaster last season until Beck saved the day. General manager Kevin Towers made improving the bullpen a priority ranking alongside catching and the No. 1 starter. Padres believe the bullpen is vastly upgraded, but a lot depends on the health of Hoffman and the continued strong work of Beck.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

--3B Sean Burroughs
--2B Mark Loretta
--RF Brian Giles
--1B Phil Nevin
--LF Ryan Klesko
--CF Jay Payton
--C Ramon Hernandez
--SS Khalil Greene/Rey Ordonez

The Padres figure to make it difficult on situational relief pitchers. From the top of the order through the sixth spot, they will go left-right-left-right-left-right. If Greene wins the shortstop job, the Padres will also have a left-handed hitter in the eighth slot. General manager Kevin Towers believes the Padres will score 800 runs this season if they remain healthy. If that appears to be the trend, the Padres will go with Ordonez's glove at short to help the pitchers.

PROJECTED RESERVES:

--INF Ramon Vazquez
--3B-1B Jeff Cirillo
--OF Terrence Long
--1B-OF Brian Buchanan
--C Tom Wilson

The Padres bench last year was weak. Buchanan is the lone returnee. The bench is much improved and has two left-handed bats for balance. Because the Padres are likely to go with a seven-man bullpen, the bench will be limited to five players. If there is a sixth, it will likely be an outfielder with the speed to play center, Gene Kingsale or Brian Hunter, rather than a third catcher. One notable missing name is Xavier Nady, who was the Padres' Opening Day right fielder last year. The Padres will play him every day at Triple-A Portland unless they can move Long and find a way to get Nady into some type of a rotation.


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