Padres and Peavy Begin 2005

"The National League West is going to be awfully tough," Jake Peavy said. "There is no question about that." But the door may have opened for the San Diego Padres with Barry Bonds injured and no timetable for his return.

Arizona may be the scariest team in the division but they aren't getting the press after a down year in 2004.

They have three pitchers who are worthy in Javier Vasquez, Brandon Webb and Russ Ortiz. They also have a packed lineup after acquiring Troy Glaus and Shawn Green.

The Diamondbacks may be the surprise team in the division but everyone is still shooting to knock the Giants from their perch.

"I know San Fran got an awful lot better this year with the moves they made," Jake Peavy said. "LA is always going to be LA, they will be there. I haven't really paid attention to what Colorado has done."

Mosies Alou was supposed to be the protection for Bonds but now Pedro Feliz, a youngster with an emerging bat will have to be the bridge for Alou – until Bonds returns to health.

Jason Schmidt anchors the rotation, but has age caught up with the team?

The Dodgers received a blow when word filtered out that Eric Gagne would begin the year on the disabled list. They won the west a year ago and transformed the team drastically.

J.D. Drew finally came alive last year and got a huge deal from the team. Expectations will be higher in LA than they were in Atlanta. Jeff Kent is a proven 100-RBI man and a full year of Milton Bradley's stick will be a welcome addition. Do they have enough to overcome the losses of Beltre and Green?

Their 1-through-4 rotation is as strong as any in the Majors. Weaver, who many called a disappointment, had the second most quality starts, 25, in the Senior Circuit last year.

The Padres, meanwhile, contend that they are improved for a lot of reasons. Dave Roberts solidifies the defense – but he will open the season on the DL. Down years from Brian Giles and Ryan Klesko are expected to be rectified and the team says it has figured out Petco Park.

Now that they are back in San Diego, the team feels it has left Arizona with one sole focus, winning the NL West and going deep into the playoffs.

"Push the team into the playoffs," Peavy said of the team goal. "Twenty-five guys break camp and everybody's mind is going to be set on playing October baseball."

With a strong defense up the middle of the field, the pitchers have more room for mistake. Khalil Greene is a year wiser and his defense is already outstanding. Mark Loretta is savvy in the field and Roberts, health pending, provides solid range, despite a lackluster arm.

"I think it is going to make a world of difference," Peavy said of the team defense. "I don't think it does for me. I know a lot of guys say they pitch to the defense. I have a lot of confidence in the guys behind me. I try and be as aggressive as I can be.

"I feel like I can do a lot of things with the ball but throw a ball and make them hit it to centerfield is not one of the things I can do. A lot of people say they pitch to their defense – I don't know – I have to figure that one out."

With a stacked lineup and an emerging rotation, the Padres are contenders in the National League West. Experts are picking them to cruise to a pennant but the games start now. Colorado is the first step in the 162-game process.

Denis Savage can be reached at

MadFriars Top Stories