"Etherton is obviously something of a special case," said Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of scouting and player development. "He was our top starter [minor league free agent] target, but he chose Kansas City because he thought he'd have a better chance of pitching in the big leagues with them."
Ironically, the right-hander is in a much better position to break camp with the big league team today than he was when he signed with the Royals two weeks ago and got an invitation to their spring training.
Originally a first-round pick in 1998 who rushed through the minors and joined the Angels' starting rotation in just two years, Etherton's career has been derailed by injuries. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder in 2001 and logged only 27 innings the following year. While working his way back in 2003, he had problems with both his knee and elbow but has been very effective in the minors over the past two seasons.
"He gives us another option for the back of the rotation or the bullpen," added Fuson. Etherton, who grew up in Dana Point and went to the University of Southern California, throws in the upper 80's with solid command of the strike zone.
The Friars' other acquisition, Andrade, immediately becomes a favorite to win a spot in the bullpen, which will be without Rudy Seanez and Chris Hammond from last year's staff. Just-turned 28, Andrade has racked up 326 strikeouts in 222.1 innings over five minor league seasons. Although he doesn't blow the ball past hitters, his curve – which several scouts say looks like a slider – is what Fuson calls a "washout pitch."
Throwing from several different arm angles with an unconventional delivery, Andrade allowed only 23 hits and 16 walks in 50.1 innings at Double-A New Hampshire this year while striking out 71. He continued the success in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League where he allowed only a .170 average against and one home run in 13 innings.
"He's not overpowering, but those numbers are too silly to walk away from," said Fuson. "He just misses bats and minimizes [hitters'] power."
"I don't like guys touching the ball, much less putting it into play," said the competitive Andrade. "I always try to work myself into a count where I'm ahead so I can get to my out pitch as soon as possible."