Padres Spring Training quick hits

Padres Spring Training quick hits

2006 record
88-74, first in National League West

Projected batting order
1. LF Terrmel Sledge:
  .229 BA, 2 HR, 7 RBI
2. 2B Marcus Giles:
  .262 BA, 11 HR, 60 RBI
3. RF Brian Giles:
  .263 BA, 14 HR, 83 RBI
4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez:
  .304 BA, 24 HR, 82 RBI
5. CF Mike Cameron:
  .268 BA, 22 HR, 83 RBI
6. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff:
  .214 BA, 3 HR, 11 RBI
7. C Josh Bard:
  .333 BA, 9 HR, 40 RBI
8. SS Khalil Greene:
  .245 BA, 15 HR, 55 RBI

Projected rotation
1. RHP Jake Peavy, 11-14, 4.09 ERA
2. RHP Chris Young, 11-5, 3.46
3. RHP Greg Maddux, 15-14, 4.20
4. RHP Clay Hensley, 11-12, 3.71
5. LHP David Wells, 3-5, 4.42

Projected bullpen
Closer: RHP Trevor Hoffman, 46 saves, 2.14 ERA in 2006
RH setup man: RHP Scott Linebrink, 3.57 ERA in 2006
LH setup man: LHP Royce Ring, 2.13 ERA in 2006

The new guys
Maddux: A future Hall of Famer, Maddux signed a one-year contract worth $10 million with a player option for 2008. He brings 333 career wins and mounds of experience and wisdom to the Padres' pitching staff. Incredibly durable, Maddux has thrown 200 or more innings in 18 of the past 19 seasons, missing by two outs in 2002. Developing starters Peavy, Young and Hensley are excited about the prospect of studying Maddux's work habits and learning from him on a daily basis. Maddux has a rich postseason history, and his relaxed, confident manner should rub off on all of his teammates, not just fellow pitchers, in pressure situations.

Marcus Giles: The younger brother of Padres right fielder Brian Giles, Marcus was signed to a one-year free-agent contract worth $3.25 million with incentives that could make it worth $4.25 million, and the club holds a $4 million option for 2008. A San Diegan thrilled to be coming home after six seasons in Atlanta, Marcus is expected to hit high in the order and generate offense with his speed and gap power. A solid defensive player, he'll replace Josh Barfield in the heart of the infield. At 28, he has been exposed to postseason play with the Braves, appearing in five consecutive playoffs from 2001-05.

Kouzmanoff: Acquired from Cleveland in exchange for Barfield, the Padres' new third baseman is expected to provide muscle in the heart of the lineup. Kouzmanoff gained national attention when he unloaded a grand slam on the first Major League pitch he saw at Texas last September, becoming the only player in Major League history to hold that distinction. Kouzmanoff has hit for a high average with power at every Minor League level, and the Padres are convinced all he needs is the opportunity to become a productive Major League player.

RHP Andrew Brown: Acquired along with Kouzmanoff in the Barfield deal, the big right-hander will try to crack the middle relief corps with his heater, which tops out at 97 mph, and a hard slider.

RHP Heath Bell: Acquired from the Mets in a deal sending outfielder Ben Johnson and righty Jon Adkins to New York, Bell, 29, also will try to nail down a middle relief job with power and excellent command. He's from Oceanside, north of San Diego.

Ring: A former San Diego State star who was came with Bell from the Mets for Johnson and Adkins, Ring is the leading candidate to fill the role of lefty specialist in the bullpen vacated by Alan Embree.

RHP Mike Adams: Another big right-handed power pitcher, Adams has experience with the Brewers and will make a pitch for a relief role. He was a candidate for the Brewers' closing job in 2005, losing out to Derrick Turnbow. He could be a sleeper.

RHP Kevin Cameron: Taken as a Rule 5 Draft selection from the Twins organization, Cameron will bid for a middle relief job with his cut fastball and excellent control.

LHP Justin Hampson: Another candidate to replace Embree, Hampson has limited Major League experience with Colorado and will try to show he's worthy of a bullpen spot.

LHP Ryan Ketchner: He's also in the hunt to replace Embree.

RHP Scott Strickland: Another sleeper candidate to make the bullpen, Strickland is 12-21 with a 3.34 ERA in 236 Major League games. He saved nine games for Montreal in back-to-back seasons, 2000 and '01, and also pitched effectively for the Mets.

Jose Cruz Jr.: A free-agent outfielder who was a 30-30 man for Toronto in 2001, Cruz will try to rebound from a disappointing 2006 with the Dodgers to compete with Sledge for time in left field. He could be an ideal fourth outfielder with solid skills across the board.

C Todd Greene: A non-roster invitee, Greene is insurance against an injury to Bard or backup Rob Bowen and could make the team as a pinch-hitter. He's highly respected inside the game for his knowledge and attitude.

2B Craig Stansberry: A right-handed hitter with some pop, speed and good defensive skills, Stansberry was signed as insurance against an injury to Marcus Giles.

Prospects to watch
1B-OF Paul McAnulty: A sweet-swinging left-handed bat with muscle, McAnulty had one of the biggest blows of 2006 for the Padres, a walk-off homer in the September stretch run, and this could be the year he breaks through as a full-service bench player, having added some third base experience to his resume.

OF Jack Cust: -- The veteran left-handed hitter opened eyes with a huge year at Triple-A Portland and will compete for a roster spot as a pinch-hitter and backup outfielder.

RHP Tim Stauffer: Long considered a top prospect, Stauffer gave the Padres one superb emergency start, beating the Dodgers, and is on the periphery of cracking the staff along with righty Mike Thompson, who also performed admirably as the sixth starter in '06.

RHP Leo Rosales -- Blessed with a tremendous changeup, Rosales had a superb season at Double-A Mobile and could forge his way into the bullpen at some point this season.

Returning from injury
Greene: The electric shortstop was on his way to a career year when he injured his left hand batting in early August. Trying to play through the injury, he was 1-for-29 the rest of the way but did make some pivotal defensive plays in the last week of the season. His torrid July (.360, .600 slugging percentage) showed Greene at his confident best, an All-Star caliber player.

RHP Doug Brocail: After making a tremendous comeback from two angioplasties in the spring, the veteran right-hander was back throwing in the mid-90s when he suffered a leg injury in mid-September. He's looking to deliver quality innings in middle relief.

LHP Shawn Estes: The veteran isn't expected to be available until mid-season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last June, suffering the injury while making his lone start for the Padres in the second game of the season.

On the rebound
Sledge: A severely torn hamstring, requiring surgery in 2005, prevented Sledge from busting out last season, but he feels he's ready to return to the level of 2004 when he was one of the NL's top rookies in Montreal. He'll get first crack at the left-field job.

Wells: Boomer was never quite right after undergoing knee surgery in April. After coming back to San Diego from Boston in a swap for George Kottaras, he delivered a huge win on the final Saturday of the regular season, propelling the Padres into the playoffs. If he stays reasonably healthy, he'll be a big contributor.

Long gone
LF Dave Roberts: A three-year deal with San Francisco sent Doc packing, creating the need for a dynamic leadoff presence and a quality left fielder.

Barfield: Popular and productive, the rookie second baseman had an excellent debut season, offensively and defensively, and he finished strong. The Padres will miss his speed and defense as well as his clutch bat.

C Mike Piazza: Piazza was a valuable contributor in the cleanup spot with his loud bat and behind the plate, working capably with the pitching staff. The potential Hall of Famer opted to sign as a free agent with Oakland to DH, sparing further damage on his knees.

RHP Woody Williams: A key contributor in 2006 whose season was disrupted by a leg injury, Williams returns home to Houston to pitch for the Astros as a free agent, fulfilling a dream.

Embree: The tough-minded southpaw joins Piazza in Oakland as a free agent, leaving his vital bullpen role as lefty specialist to several candidates.

1B/OF Ryan Klesko: A Padres stalwart for seven seasons, Klesko will try to kick-start his career after shoulder surgery in San Francisco, signing as a free agent.

INF Mark Bellhorn: The veteran switch-hitter provided occasional power and solid defense at second and third in a bench role.

Adkins: The right-hander, sent to the Mets in a four-player swap, was an underrated member of the Padres' middle relief corps.

RHP Brian Sweeney: Durable and productive in middle relief, Sweeney elected to pitch in Japan this season.

OF Ben Johnson: A versatile performer with power, speed and a good glove, Johnson was surrendered in the deal with the Mets, where he'll hope to crack the crowded outfield.

Of Jon Knott: A perennial Triple-A slugger, Knott never really made it happen with the Padres and will try to flourish in Baltimore as a free agent.

RHP Rudy Seanez: The veteran right-hander returned to the Padres as a free agent late in the season, signing this season with the Dodgers.

RHP Scott Williamson: Another veteran right-hander who had his moments in relief, but signed with Baltimore for 2007.

2006 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Bard, .333
OBP: Bard, .404
SLG: Bard, .522
Runs: Cameron, 88
RBIs: B. Giles, Cameron, 83
Hits: Gonzalez, 173
2B: Gonzalez, 38
3B: Roberts, 13
HR: Gonzalez, 24
SB: Roberts, 49
2006 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Peavy, 202 1/3
W: Williams, 12
L: Peavy, 14
Win %: Cla Meredith, 5-1, .833
S: Hoffman, 46
ERA: Meredith, 1.07
K: Peavy, 215
K/9: Peavy, 9.56
WHIP: Meredith, 0.71

Triple play: Three questions that need answers

Who should get the Opening Day start?
Jake Peavy
Chris Young
Greg Maddux
Clay Hensley
David Wells

1. Can Sledge and Marcus Giles set the table?
With Roberts serving as the Giants' leadoff catalyst, it's up to his heir apparent, Sledge, to get on base and get the offense started with Marcus Giles expected to hit behind in the No. 2 hole, which was handled by a committee last year. Sledge has a career .402 on-base percentage in the Minor Leagues and is excited about the opportunity. The younger Giles is always excited, but his return home should bring out the best in him.

2. Who will form the middle relief corps?
There is no shortage of candidates to handle the middle innings in front of a back end with few equals featuring Trevor Hoffman, Scott Linebrink and Cla Meredith. Scott Cassidy and Brocail return and will try to hold off challenges from the likes of Mike Thompson, Andrew Brown, Heath Bell, Scott Strickland, Mike Adams, Royce Ring, Justin Hampson and Ryan Ketchner. The team will miss Jon Adkins' consistency, Brian Sweeney's versatility and endurance and Alan Embree's ability to blow away left-handed hitters,

3. How will the Padres replace the power of Piazza and speed of Roberts, Barfield and Johnson?
Bard will get most of the at-bats that went to Piazza, and the switch-hitter could approach 22 homers. The hope is that Kouzmanoff also can provide that many bombs along with a high average and run production. Gonzalez, Cameron and Brian Giles also have the ability to hit at least 20 homers. As for the speed, only Cameron is a first-rate runner in the lineup, which will make manufacturing of runs more difficult.

The bottom line
The rotation and back end of the bullpen are first class and will be the envy of the rest of the league -- if Wells stays healthy and Peavy bounces back to All-Star form. Offense is the big concern, and the defense -- so consistently good last year -- will be hard-pressed to be on that level in the absence of Barfield, Roberts and Piazza. The club has a recent history of slow starts, and that could be dangerous in a much improved division.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.