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Padres Opening Day outlook

Padres Opening Day outlook

The Padres made some significant changes to their roster during the offseason, adding pitchers Randy Wolf and Mark Prior, as well as center fielder Jim Edmonds and second baseman Tadahito Iguchi to give them stability at a position that didn't have it in 2007.

But the core of the roster returns from the team that won 89 games and narrowly missed the playoffs. The Padres feel as if their starting rotation -- anchored by National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, Chris Young and 347-game winner Greg Maddux -- is among the best in baseball, and the bullpen can close out games.

Manager Bud Black, entering his second year, has a better understanding of the National League and has been given a stronger, deeper bench to work with, as veteran Tony Clark signed a one-year deal.

Still, being successful isn't enough in the pitching-rich NL West, where there are enough pitching aces to fill a Cy Young ballot.

If the Padres' offense is improved -- like the team feels it will be after a season that saw San Diego hit just .251 collectively -- then there might not be as many one-run games (49) as there were in 2007.

Calling card
Pitching, pitching and more pitching. The Padres led the entire universe in ERA in 2007, bolstered not only by a strong rotation -- headlined by Peavy -- but also a stingy bullpen that included one of the best setup pitchers in baseball (Heath Bell) and closer Trevor Hoffman, who saved 42 games.

Achilles' Heel

Edmonds

Achilles' Heel? No, it's more like a strained right calf that has the Padres concerned about Edmonds, who has been plagued by injuries in each of the last two seasons. He'll likely begin the season on the disabled list and miss the first five games of the season. The Padres need him to be healthy in 2008 to man center field.

Projected starting lineup
1. RF Brian Giles
2. 2B Tadahito Iguchi
3. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
5. CF Scott Hairston
6. SS Khalil Greene
7. C Josh Bard
8. LF Paul McAnulty
Projected rotation
1. RHP Jake Peavy
2. RHP Chris Young
3. RHP Greg Maddux
4. LHP Randy Wolf
5. RHP Justin Germano
Projected bullpen
Closer: RHP Trevor Hoffman
Setup: RHP Heath Bell
Setup: RHP Cla Meredith
Middle: LHP Joe Thatcher
Middle: LHP Glendon Rusch

You'll know they're rollin' if ...
Peavy looks like the Cy Young winner he was in 2007 and Young can stay healthy and throw like the best pitcher in baseball, which he arguably was in the first half of last season.

You'll know they're in trouble if ...
Runs are hard to come by like they often were in 2007. Remember, this is a team that won 23 one-run games, which is very good. But they lost 26 games by one run, as well.

Testing, testing

Peavy

The Padres play, gulp, 20 games against National League West foes in the first month of the season alone, but a three-game series at Chase Field against the Diamondbacks on April 18-20 could provide some interesting pitching matchups, maybe even a Brandon Webb vs. Peavy one.

Interleague Play
There are certainly no weaklings on the Interleague Play schedule. The Padres will travel to Cleveland and New York to face the Yankees and play host to the Twins and a playoff team from last season, the Tigers. Two series against the Mariners won't be easy, either.

The Bottom Line
The Padres have the pitching to contend for the division title and a spot in the postseason, and they feel their bench sets up much better than it did last season, giving Black more options. The Padres' success figures to come down to their ability to drive in runs, which won't be easy in the pitching-rich NL West.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["opening_day" ] }
{"content":["opening_day" ] }