There aren't as many questions that Black will face when he arrives at Spring Training in Arizona for his seventh time as manager of the Padres.
The Padres need to figure out their rotation, but have 10 pitchers in camp for five spots. The team won't be shy about adding an arm during Spring Training, either.
But Black is optimistic the offense -- long an area of concern -- will be better in 2013 than it has been in any of his previous seasons.
"I like the way we ended the season last year, there's no doubt about it," he said. "We've got the same group of position players coming back, and with a couple guys maybe trying to fight to get on the club."
For as much as the Padres were seemingly buried early by underperforming and injuries -- the team had 15 different disabled-list moves by May 19 -- they made for an interesting show during the second half, going 49-37 after June 28 and scoring the fifth-most runs in the league in that stretch.
"It's been such a long process to try to get a better offense," said Padres general manager Josh Byrnes. "We feel we've taken huge strides in that direction."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Away at Mariners, February 22, 12:05 p.m. PT
Away at Mets, April 1, 10:10 a.m. PT
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. What will the starting rotation look like?
Let's start with what we do know: Clayton Richard (14 wins, 33 starts) and Edinson Volquez (11 wins, 32 starts) will again anchor the staff. They were the only durable members of a rotation ravaged by injuries a year ago.
Jason Marquis returns on a one-year deal. He was the best of the Jeff Suppan/Ross Ohlendorf/Kip Wells mix the team ran through to cover innings because of those injuries. Beyond that, the team hopes that newcomer Tyson Ross can flourish in a new setting and that young pitchers like Casey Kelly and Anthony Bass can take big steps forward. And don't forget about Freddy Garcia.
This will be the one area to really watch during Spring Training -- 10 arms for five spots.
2. Can Chase Headley come close to his 2012 production?
You mean, will he match or surpass his 31-homer, 115-RBI total in 2013 and again win a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove? That's a lot to ask, though Headley himself has high aspirations and his hitting coach, Phil Plantier, thinks the numbers the third baseman had in '12 can be more toward the norm, not simply an outlier.
Bill James has offered projections of 22 home runs and 85 RBIs. That's still pretty good, but moving in the fences at Petco Park could lead to better power numbers for Headley, who crushed the ball on the road in 2012 and even fared well in his spacious home ballpark.
3. Will the offense really be any better?
The Padres are counting on it, so much so that no real change to the position-player part of the roster were made this winter. The offense that Black presided over last season, the one that included a healthy Carlos Quentin, might have been the most productive he's had in his first six seasons managing the team.
The Padres were encouraged that the offense was fifth in the National League in runs from July 1 until the end of the regular season and hope to see more of that. The team thinks Quentin will be in better health, that Headley will again be a big run producer, and Yonder Alonso (39 doubles as a rookie) will continue to improve.
76-86, fourth in the NL West
Projected batting order
1. SS Everth Cabrera:
.246 BA, .324 OBP, .324 SLG, 24 RBI, 44 SB in 2012
2. RF Will Venable:
.264 BA, .335 OBP, .429 SLG, 9 HR, 45 RBI in 2012
3. 3B Chase Headley:
.286 BA, .376 OBP, .498 SLG, 31 HR, 115 RBI in 2012
4. LF Carlos Quentin:
.261 BA, .374 OBP, .504 SLG, 16 HR, 46 RBI in 2012
5. 1B Yonder Alonso:
.273 BA, .348 OBP, .393 SLG, 9 HR, 62 RBI in 2012
6. 2B Jedd Gyorko:
.311 BA, .373 OBP, .547 SLG, 30 HR, 100 RBI in 2012 (Minors)
7. CF Cameron Maybin:
.243 BA, .306 OBP, .349 SLG, 8 HR, 45 RBI in 2012
8. C Nick Hundley:
.157 BA, .219 OBP, .245 SLG, 3 HR, 22 RBI in 2012
1. Clayton Richard, 14-14, 3.99 ERA in 2012
2. Edinson Volquez, 11-11, 4.14 ERA in 2012
3. Jason Marquis , 8-11, 5.22 ERA in 2012
4. Eric Stults, 8-3, 2.91 ERA in 2012
5. Casey Kelly, 2-3, 6.21 ERA in 2012
Closer: Huston Street, 23/24 saves, 1.85 ERA in 2012
RH setup man: Luke Gregerson, 2.39 ERA in 2012
LH setup man: Joe Thatcher, 3.41 ERA in 2012
The new guys
RHP Ross: Obtained from the A's in November, Ross is a pitcher the Padres have had their eyes on for a while. They feel there's still upside here and that with a few mechanical fixes, he can become a good Major League pitcher. A strong performance this spring could earn him a spot in the starting rotation.
RHP Garcia: Garcia, 36, signed a Minor League deal in late January. There's a very good chance that he could win a spot in a wide-open rotation. He's a far different pitcher than the one who won 17 games with the Mariners as a rookie in 1999, but he pitched well in 2011 with the Yankees and the Padres had reports that he can still get outs, competes well and is good in the clubhouse.
RHP Wilfredo Boscan: Boscan was the player to be named later in the trade that sent pitcher Cory Burns to Texas. He's 23 but has been a professional since he was 17. Boscan has a live arm and showed signs of figuring things out last season in Double-A San Antonio. He had a 1.80 ERA this past winter and could be a sleeper to win a role in the bullpen.
RHP Sean O'Sullivan: A non-roster invitee, O'Sullivan is a San Diego kid who has a 6.13 ERA in parts of three seasons with the Royals and Angels. He's versatile in that he can start or pitch in relief. Command and changeup get good reviews.
RHP Brandon Kloess: The Padres picked up Kloess in a trade that sent outfielder Blake Tekotte to the White Sox. Kloess had a 2.39 ERA in two Minor League stops in 2012 with 70 strikeouts over 73 2/3 innings. He has a low 90s fastball and good secondary pitches. He, too, could make a run at winning a bullpen job.
RHP Fautino De Los Santos: Claimed off waivers from the Brewers on Feb. 6, Santos will be in the mix in Spring Training to win a reliever job. The team thought highly enough of him to add him to their 40-man roster. He had a 5.80 ERA in Triple-A last season but has a big arm.
Prospects to watch
2B Jedd Gyorko: Gyorko is a third baseman by trade, but will get a crack at winning the starting second base job this spring. He played the position in the Minor Leagues and hit well at each level, belting 30 home runs in 2012, and has nothing left to prove offensively in the Minor Leagues. A plus-hit tool can carry a player a long ways. Can he continue to do so at the big league level?
RHP Donn Roach: Some Padres fans bristled when the team dealt popular reliever Ernesto Frieri to the Angels last season for Roach and utility man Alexi Amarista. But Roach made some fans along the way with his ability to get outs with a power sinker that has a bowling-ball affect on hitters. He went 11-2 with a 1.88 ERA last season and isn't far from reaching the big leagues -- perhaps sometime in 2013.
RHP Kevin Quackenbush: The Padres will have plenty of late-inning relievers in camp this spring and several with better chances to make the Opening Day roster than Quackenbush. He remains a name worth watching, even if you can't spell it. The 24-year-old has struck out 141 in 99 2/3 innings as a pro and has allowed only 67 hits. He might not have the best stuff in the system, but he gets outs and his delivery is funky enough to make for an uncomfortable at-bat.
LHP Robbie Erlin: Reports on Erlin were good this fall in the Arizona Fall League, where he worked on pitching at a quicker tempo and had success with it. He was limited in 2012 because of a stretched ligament in his left elbow, but he's fine now. A strike thrower with a low walk-rate everywhere he has pitched, Erlin isn't far away from breaking into the Padres' rotation.
On the rebound
RHP Tim Stauffer: Stauffer, the Padres' Opening Day starter in 2011, signed a Minor League deal in January. He's currently about two weeks behind his typical throwing program after having right elbow surgery last August and throwing only five innings last season.
LHP Cory Luebke: Luebke had Tommy John surgery last May and is progressing well with his rehabilitation. There's no set timetable for his return, though it could potentially come in late May or June. Luebke has a 3.25 ERA in his first 188 1/3 innings.
RHP Joe Wieland: Like Luebke, Wieland had his season interrupted by Tommy John surgery. He had surgery in July and could make his return to the mound this July. Much like Luebke, there's no hard and fast timetable for his return. He started throwing early last month.
RHP Andrew Cashner: Cashner would have been a candidate for a spot in the rotation, but he lacerated a tendon in his right thumb this past winter. He'll return sometime in May or June, but the club hasn't announced if he'll start or pitch in relief.
OF Chris Denorfia: Denorfia will again play for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic. He's fortunate in the sense that Italy will be playing its Classic games in Arizona during Spring Training, meaning he won't lose time for travel when it comes time to rejoin the Padres.
RHP Luke Gregerson: Gregerson will make his first appearance in the Classic for Team USA. As is the case with Denorfia, Gregerson won't miss significant time due to travel since Team USA will play all of its Classic games in Arizona and potentially California.
RHP Edinson Volquez: For the second time, Volquez will pitch for the Dominican Republic in the Classic. Volquez is essentially assured of a spot in the Padres starting rotation, so his absence from the Padres' camp will allow the organization to give an extended look to other hopeful candidates.
LHP Andrew Werner: Werner was traded to the A's in November with infielder Andy Parrino for Ross. He had a 5.58 ERA and a 2-3 record in eight starts with the team. He allowed two or fewer runs in his first four starts, but struggled thereafter.
INF Parrino: Traded with Werner to the A's in November, Parrino is versatile enough, with the ability to play shortstop, second base, third base and even the outfield in a pinch. Parrino hit .200 in his first 160 Major League at-bats.