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Trio of Padres could benefit from strong finishes

With decisions looming for '15, Alonso, Cabrera, Despaigne focused on home stretch

Trio of Padres could benefit from strong finishes play video for Trio of Padres could benefit from strong finishes

SAN DIEGO -- Now that the dust has settled on the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Padres have a fair idea of who will be where for the final two months of the regular season.

While it appears that San Diego -- currently in third place in the National League West -- will miss making the postseason for the eighth consecutive season, these final 50 games do hold an important purpose.

The Padres will use the final two months to evaluate the performances of players on the roster with an eye toward 2015 -- who fits in their plans and where?

So far, the returns have been mostly promising as a revamped clubhouse, reshaped by several trades in July, appears to have sparked something with this team.

The Padres are 10-6 since the All-Star break and have scored the most runs in the National League (78) in that stretch. They open a two-game series in Minnesota on Tuesday.

As for the future, a lot, of course, will be determined by the new general manager, who will be hired this week.

But here are three players the Padres will be keeping their eye on closely between now and the end of the regular season:

Yonder Alonso: The first baseman returned from the disabled list on July 26 after missing 30 games with tendinitis in his right wrist. Alonso, like many of his teammates, got off to a slow start offensively, hitting .210 before going down.

That injury came on the heels of last season's right hand contusion that limited Alonso to 334 at-bats. He didn't have a single at-bat in the final month of the season.

Alonso said his hand feels fine now, and that it's back at full strength. The Padres would like to see him return to his 2012 form, when he had 39 doubles and drove in 62 runs.

Tommy Medica, a right-handed hitter, hit three home runs in a weekend sweep of the Braves as he pushes for playing time. Could we see more of a platoon in August and September?

Everth Cabrera: The shortstop's star has faded some since his All-Star selection and fast start to the 2013 season, as he was suspended for the final 50 games of last season after being linked to the Biogenesis case.

Cabrera got off to a fast start, hitting .289 in April, but he looked sluggish offensively thereafter, hitting .216 in May and .133 in June. He also missed 21 games last month with a left hamstring strain, coming off the disabled list on July 29.

Cabrera has never been one to walk much in his career, but his on-base percentage has still topped .300. Not this season, though, as it's currently .262. That won't cut it at the top of the order. Defensively, Cabrera has already made as many errors (16) as he did in all of 2012, and more than twice as many as last season (six).

The Padres have done a better job of adding depth to the system at the shortstop position, though they don't have anyone in the Minor Leagues ready to take over the position on a full-time basis. That being said, Alexi Amarista handled himself well there when Cabrera was down, but he probably isn't an everyday option.

Cabrera had four hits on Friday. Could that be a start of better things to come?

"Cabby's challenge is to increase his batting average and his on-base percentage," manager Bud Black said. "He's got two months to rectify that."

Odrisamer Despaigne: It was all smooth sailing for the 27-year-old Cuban rookie in his first six starts, as he didn't allow more than two earned runs.

But Despaigne scuffled on July 26 against the Braves, lasting just 3 2/3 innings. Then in his last start against the Cardinals, he allowed six earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Are we starting to see the regression so many predicted for Despaigne -- due to his low strikeout rate (4.74) and a high strand rate (74.7), among others factors -- finally taking place? And is the fact that he's made most of his starts in pitching-friendly environments starting to catch up to him?

In other words, is the honeymoon over for Despaigne?

We'll find out soon enough, as Despaigne makes a start Wednesday against the Twins. He'll get a turn every five days for for the time being, as the Padres will take a long look at him to see if he's a part of their plans moving forward into the offseason and toward 2015.

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

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