New faces mark Padres' 2008 roster
Friars don't completely rebuild, but changes abound in SD
SAN DIEGO -- Imagine the setting: PETCO Park on March 31 and it's Opening Day and newcomer Tadahito Iguchi is starting at second base for the Padres.
Over Iguchi's right shoulder, standing in left field, is Paul McAnulty, who wasn't on the roster most of last season. To McAnulty's immediate left is Scott Hairston, who wasn't with the team last April.
Look inside the Padres' bullpen (Enrique Gonzalez and Glendon Rusch) or even the dugout (Callix Crabbe, Justin Huber, Tony Clark and Jody Gerut) and there are even more new faces to be seen. That might give the impression the team started over from scratch, though Bud Black, the Padres' second-year manager, says it's not like the team is completely rebuilt.
"There's been turnover," Black said, "but not a massive turnover."
No, the Padres didn't blow the team up in the offseason and commit to starting over, not after winning 89 games and narrowly missing the postseason. But the team didn't exactly embrace the status quo either.
Gone from 2007 are center fielder Mike Cameron, utilityman Geoff Blum, left fielder Milton Bradley, second baseman Marcus Giles and relief pitcher Doug Brocail.
Enter starting pitchers Randy Wolf and Mark Prior. Wolf is scheduled to pitch fourth in the Padres' rotation, with Prior, coming off shoulder surgery last April, possibly ready to return to the Major Leagues in May or June as the fifth starter.
Then there's Iguchi and outfielder Jim Edmonds, who could begin the regular season on the disabled list with a strained right calf.
The Padres, who ranked next-to-last in batting average (.250) in the National League last season, believe they will be a better offensive team with the additions of Iguchi, who will likely hit second in the order behind Brian Giles, and Edmonds.
The bench figures to be much improved, as well, with either Josh Bard or Michael Barrett -- depending on who starts -- and veteran first baseman Clark, providing potential pop late in games and spelling Adrian Gonzalez on occasion.
"You want good hitters on the bench, you want good defenders, you want some speed. You want some power. You want it all," Black said of his ideal bench composition. "... But it doesn't [always] happen."
What the Padres will have, many regard, is one of the top pitching staffs in Major League Baseball, anchored by Opening Day starter Jake Peavy, who won the National League Cy Young Award after a wildly successful 2007 season.
Peavy is coming off a season that saw him win the Cy Young Award in unanimous fashion, leading the league in ERA (2.54), victories (19) and strikeouts (240), which certainly went a long way toward a $52 million contract extension that will keep him in a Padres uniform through 2012 and possibly 2013.
Should the Padres need to go to their bullpen for help against the Astros on Opening Day, they'll turn to one of the best relief corps in baseball from a year ago, a unit that didn't change all that much in the offseason.
Reliever Cla Meredith is back to handle the seventh inning after enduring an occasionally rough second year where he might have been more snake-bit than bad in 2007, when his ERA rose from a scant 1.07 during his rookie year to 3.50 last season.
"He might have been a little unlucky," Black said.
Heath Bell will handle the eighth inning, giving the team a nice bridge between Meredith and closer Trevor Hoffman.
Bell finished tied for fifth in the National League in games (81), second in holds (34) and first in innings pitched by a reliever (93 2/3) while becoming one of baseball's top setup men.
"Without him, you know, we wouldn't have been in the position we were in September," Black said. "He was a valuable part of our bullpen, logged a lot of innings, almost from about the first of May on."
Despite blowing saves in two of the Padres' final three games of the season, including the 13-inning loss to the Rockies in the Wild Card play-in game, Hoffman saved 42 games and has a healthy elbow after minor surgery in the offseason.
SD: RHP Jake Peavy (19-6, 2.54 ERA)
The 2007 Cy Young Award winner gets the nod on Opening Day, pitching at PETCO Park where he actually endured five of his six losses last season. Peavy was 10-1 on the road and 9-5 at PETCO Park.
HOU: RHP Roy Oswalt (14-7, 3.18 ERA)
Oswalt gets to start the opener where he'll face, among other Padres, Peavy, who is a good friend and a hunting buddy. Fat chance Oswalt will serve anything up to Peavy, who is a good hitter for a pitcher.
So PETCO Park is a tough place to hit, huh? Try telling that to Astros outfielder Lance Berkman, who is a lifetime .394 hitter there. Of his 13 hits in San Diego, five have gone for doubles and four have gone for home runs.
XX Sports Radio, AM 1090, FM 105.7. XEMO AM 860. (Español)
Tuesday: Astros (Wandy Rodriguez, 9-13, 4.58) at Padres (Chris Young, 9-8, 3.12), 7:05 p.m. PT
Wednesday: Astros (Brandon Backe, 3-1, 3.77) at Padres (Greg Maddux, 14-11, 4.14), 7:05 p.m. PT
Thursday: Astros (Woody Williams, 8-15, 5.27) at Padres (Randy Wolf, 9-6, 4.73), 12:35 p.m. PT
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.