© 2009 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
12/26/09 10:00 AM EST
Year of change has Padres looking ahead
New owner, GM; Peavy departs; Gonzalez, Bell thrive
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
January: The New Year brought a change in ownership, as Jeff Moorad, formerly the CEO of the D-backs, began his ownership pursuit of the Padres. By early February, Moorad reached a deal to purchase the team. In March, Moorad assumed the role as minority owner and CEO of the team.
The New Year also started with a changing of the guard in the role of closer, as longtime Padre Trevor Hoffman signed a free-agent deal with the Brewers. Heath Bell, who was solid as a setup man to Hoffman, was suddenly the closer. Bell, of course, went on to make the All-Star team and led the National League with 42 saves.
The Padres bolstered their infield by signing veteran David Eckstein to play second base in 2009. Eckstein signed for $850,000 and immediately became a hit with his teammates, starting in Spring Training. His veteran presence and strong play at second base (he had the best fielding percentage among NL second basemen) made it an easy decision for the Padres to re-sign him for 2010.
Finally, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was named the Padres' Most Valuable Player and Jake Peavy won the Clyde McCullough Award as the team's top pitcher at the Padres-UCP of San Diego County Awards Dinner.
After a winter of discontent -- his name being mentioned among various trade rumors -- Peavy arrived at Spring Training happy that he was still a Padre. "I never came forward and said I wanted to leave San Diego," Peavy said. He would start the season with the Padres, but was traded to the White Sox in July.
The season hadn't even started and new Padres closer Bell had already made his share of headlines -- for his offseason workout routine that involved sweating each day with the help of the Nintendo Wii Fit. Bell credited the game for helping him drop 25 pounds.
Three members of the Padres -- Adrian and Edgar Gonzalez and Scott Hairston -- got a chance to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Peavy and Bell played for Team USA, as well. The Padres were able to give several young players a chance to play more in Spring Training with those players gone, players like big first baseman Kyle Blanks.
It was only a week into games in Spring Training when then-general manager Kevin Towers decided he had seen enough. Or not enough. He dispatched scouts in Arizona, Florida and all points in between to find some relievers who could help the team. "We need better quality ... if it's available," Towers said.
It was also apparent early in Cactus League play in Spring Training that rookie Everth Cabrera, the shortstop the team picked in the Rule 5 Draft in December, could play ... and play well. "I think he has probably exceeded my expectations," Towers said. By midseason, Cabrera was the Padres' everyday shortstop.
Pitcher Kevin Correia, who signed a Minor League contract worth $750,000, made a nice impression early in Spring Training. On March 11, he tossed four scoreless innings in an exhibition victory over Korea, the team that placed runner-up in the World Baseball Classic.
In his first start since coming back from the World Baseball Classic, Peavy tossed six scoreless innings in a victory over the A's in a Cactus League game, striking out five of the first nine batters he faced. He allowed two hits and got two double plays turned behind him.
The Padres took all the time they needed and were allotted before picking the 25 players who would comprise their 25-man roster. There were a few hard choices. Rookie reliever Luke Gregerson, who arrived late in Spring Training as the player to be named later in the Khalil Greene deal, made the team. He ended up being one of the top relievers in the NL.
The Padres opened the regular season with a 4-1 loss to the Dodgers before the largest crowd at PETCO Park (45,496). Peavy allowed three earned runs in seven innings with eight strikeouts. Adrian Gonzalez narrowly missed a home run, hooking it foul down the right-field line.
On April 8, the Padres introduced Tom Garfinkel as the Padres' president and COO. He had worked with Moorad in Arizona. "We want to make sure we're paying attention to every detail. We want to try and make things better every day," Garfinkel said during his news conference.
Jody Gerut helped ruin the first game at Citi Field for Mets fans when he hit a home run to start the game and the Padres hung on for a 6-5 victory. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in Major League history that the first batter of the first regular-season game at a new ballpark has hit a home run.
The Padres bolted to a 9-3 start behind strong pitching and timely hitting, much like the three-run home run Kevin Kouzmanoff hit off Phillies closer Brad Lidge on April 18 as San Diego won a wild game, 8-5. Bell got the save, already his seventh. As for Lidge, that was his first blown save after 47 consecutive converted opportunities.
Also in April, the Padres announced former manager Dick Williams would be elected into their Hall of Fame. Williams would be honored during a ceremony on Aug. 8 at PETCO Park. Williams, already a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, was manager of the Padres from 1982-85. The 1984 team advanced to the World Series.
Bell was honored in May as the April winner of the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award. Bell, a 31-year-old right-hander, could not have been any more of a lock in his first month in Hoffman's shoes. He not only converted all eight of his save opportunities, but pitched shutout, four-hit ball through his 8 2/3 innings.
On May 15, the slumping Padres, who had lost 20 of their previous 24 games, shook up their lineup. The Padres promoted Greg Burke and Joe Thatcher from Triple-A Portland, designated reliever Duaner Sanchez for assignment and optioned another reliever, Edwin Moreno, to Portland. A month later, Blanks joined the team to give it some offensive punch.
Nick Hundley put an end to a marathon of a game on May 16 -- and, well, May 17 -- as he hit a home run in the 16th inning in a 6-5 victory over the Reds in a game that lasted five hours and 14 minutes. The Padres were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded 17 on base, but got the victory when Hundley blasted a home run.
On May 21, the Padres traded Gerut to the Brewers for Tony Gwynn Jr., the son of ex-Padres great and Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. Gwynn got the news, fittingly, from his dad, who called him. "My dad was yelling in the phone like he had won a national championship," Gwynn said of his father, who is currently the head baseball coach at San Diego State.
A day after using his no-trade clause to shoot down a deal to the White Sox -- a team he would eventually be traded to in July -- Peavy tossed six scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory over the Cubs at PETCO Park. "I'm happy to be here right now. I was honored the Chicago White Sox showed interest in making a bold move. But we felt this was the best decision," Peavy said. "Right now, it wasn't the right time for us to move on."
The Padres topped the D-backs, 9-7, on May 25 to extend their winning streak to 10 games. The Padres made this all possible by coming back from a 7-1 deficit with five runs in the eighth and one run in the ninth. The streak would end the next day.
The month started with Adrian Gonzalez being named co-National League Player of the Week for the final week of May. Gonzalez hit home runs in four of six games during the week and drove in three runs on three different occasions. By June 1, Gonzalez led the Major Leagues with 20 home runs.
In a game against the Dodgers on June 10, Hundley was hit on the left wrist by a pitch. The injury, worse than originally suspected, ended up costing Hundley a total of 50 games. He was eventually activated from the disabled list on Aug. 12. He hit .286 with three home runs over the final month of the season.
The Padres made a big splash in the First-Year Player Draft, taking outfielder Donavan Tate, a high school player from Georgia, with the third overall pick. The Padres took a few high-ceiling, athletic players in the Draft, including second-round pick Everett Williams, another prep outfielder. Tate ended up signing for $6.25 million.
On June 19, the Padres, looking for some pop in their offense, promoted Blanks from Portland, where the 22-year-old was hitting .283 with 12 home runs. Blanks hit 10 home runs in 54 games before being sidelined for good on Aug. 29 with a strained arch in his right foot.
Pitcher Chad Gaudin allowed one hit over eight scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, as the Padres defeated the Rangers, 2-0, in Arlington. It was the first time an opposing pitcher had pitched eight or more innings and allowed one or fewer hits against the Rangers.
In what had to be one of the biggest oddities in baseball in recent memory, the Padres had their July 2 game against the Astros at PETCO Park delayed 52 minutes because of bees that circled the outfield and eventually embedded themselves in the coat of a ball girl on the right-field line. The bees were eventually removed and play was restored.
On July 5, right after a 13-inning loss to the Dodgers, Hairston was dealt to the A's for three pitchers -- Sean Gallagher, Ryan Webb and Craig Italiano. Hairston was hitting .299 with 10 home runs at the time, but would have been arbitration-eligible and would have been due a decent raise. The Padres got three pitchers in the deal who, as they hope, can help them in the future.
Adrian Gonzalez was named to his second All-Star team and Bell his first. "When you get picked by your peers, that's the ultimate honor," Padres manager Bud Black said. "That's so gratifying. It's a great honor for both of them." Bell ended up getting the loss in the All-Star Game.
Rookie pitcher Mat Latos made his Major League debut on July 19 against Colorado. Latos started the season at Class A Fort Wayne and skipped another Class A affiliate, before landing at Double-A San Antonio. Latos was 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA with San Antonio before his promotion. Latos went 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA in 10 starts after his promotion and figures to be a part of the Padres' starting rotation in 2010.
At the Trade Deadline, the Padres traded Peavy to the White Sox, gaining four pitchers in return. The team had a similar deal in place earlier in the year, though Peavy used his no-trade clause to shoot it down. "Maybe there's a Jake Peavy in the bunch," said Towers.
Clayton Richard, one of four pitchers acquired in the July 31 deal for Peavy, went 5 2/3 innings in his Padres debut and allowed one run in a no-decision. "I liked the fastball life ... it's moving, it's darting," Black said. "It's got some nice action. Especially when it's down, it can produce the grounder. He threw some good changeups."
Adrian Gonzalez saw his consecutive games streak end at 314 games on Aug. 4 when he sat out a game against the Braves. The streak was the longest active run in the big leagues and a franchise record for the Friars. "I've never been a guy to look at those kinds of things," Gonzalez said. "Once it was brought up, that's the only time I knew there was any kind of streak. For me, it's just more about being in the game."
On Aug. 6, the Padres extended the contract of Black through 2010 with a club option for '11. In '10, Black will enter his fourth season as the Padres manager. "I've never seen Buddy Black have a bad deal. Sometimes when you have a real volatile manager, it can make things even worse," Towers said. "He has been a breath of fresh air for all of us."
Cabrera had two home runs in 377 at-bats, but he certainly picked a good time for one on Aug. 8, when he hit a walk-off grand slam against the Mets and closer Francisco Rodriguez for a 6-2 victory at PETCO Park. "A great at-bat against the premier closer," Black said.
On Aug. 11, Adrian Gonzalez set a franchise record for hits in a nine-inning game (six), leading the Padres to a 13-6 pasting of the Brewers before a Miller Park crowd of 37,040, which saw San Diego set a season high for runs and hits (22). "I was able to do it in nine [innings] because everyone hit," said Gonzalez, who drove in three runs with one double and five singles.
The Padres finished off a three-game sweep of the Nationals on Sept. 2 at PETCO Park as Correia won his 10th game of the season. Correia yielded three hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings. The victory clinched a three-game sweep, the first for the Padres since they dispatched the Cubs in three games in San Diego from May 22-24.
The Padres announced in September that the team will begin Saturday night games at 5:35 p.m. PT and their weekday day games at 3:35 p.m. in 2010. Previously, Saturday night games have started at 7:05 p.m. with weekday day games at 12:35 p.m. "There are a lot of reasons to do it," Garfinkel said. "It creates a lot more options and opportunities for fans."
On Sept. 6, the Padres topped the Dodgers, 4-3, at Dodger Stadium as Gregerson ended the seventh inning with a strikeout and then blew the Dodgers away with three strikeouts in the eighth inning. Bell earned his 35th save and Adrian Gonzalez hit his 35th home run of the season.
The last of Chase Headley's five hits helped the Padres to an 11-6 victory in 11 innings over the Pirates. The five hits were a career-high for Headley, who had three doubles as the Padres took the final three games of a four-game series in Pittsburgh.
The Padres dismissed Towers on Oct. 3. Towers was the longest-tenured general manager in the Major Leagues (14 seasons). "Kevin has had a terrific run in San Diego. I applaud his accomplishments. We believe he's left the club in a really good spot moving forward," Moorad said.
The Padres got another strong outing out of left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc on Oct. 3, as he tossed seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts in a 2-0 victory over the Giants at PETCO Park. LeBlanc, who finished the season with a 3-1 record and a 3.69 ERA in nine starts, retired 14 consecutive hitters at one point against the Giants.
Jed Hoyer, formerly an assistant general manager in Boston, was named the new GM of the Padres on Oct. 26. "I want to continue with the momentum that's been created here," Hoyer said, citing the young team's 33-25 record over the final two months of the 2009 season. "My goal is consistency. I want to make sure every year on Opening Day there's a quality team on the field that can compete."
Adrian Gonzalez picked up his second Gold Glove Award in as many years for his fine defensive work at first base. Gonzalez, 27, is the only Padres first baseman to win it and the seventh player in club history to win multiple Gold Glove Awards. The other players to do so are Dave Winfield, Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, Benito Santiago, Steve Finley and Ken Caminiti.
The Padres continued their year-long pledge to charitable endeavors. In 2009 alone, the Padres provided $221,909 in financial support to charitable events and organizations. Additionally, the club provided non-cash (in-kind) support to more than 1,300 community events, schools and local organizations to date.
The Padres selected three players to their 40-man roster, including one player who might not pitch until after the All-Star break in 2010. The Padres placed on the 40-man roster right-handed pitcher Italiano, outfielder Chad Huffman and left-handed pitcher Steve Garrison, who will miss at least half of '10 after having knee surgery.
The Padres hired Jason McLeod as their assistant general manager of scouting and player development. Hoyer worked with McLeod in Boston, where he was the assistant general manager. McLeod is no stranger to the Padres. He worked for the team in several positions from 1994 to 2003.
Adrian Gonzalez was named the Most Valuable Player for the team during the Padres' annual awards celebration. The ceremony, presented by San Diego County Credit Union, was held at the San Diego Hall of Champions. Other winners included: Bell (Clyde McCullough Pitcher of the Year), Eckstein (Madres Favorite New Padre), Chairman's Award (Black) and the Fireman's Award (Bell).
Also in December, the Padres hired 74-year-old Dick Enberg as their lead television play-by-play voice. "Your broadcasters are in some way your most important brand ambassadors," Garfinkel said. "There are so many great stories about this team, this organization and the players, I don't know if there's a better storyteller alive."
The Padres didn't make any moves at the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis, though Hoyer did give two members of the baseball operations department promotions, as Chris Gwynn was promoted from professional scout to director of player personnel and Josh Stein, formerly coordinator of baseball research and advance scouting, was promoted to director of baseball operations.
The Padres announced in December that through the 2009 Padres Awards Celebration presented by San Diego County Credit Union, more than $22,000 was raised for the Padres Foundation "PLAY" initiative and the San Diego Hall of Champions "Champions Sports Academy." These funds will directly benefit San Diego's youth through the improvement of local fields and participation in baseball/softball clinics which teach the game of baseball while also emphasizing the importance of character building, teamwork, good sportsmanship, goal setting, and leadership development.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.