01/05/10 5:10 PM EST
Inbox: Looking ahead to Opening Day
Padres fans ask about Gonzalez, Durango, Ryan and more
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
-- Justin M., Henderson, Calif. Hey, Justin, these are always fun, though, as it stands now, the lineup will look a lot like the one the Padres had during the 2009 regular season. How about this: Everth Cabrera, leading off and playing shortstop, followed by David Eckstein (second base), Adrian Gonzalez (first base), Kevin Kouzmanoff (third base), Chase Headley (left field), Will Venable (center field), Kyle Blanks (right field), Nick Hundley (catcher) and the starting pitcher? You can do several things here. Tony Gwynn will see time in center field and you can flip-flop Kouzmanoff and Headley if you want to split up Headley (who is a switch-hitter and gets most of his at-bats from the left side) and Gonzalez, a left-handed hitter. Would Xavier Nady be a good, inexpensive option to add to the roster? The Padres do love the low-risk, high-reward type guys.
-- Michael M., Crown Point, Calif. Well, you have half of that right, Michael. Nady, who was drafted by the Padres in 2000, would be a nice fit in the outfield, even though he's spent most of his career in right field and not center field, where the Padres are looking. But Nady, a career .308 hitter against left-handed pitching, won't come cheaply. New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said recently that Nady's asking price is above the Yankees' current budget. So, if Nady's out of the Yankees' budget, well, it's safe to assume that holds true even more so here in San Diego. What are the chances that Adrian Gonzalez will be traded this offseason -- not that I want it to happen. He is a great player, but I'm just wondering what the chances that he is traded are.
-- Tomas M., San Marcos, Calif. I would say there's little to no chance Gonzalez is move before Opening Day. I think his time in San Diego will depend on if both sides are amenable to a contract extension that fits within the parameters of what the Padres are willing to spend. Also, if the team gets off to a rocky start or if the team is struggling around the All-Star break, then the Padres might revisit the idea of trading Gonzalez. Until then, he's a Padre. What do you think about moving Luis Durango to second base and have him learn to play second? This would give us two speed demons at the top of batting order. And speed wins ballgames.
-- Thomas J., Cameron, N.C.
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Thomas, you're clearly among the group who saw something in Durango's short -- very short -- stint with the Padres in September, where he flashed his speed and certainly provided some excitement. There are no plans in the works to convert Durango into an infielder. The Padres want to see what he will become as an outfielder.Remember, this guy turns 24 in April and hasn't played a lick above Double-A (except for his 11-at-bat stint with the Padres). He needs a full season with Triple-A Portland. The guy can run; he had 44 steals in Double-A a year ago. And he hit .281 with a .390 on-base percentage. As a best-case scenario, think Juan Pierre. Durango can be a tablesetter, but let's give him a year in Portland to refine his skills. He also needs to work on his baserunning, if that makes sense -- getting better leads and jumps and picking better times to run. He was caught stealing way too much (17) for his speed. I saw that the Padres recently obtained catcher Dusty Ryan from the Tigers. Will he be the backup catcher the Padres are looking for? What is the word on him defensively? His Minor League numbers make it seem like he is very similar offensively to Nick Hundley.
-- Nick W., Bakersfield, Calif. From what I hear, Ryan has a few things to clean up on the defensive side but has a live arm. That's certainly better than the other way around. The Padres can and will work to clean up his mechanics this spring. Look for Ryan to start the season with Portland and, as things usually go, end up in San Diego at some point. At some point, your Triple-A catcher ends up in the big leagues (think Luke Carlin and Eliezer Alfonzo). The Padres will sign a veteran catcher within a few weeks to back up Hundley. I love the youth that's being purged into the Padres clubhouse. With a new general manager who looks like he wants players who are athletic, I feel reassured that, maybe not next season, but definitely in two or three years, we will be major contenders not just in the National League West, but in the NL itself.
-- Dan Z., Clairemont, Calif. It could happen, Dan. The Padres were certainly a more exciting and athletic bunch to watch over the final six weeks of the regular season. The next part, and the hardest for these players low on Major League service time (Venable, Headley, Blanks, Hundley, Cabrera, Latos), is to continue to improve and get better. That doesn't always happen, though. Let's give these guys a full season and see where they're at before asking when the Padres will make a run at a division crown again. Boy, I sounded like a wet blanket there, but I think it's important to be cautious and realistic moving forward.