3/22/2013 2:55 P.M. ET
Good signs amidst injuries at Padres camp
By Corey Brock / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres got their second and final off-day of the spring Thursday, giving their general manager, Josh Byrnes, time to pause and take stock of what has happened the first five weeks of Spring Training.
Some good, some bad, Byrnes said.
Minor League outfield prospect Rymer Liriano had reconstructive elbow surgery and will miss the entire season. Pitcher Casey Kelly, a candidate to make the starting rotation, likely won't pitch in 2013 due to a sore right elbow and is said to be deciding on surgery options.
Outfielder Carlos Quentin aggravated his surgically repaired right knee earlier this month and just now is getting at-bats in Minor League games. He's optimistic he can be ready for Opening Day.
And then on Sunday, third baseman Chase Headley -- who last year won a National League Silver Slugger Award, Gold Glove Award and led the NL in RBIs -- will miss about a month recovering from a fractured tip of his left thumb. Also, infielder Logan Forsythe has been slowed by plantar fasciitis.
"The injuries [have hurt]," Byrnes said. "Going back to Liriano and now Kelly, those hurt us the whole year. Chase's injury is a tough blow, and we're watching Carlos Quentin, trying to get him ready to go."
For all that has gone wrong on the injury front, Byrnes isn't pegging this spring as a complete loss.
"Quite a few things [have gone right], actually," Byrnes said. "Most notably, Nick Hundley coming back, being healthy and has been swinging the bat great. Jedd Gyorko has had a really good spring playing second base, and Kyle Blanks has looked good coming off injury.
"A lot of our young pitching [has been impressive], and, in particular, the guys competing for the fifth spot have looked good."
There are very few position races still going on or spots in the rotation or bullpen to determine before the team will break camp on Thursday. San Diego will then play two games against the Rangers in San Antonio before heading off to New York for Opening Day on April 1 against the Mets.
The Padres are still searching for a fifth starter. Andrew Cashner needed 58 pitches to get eight outs on Wednesday against the Giants. The good news is he's ahead of schedule after surgery in December that repaired a lacerated tendon in his right thumb. The bad news? It's still unclear if he can get stretched out in time to start on April 6, when the team will need its fifth starter.
"It's not out of the question, but it's going to be a close call," Padres manager Bud Black said.
The other candidate, Tyson Ross, will start Friday, and he hasn't allowed a run in his last 11 1/3 innings. Under the tutelage of pitching coach Darren Balsley, Ross has gotten better with each spring outing, offers a mid-90s fastball like Cashner and has upside. Freddy Garcia, Tim Stauffer and Anthony Bass merit consideration as well.
"For the most part, there are some guys throwing the ball well," Black said. "Guys that we expect to be with us or near us are throwing the ball pretty well. That's a positive."
The team hasn't officially said so, but Gyorko will be the Opening Day second baseman. With Headley out for a while, chances are that Gyorko -- a third baseman who took up second base last season -- stays put. Forsythe, who is scheduled to play this weekend, would be the favorite to play third base.
Gyorko is hitting .283 with three home runs and 10 RBIs this spring, and he has shown he can handle second base.
"I like the way some guys are swinging the bats. Nick [Hundley], Gyorko, I thought [Chris Denorfia] swung the bat well in the WBC. Chase [Headley] was hitting .400," Black said. "I think we're leading the league in runs. You don't look at a lot of numbers in Spring Training, but that's a positive."
In the rotation, Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, Jason Marquis and Eric Stults have locked down spots. Volquez has missed much of March playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. He will return this weekend.
Pitching, Byrnes said, will play a critical role in how the team performs in the NL West -- especially early in the season, with 18 games against division foes in April.
"It's how our starting pitching is going to line up. The guys we have are throwing well," Byrnes said. "It's a critical part of any team, and always seems to be the story in the National League West."
And soon enough, the Padres will found out exactly where they stand.
"Come April 1, it's a different ballgame," Black said.