Padres see happier, healthier times in second half
As injured players return, so should a higher level of performance
SAN DIEGO -- A recent six-game winning streak has made life much more palatable for Padres general manager Josh Byrnes, though a quick glance to the long list of players on the disabled list brings him back to reality quickly.
"We've had a lot of injuries, maybe more than I ever dealt with," Byrnes said. "But I don't want to say that is the only reason [the Padres have struggled]. I think there are a lot of areas we need to get better in."
To be sure, the Padres (34-53) were buried in the first month of the season under an avalanche of injuries and under-performance. Only recently have they been able to get some players back from the disabled list and, not coincidentally, the team has played better.
Over the last 28 games of the first half, the Padres were 15-13.
Byrnes is hoping this serves as a springboard to a more fruitful second half, though the loss of seven starting pitchers -- that's right, seven -- to the disabled list has not only tested the depth of the organization, but has forced the team to look elsewhere to find able bodies to start games.
"We've shuffled the deck for a number of reasons," said Padres manager Bud Black.
No, it wasn't an ideal first half by any means. And not just because of the 19 disabled-list moves, either.
"For most of the year, we've led the league in walks allowed and earned runs allowed. Those are things you can't have happen," Byrnes said. "We play a lot of close games, so we do need to be better in those areas. I don't deny that we need to make improvements to the roster. I have been encouraged by some things of late."
|MVP: CHASE HEADLEY Leads team in nearly every offensive category. He has been durable and solid defensively at third base.|
|Cy Young: EDINSON VOLQUEZ Hasn't missed a start and has 11 quality starts at the break. Opponents hitting .221 against him.|
|Rookie: YONDER ALONSO Has been a doubles machine (20), plays every day and average hasn't suffered at spacious Petco Park.|
|Top reliever: HUSTON STREET The Padres' lone All-Star rep, Street has converted all 13 save opportunities. Missed a month with a lat muscle injury.|
The Padres' offense, lackluster in the first two months of the season, has performed better since Carlos Quentin returned from the disabled list in late May. Quentin didn't just provide some thunder with his bat, but his mere presence helped those surrounding him -- namely Chase Headley and Yonder Alonso -- a better set of pitches to hit.
Byrnes has liked what he's seen from shortstop Everth Cabrera and second baseman Alexi Amarista, as well as the contributions of infielder Logan Forsythe after the team opted to jettison second baseman Orlando Hudson and place shortstop Jason Bartlett on the disabled list.
Rookie catcher Yasmani Grandal has been a hit since being added to the roster on June 30, as he hit four home runs in his first five games.
"Quentin, without a doubt, changes our team," Byrnes said. "And with the middle infield, all of those guys [Cabrera, Amarista, Forsythe], have done some good things. We certainly like the versatility we have. Grandal was deserving of a look. And guys like Will Venable and Chris Denorfia are having solid years."
Players to watch in second half
|ALEXI AMARISTA Might eventually peg as a utility guy, but mighty mite (listed at 5-foot-8, more like 5-foot-6) has shown versatility and a lively bat.|
|CAMERON MAYBIN Struggled mightily in the first half, but recent adjustment in stride could lead to more production. A power-speed threat when he's on.|
|CLAYTON RICHARD Velocity is up and actually has looked better than 2010 form when he won 14 games. Has been durable thus far.|
"He's close," Byrnes said. "He's done a really good job going to Triple-A and hitting well. And it is important that he's shown us that he can play more than one position."
For now, the Padres will push into the second half feeling much better about themselves than they did in the month of April, when they went 7-17. And they will do so with several young players who have brought more energy -- and more production -- to the ballpark.
"The level of baseball we're playing now is crisper," said closer Huston Street. "I think I read the other day that [Black] said we're playing better fundamentally. I think that's a good way to put it. And I think the young guys we have can contribute."