Since the team nearly pitched their way into the playoffs in 2010, the San Diego Padres have had their share of issues with finding consistent pitching over the last couple of years. The team traded Mat Latos, their young ace, for a significant bounty in return, but it did not translate to success on the mound, as the team wound up with a 4.44 starters’ ERA that ranked 22nd in the league.
That kind of ineptitude would hurt for any team in baseball, but for a offensively-challenged, pitch-first team like the Padres, it was practically disastrous.
The projected rotation for 2013 does not yield much too hope either. San Diego’s will be a staff led by Clayton Richard, the owner of a 4.40 K/9 and a 1.28 HR/9 rate in 2012. Edinson Volquez would be a star if he could just stop walking people, but he still does so with alarming regularity. A competition for the fifth spot between Tyson Ross (6.50 ERA, 1.24 K/BB) and top prospect Casey Kelly might yield some upside from the latter yet, but expectations are understandably tempered.
Not to say that they are totally devoid of any talent, but the group that the Padres currently have going into 2013 lacks eye-catching raw talent – the kind that Mat Latos had when he first came up with the team. So it only hurts more that the team is currently without arguably its most talented pitcher – Andrew Cashner.
Cashner, of course, was the arm with the 100-mph fastball that the team got for top hitting prospect Anthony Rizzo, and someone who was expected to be an impact arm for the Padres for years to come. If not for a lat injury that cut his season short, we might be talking about him as the team’s potential ace in going into 2013.
So yeah, I guess you could say that Cashner hurting his thumb in a hunting accident wasn’t what the team had in mind for this off-season.
As a result, Cashner will miss at least a couple of weeks of Spring Training, and is not expected to be in major league form until the end of April. On top of that, where he’ll pitch when he comes back is not entirely certain. The Padres would almost certainly get more value out of Cashner’s arm if they make him a starter, but the 26-year old has had shoulder issues before, and has never had the kind of workload that would be required of a starter.
The fact that Cashner won’t be at the same level of readiness as the rest of the team’s staff only complicates things, on top of the injury issues he’s had both on and of the field.
A potential scenario would see the team slot him in the bullpen upon return, and transition Cashner to starting midway through the season, just as they did in 2012. It’s not ideal, but it could give the Padres the best look at what they really have in him, and what his future with the club holds.