- Kelley L Cox-USA Today Sports
With opening day a little over a week away the San Diego Padres end of the rotation is finally taking shape. Now it is just a matter of the Padres to make the right decision concerning its fifth starter.
Four-fifths of the starting rotation has been established at this point. Clayton Richard or Edison Volquez will be the opening day starter against the New York Mets on April 1. Southpaw Eric Stults and veteran righty Jason Marquis will make up the back end of the rotation. The question many Padre fans have had all offseason is who will be the fifth starter to begin the Padres 2013 campaign?
There were more than a few candidates vying for that fifth spot in the starting rotation this spring. Andrew Cashner was the leading candidate to be in the starting rotation heading into the offseason. However, an offseason accident in which he cut himself with a knife while hunting delayed his development and his throwing program. It would be in the Padres and Cashner’s best interest if he were optioned to Tucson, the Padres AAA affiliate, to begin the year. Once there, he could stretch himself out and make up for the time lost this offseason. There is no doubt Cashner fits into the big picture for the Padres but just not right now. Cashner has looked good in limited innings this spring, but has not had an outing beyond 2 2/3 innings.
Freddy Garcia, was signed to a minor league deal this offseason. The 36-year-old, two-time All-Star went 7-6 last year with a 5.20 ERA. Garcia no longer has the 97 mph fastball that helped him win 90 games in six seasons between 2001-06. His fastball these days is closer to 87 mph and he relied on his veteran craftiness to get people out last year in 30 games, 17 of those being starts with the New York Yankees. In six spring training starts with the Padres this year, Garcia is 1-4 and had an ERA of 8.71 in 20 2/3 innings. Considering Garcia’s age and ineffectiveness in four of his six outings this spring, the Padres released him today after yesterday’s outing against the Colorado Rockies in which he allowed three home runs in a 10-4 loss.
Anthony Bass, a 26-year-old right-hander has pitched in five games this spring. Only one of the outings was as a starter, however. Bass has a fastball in the low to mid 90′s, a nice cutter and a plus slider. However, the Padres may have Bass pegged for the bullpen to at least begin the season. Last year Bass went 2-8 with a 4.73 ERA, appearing in 24 games. Bass started 15 of those 24 games in 2012. In 10 innings this spring he has posted a solid 2.70 ERA. If Bass does not land a starting spot in the rotation, he could make a nice right-handed bridge to set-up man Luke Gregerson and closer Huston Street.
The fifth starter to begin the season could be Tyson Ross. Ross, who was traded from the Oakland A’s to the Padres this offseason has enjoyed a solid spring. In six games Ross has posted a solid 2.57 ERA in 21 innings pitched going 3-2 with four of those games being as a starter. The 6-6 230 pound 25-year-old right-hander, possesses a solid repertoire of pitches which include a hard, sinking fastball that ranges in the low to mid 90′s. Last year with the Athletics, Ross struggled to say the least. He went 2-11 with an ERA of 6.50 in 18 games pitched. In the past his biggest problem has been his control. In 73 1/3 innings last year Ross walked 37 batters and was also wild in the strike zone, which led to him being hit very hard at times. While the walks still have not gone away this spring, manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley have been encouraged with Ross’ progress, this which includes a current streak of 11 scoreless innings pitched.
Two other pitchers who are now out of the running for the final spot are Tim Stauffer, the Padres opening day starter in 2011 and Casey Kelly, who started six games last year, but is now headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery. Stauffer, trying to make a comeback from elbow surgery has sputtered this spring posting a 10.61 ERA in 9 1/3 innings pitched.
It would now appear as if the Padres are now deciding between one of the three young right-handers, Bass, Ross or Cashner as opening day nears.