The offseason starting off with a surprising turn of events. Padres General Manager Jed Hoyer, after just 2 years on the job in San Diego, jumped ship and went to go work for his old boss Theo Epstein who had just taken control of the Cubs. The team replaced him with in-house candidate and ex-Diamondbacks GM Josh Byrnes. Where Jed was cautious and patient Trader Josh was aggressive. Here are the moves he made:
The Padres began Spring Training with their annual charity game against the Hated Mariners. The team lost in the bottom of the 9th after scoring 4 runs in the top of the inning to tie the game. The club started slow, but eventually started winning some games. Early on Jason Bartlett and Chris Denorfia had to sit out due to injury and eventually a few more players caught the injury bug. Orlando Hudson suffered a groin injury, attempted to return and then aggregated it. Highly touted prospect Robbie Erlin suffered an oblique injury after only getting a couple chances to impress. Nick Hundley got a contract extension, but also picked up a knock and missed time. The biggest injury news was Carlos Quentin's knee injury that required surgery and the recovery time stretched into the regular season. Logan Forsythe got even worse news when a broken foot sidelined him for at least 8 weeks.
With Carlos Quentin and Logan Forsythe out, some battles opened up for roster and starting spots. Jesus Guzman, Kyle Blanks, James Darnell and Chris Denorfia each looked to be the opening day left fielder in place of Quentin. Blanks and Darnell were also fighting for a 25 man roster spot, although Blanks was struggling to stay healthy and earn it. Jeremy Hermida and Jaff Decker were the dark horses as well since neither were on the 40 man roster, but played quite well. Everth Cabrera and Andy Parrino battled it out for a utility infield spot.
On March 17th, Fox Sports San Diego showed its first Padres telecast even though MLB had yet to approve a deal between them and the team. The game aired on a temporary channel with the full channel launch not occurring until March 19th. Because it was a new station, agreements with all the local television providers needed to be worked out in order for the channel to air on each one. Cox and DirectTV were early adopters and Cox was the only one to air the channel full time initially. AT&T and Time Warner Cable lagged on their adoption of the new network leaving many Padres fans and Gaslamp Ballers frustrated. Nevertheless, the reviews on the actual broadcast and pregame show were good.
The regular season started out tough. The Padres lost on Opening Day to the Dodgers 5-3. The game was started by Edinson Volquez mainly because Tim Stauffer, the projected opening day starter, was forced to start the year on the DL with a strained right elbow. Also, the ownership situation was decidedly in flux after what had seem like a somewhat clear transition path from John Moores to Jeff Moorad, but shortly after Opening Day it was revealed that the agreement they had was null and void. Moorad had already stepped down as CEO back in March after already rescinding his application to get approved by MLB as the primary owner of team. The Padres were up for sale again, but there was still baseball to be played.
The Padres would lose that opening series with the Dodgers dropping game 2 in a 6-0 shut out and game 3 in a 6-5 extra innings defeat. They picked up their first that Sunday with an 8 run effort from the offense that was highlighted by a Chase Headley grand slam. After the series was concluded the Padres put another injury victim on the DL. Dustin Moseley joined the wounded with a shoulder problem. The team would call up young prospect Joe Wieland to replace him. After a couple so-so starts, he too would head to the DL. This was a growing theme for the season.
The team would play the second series tough, but after losing an extra innings game and topping the Diamondbacks 2-1 in the second, they'd lose the rubber game 3-1. The next series featured Joe Wieland making his debut vs. the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine and a crazy controversial umpire-assisted triple play by the Dodgers in the final game. The result was the Padres getting swept for the first time of the young season. Dale Scott, umpire, inspired a lot of reaction from the Friar Faithful including a Gaslamp Ball campaign to make sure the local fanbase's scathing criticism's were featured at the top of any Google search for the umpire's name. MLB review the play and ruled that Dale Scott called the play correct in the end, but used improper, deceptive mechanics. Die hard Padres fans were inconsolable after this injustice, but the game and the call will stand for eternity. A testimony to the power umpires have to not only screw up and affect the game, but to also not have to be apologetic about their mistakes in the slightest.
The rest of the month was fairly uneventful. The Padres did split a series with the Philadelphia Phillies at Petco Park where the Phillies had dominated the home club in recent years. The draw included the a victory over the illustrious Roy Halladay which was led by a great performance from Cory Luebke. Unfortunately that great effort by the young Padres hurler also set back his career. He'd recently been given a clean bill of health upon receiving a contract extension from the Padres, but after that start his elbow experienced soreness. He eventually had to get Tommy John surgery. Another Friars injury victim. The month of April could not have gone much worse.
On May 17, Trader Josh finally did the dirty work needed to remove some deadweight and start more of a youth movement for the struggling Padres. He released malcontent Orlando Hudson and put Josh Bartlett on the disabled. Watching the two of them struggle was at times too much to bare. Everth Cabrera and recently acquired Alexi Amarista were called up to fill their middle infield spots. Amarista immediately made an impact. He got a hit in his Padres debut. Two days later, he went 2 for 2 with a walk, 2 runs and a game winning RBI double against the Angels. Cabrera started out in a slump, but picked it up a little later. The highlight of him snapping out of the slump was a 4 for 5 game against the Mets on May 24. That came only one day after ending an 0 for 17 start to the season with a 2 hit performance against the Cardinals.
Carlos Quentin finally returned from injury on Memorial Day, May 28, to face the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field for the final series of the month. His first AB resulted in an RBI double. In the second game he hit a solo home run, singled and doubled. In the 3rd he hit two 2 run homers and threw in another double for good measure. The Padres offense had certainly missed him, but the end result of the series was still a sweep at the hands of one of the worst teams in the league. The series was a pretty epic one (by Padres standards) for offense. The Memorial Day game was an 11-7 loss where the Padres hit 4 HRs including 2 by Chase Headley. The Padres combined for 16 runs in the 3 games and 8 home runs.
On June 9, set up man Andrew Cashner was transition from reliever to starter. The move intrigued many since Cashner, despite his 100+ MPH fastball, was having mixed results in the 'pen, was thought to be a bigger injury risk in the starting rotation and previous talk had been that the Padres would only consider this option after the season was over. He only went 2 1/3 innings, but struck out 5 while allowing a single run against the Brewers in Milwaukee. After the game he was sent to the AA club in San Antonio, or Degobah, to gain stamina for the longer outings required from a starting pitcher.
From June 12 through June 14 the Padres engaged in and completed their first ever sweep of the Hated Seattle Mariners. Being as it was the first of two 3 game series' between the natural rivals, it gave the Padres a distinctive advantage in the season series.
The Jedi training of Andrew Cashner was completed in time for him to make a start against the Astros in Houston not too far from his home town of Conroe. The Padres appeared to have something special as he struck out 9 Astros over 6 1/3 innings. He did give up 2 runs and left the game with team losing 2-1, but Alexi Amarista would get him off the hook with a 9th inning grand slam.
On June 30, the Padres made the bold move of demoting Nick Hundley, who had been catching for the big league club since 2009, to AAA and recalled C Yasmani Grandal. Grandal was acquired in the offseason Mat Latos trade and was considered the top prospect in that deal. He was called up earlier in the year where he made a token appearance before getting sent back down. This time he was expected to get some regular starting time. As if to prove that he deserved it, in his first start after being recalled he hit 2 dingers. It was at Coors Field against a struggling Rockies club, but nevertheless it was a promising start for the rookie. Alexi Amarista added to the excitement by slugging 2 bombs of his own in that very same game.
After winning the final game of June, the team rattled off 5 more victories to start the month and give the club a 6 game winning streak. The final win of the streak was against the Reds in a game played at Petco Park with former Padre Mat Latos starting for Cincinnati. The Padres won that one with a walk off, bases loaded hit by [Everth Cabrera]]. Not all the news was good from that win streak however. Andrew Cashner started the game that resulted in the 4th game of the win streak, but had to be pulled after only 2 innings. He was sent to the DL with a lat strain joining the long list of casualties from the starting rotation.
The Padres would begin post All Star Break play against the same team they began the season against. This time they would face the Dodgers in Los Angeles, but they would still have to face 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw in the opening game. Despite early success against the lefty, the team lost 2-1. But, the big story came in the second game.
The Padres battled in that second game. They took an early 1-0, fell behind, kept it close with a Carlos Quentin home run, then later tied it up with a Chase Headley solo shot, then fell behind again via an Andre Ethier two run blast and then pick up another run to make it a 1 run game going into the top of the 9th. The Dodgers young closer Kenley Jansen was in to slam the door shut on the Padres, but Yonder Alonso was not deterred and started the inning off with a single. Bud Black wisely selected Everth Cabrera to pinch run for sluggish first baseman. Will Venable followed up the no out knock with one of his own and Cabrera aggressively went 1st to 3rd. Cameron Maybin worked an 11 pitch at bat against Jansen which potentially tired the pitcher physically and/or emotionally. Mark Kotsay pinch hit for the pitcher next, but meekly popped out to 2nd base. However, during the at bat Venable stole 2nd base. So with runners at 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs, Alexi Amarista was the team's final hope. Or was he? During Amarista's AB, Cabrera noticed that Jansen would turn his back to him with the ball still in play. On one of these occasions, he sprinted for home. The throw came, the catcher made a tag and the umpire signaled out. But, the ball had sailed to the backstop. The umpire was wrong and upon noticing, change his call. In the meantime Venable motored for home while no one covered home plate. The Padres took the lead and All Star closer Huston Street closed it out. The club had literally stolen one from their rivals.
That stolen win would ignite a bit of a run for the Friars. They would go on to win the final game in L.A. and take the series. Then after coming home to San Diego losing the opener to the Astros, they would rattle off three straight to take that series as well. They would go on to take two of three from the visiting Rockies to finish off the 7 game home stand. Unfortunately, this run would not last. The Padres would take to the road and only 3 games during the 10 game trip to San Francisco, Miami and Cincinnati.
As will happen late in July, rumors were flying heading into the trade deadline. Carlos Quentin, Chase Headley, Huston Street, Chris Denorfia and Clayton Richard all had their names mentioned in rumors. However, the Padres starting quashing those rumors when on July 22 they inked Carlos Quentin to a 3 year, $27 million extension. The extension was rated 67% fresh. They continued to put the rumors to rest on July 29 when they announced they had agreed to a 2 year extension with Huston Street.
The month would start with the last two losses in Cincinnati at tail end of an unsuccessful road trip. However, the Padres would start another home stand and continue a trend of valiantly defending their home turf. They would take two of three from the Mets and then sweep the Cubs at Petco Park. Before the series began, the Padres would part ways with one of the rotation fill-ins, Kip Wells. Wells had a couple of quality starts, but it was time to move. The man to replace him, Eric Stults, returned to the rotation on August 6 pitching 5 1/3 shut out innings against the Cubs. Stults got the win and would get 5 more between this point and the end of the season. He would also finish the season with an ERA under 3 in his 18 appearances and 14 starts. A gem of a find on the season.
During the series with the Cubs a big organization change was reported. Padres owner John Moores would be selling the team to a new ownership group. After his previous attempt at a sale to a group led by Jeff Moorad fell through, John Moores finally found a new buyer in a group that featured former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, some of his kin and current Padres minority owner Ron Fowler. Professional golfer and native San Diegan Phil Mickelson was also rumored to be a part of the group.
In other news, Leila Rahimi, the on-field reporter during Padres games for Fox Sports San Diego and also joined the Sisterhood of the Traveling Jersey live on camera earlier in the season was announced to be leaving the station.
Meanwhile back on the field, after capping off their sweep of the Cubs with a complete game shutout by Clayton Richard, the Padres would head to Pittsburgh. In recent seasons the Padres looked dominant in the Steel City. They had not lost a game there since September 18, 2009. This year was supposed to be different. The Pirates were 15 games over .500 and competing for the NL Central division title. It would be different, but only slightly. The Padres would win the first game will help from Chase Headley's hot hitting and the second on the back of gem from midseason pickup Jason Marquis. However, the Padres would snap their 11 game win streak in Pittsburgh by losing the final game 11-5. The Pirates would finish the series with just a small ding in their record, but would tailspin out afterwards finishing under .500 for the 20th straight season. This actually somewhat mirrored what happened when the Padres visited them in 2011 when the Pirates were flirting with .500 only to get swept by the Padres and spin out to a 90 loss season. The Padres later sweep the Pirates back in San Diego a few later to continue to help their demise.
Still on the road, the Padres would go to Atlanta next and go back to their road game futility losing 3 of the 4 games. The one high note being the debut of rookie lefty reliever Tommy Layne. In the 8th inning he was brought it in to do what lefty relievers are commonly asked to do in late innings: get the opposing team's best left handed hitter out. For the Braves that was Brian McCann. He struck him out. Then he struck out former All Star Dan Uggla. And he capped it off by striking out the side with a whiff of Taylor Pastornicky.
"Apparently it's real easy to pitch in the big leagues." - Tommy Layne
Back at home, the Padres would take 4 of 6 in the home stand, continuing a excellent run at home. They would drop the first two to the Giants, but salvage their final tilt against them then go on to that aforementioned sweep of the Pirates. This latest Padres surge could not be stopped by a road trip to play the Diamondbacks as they would sweep the Snakes in 3 games. Made to return home after that short sojourn in Arizona they would take 2 of 3 from the Braves back at Petco Park. The month would conclude with a victory in Colorado to continue this hot streak.
Part of the reason for the Padres success (18-10) in August were shifts to the pitching staff like the aforementioned replacement of Kip Wells with Eric Stults. Ross Ohlendorf survived only a couple starts after Wells' before getting his own walking papers. Rookie unknown Andrew Werner filled in with 2 good starts at the end of the month. Rookie prospect Casey Kelly helped with 6 shoutout innings in a 3-0 victory over the Braves at Petco Park. Tommy Layne, Dale Thayer and Luke Gregerson all contributed top notch performances out of the 'pen.
However, the real driving force for the team was Chase Headley. The Padres 3B was having a solid season from April-July, but when August hit a switch flipped. His batting average was .306, he hit 10 HRs and drove in 31 runs in the month. He would be named National League Player Of The Month. August was only the beginning tough for Chase Headley. He still had plenty left to provide in September.