Like the morning fog, the marine layer, over on the coast, you wonder if it is really sunshine you will see coming this way for the San Diego Padres. Or is the fog so thick, you cannot really make out what you are really watching.
And so as the 2014 season grinds to another disappointing, non-playoff end, we have another late season run, where the future has some fuel, while the current season seems burned to the ground.
There’s no doubt the Padres have put together an enormous pitching staff, some of it proven, some of it potential.
Tyson Ross has become an ace, tutored by Bud Black and Darren Balsley. It is amazing to think this guy was (2-11) and designated for reassignment by the Oakland Athletics. Claimed by San Diego, the 6-6 live arm became a reclamation project. Almost a full year since getting into the rotation, his numbers are impressive. The record is (11-10) pitching for a team that does not hit. In his last 10-starts, he has a (1.64) ERA.
They fixed his mechanics, rebuilt his confidence, and he as rewarded them with a ‘tough as steel’ pitching mentality.
Andrew Cashner has shown us flashes of brilliance, 98-mile an hour fastball and all. He has dominated in clumps of starts, and then he has gotten hurt. He has had 6-different arm issues over a three year span, some with the Cubs, some with the Padres. As dominant as he is throwing heat, and mastering all his other pitches, the tendency to breakdown must be of concern. He might be a better closer with that velocity, where he would throw 20-pitches in the 9th inning, rather than risking him by asking for 100 pitches per start.
Ian Kennedy loves pitching at Petco Park. The former 20-game winner is a bullodg, a workhorse, and a pros-pro. He might not be your number one, but you know you will get competition everytime you give him the ball. A pretty good acquisition from Arizona.
Jesse Hahn has hardly pitched at all, after torn elbow ligament shelved him coming out of Virginia Tech. How-why Tampa Bay gave up on him is amazing. A year ago this week, he was in the Florida State League-Class A ball. Now he has an ERA just above 2.00, and has been the biggest suprrise of all, in a late summer of success on the mound.
No one quite knows for sure what to make of ‘Viva Havana’, Odi Despaigner. He had three really dominant outings, but has been shelled his last three starts. He doesn’t look the same since the 123-pitch near no hit effort a couple of weeks ago. But he fools people, shows no emotion, doesn’t waver on the mound, and seems that he can handle this level with his different arm slots and variety of pitches.
Beyond that are the young arms on the rehab trail, all coming off elbow surgery. Joe Wieland, Casey Kelly, Corey Leubke, Robbie Erlin, and the warrior veteran Josh Johnson, coming off a 3rd operation, but who is resolute he can be the pitcher he used to be in Miami, a couple of years back. Some of them will likely make it back.
In the midst of all this summer heat, and the constant frustration of a losing team, we always seem to get to August, with some type of winning streak, that makes you think ‘next year’ might be a good year.
As dreadful as the Padres have hit, at one point with a team batting average of (.214), good pitching keeps you in games. And since the All Star break, some have started to hit, and close losses have now become close victories. San Diego is (14-8) since the break. Some turnaround for a team that was within a half game of last place a month ago.
This will be a critical off season to add select bats to backup this good pitching. The Tyson Ross’s of the world have only so many bullets in the gun, on those arms. Might there be sunshine here next year, if the pitching grows more, and somebody who can hit, arrives?
Looking thru the marine layer of fog, looking for a beacon in the batting order to make it a good season, not just some decent finish to another losing season.