It's been a long first half for the Padres.
Injuries have decimated their pool of starting pitchers. The middle infield combination of SS Jason Bartlett and 2B Orlando Hudson proved to be a total bust. All three young players signed to extended contracts during spring training have either struggled (C Nick Hundley and CF Cameron Maybin) or been lost to the season to injury (LHP Cory Luebke had elbow reconstruction surgery).
Three-fifths of the Padres current rotation was playing elsewhere (or not playing at all) at the start of the season.
Yet Padres manager Bud Black has a good feeling about the Padres going into the second half. He thinks these Padres could be duplicates of the 2009 edition. That club was headed to a 100-loss season after 100 games. But it finished on a 37-25 run -- and served as a springboard for the surprising 2010 team that won 90 games and came within a win of forcing a playoff for the wildcard berth.
After a 19-40 start, the 2012 Padres went 15-13 over the final 28 games of the first half.
While the Padres won't be receiving much more help from the minor leagues -- except for Class AAA 3B Jedd Gyorko all the Padres major league-ready prospects are already with the Padres -- Black believes his team, particularly the pitching staff, will be getting healthier in the second half of the season.
Sparked by middle infielders Everth Cabrera, Alexi Amarista and Logan Forsythe, the Padres middle infield play -- offensively and defensively -- has improved markedly since Bartlett (.133) and Hudson (.211) were replaced on May 17.
"We've played better baseball the last month," said Black. "We didn't get off to a good start. The injuries, particularly to the pitching, were frustrating. We were forced to make a lot of changes, some we didn't want to make and some we had to make.
"We shuffled the deck. There have been a lot of changes. Injuries forced us to make more changes in the rotation than we ever expected we would have to make. We've picked up with our middle infield play. We're playing better offensively and defensively recently."
Of course, the Padres face several other hurdles between now and the end of the season.
The O'Malley Group has yet to finalize its purchase from majority owner John Moores and the block of minority left over from Jeff Moorad's failed attempt to but the team. And a number of teams in playoff contention are coveting some players who are keys to the Padres immediate success -- most notably 3B Chase Headley and OFs Carlos Quentin, Mark Kotsay and Chris Denorfia.