Bolstered by a corps of young position players and a breakout season by Chase Headley, the San Diego Padres completed the 2012 season on a 49-37 run that increased optimism for 2013.
The missing part, they believed, was one or two pitchers to add depth to a rotation decimated by injuries last year.
But after failing to acquire the starting pitcher they needed, the Padres currently find themselves behind where they were at the end of last season. Rather than moving ahead, they go into spring training without catcher Yasmani Grandal and right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner.
Grandal was suspended for the first 50 games of 2013 for violating Major League Baseball's policy prohibiting performance-enhancing drugs. Grandal tested positive for testosterone last September, and more recently has seen his name turn up in the investigations into Miami's Biogenesis clinic.
Cashner, whom the Padres hoped would be among the rotation candidates, damaged a tendon in the thumb of his pitching hand when he was accidentally stabbed during a hunting accident in early December. He will miss the first month of the season.
While general manager Josh Byrnes is still hopeful of adding a starting pitcher via a trade during spring training, the Padres head to Arizona eager to see the development of some younger players.
Perhaps the key to the team's fortunes this year is a player not even on the 40-man roster. The Padres are hoping Jedd Gyorko wins the job at second base. That would free up Logan Forsythe to see action at both shortstop and second base. Forsythe has also been catching flies in left at Petco Park as insurance against Carlos Quentin having a repeat of the right knee problems that limited him to half a season in 2012.
While Grandal is out, the Padres are counting on Nick Hundley returning to his .288 form of 2011 rather than the .157 he batted last year. Hundley's season ended in August with right knee surgery. He is expected to be 100 percent by the opening of spring training.