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Padres' on-and-off season has some bright spots

The SportsXchange

It was a season of extreme highs and lows for the San Diego Padres.

During spring training, Jeff Moorad's bid to complete his $500 million "lay-away" purchase of the Padres failed when a group of major league owners moved to block the transfer.

Later, majority owner John Moores successfully sold the team for $800 million to a group led by heirs to former Dodgers owners Walter and Peter O'Malley and San Diego businessman Ron Fowler -- after Moores had pocketed a $200 million advance payment on Fox Sports San Diego's 20-year, $1.2 billion contract to televise Padres games.

The single darkest moment came on June 24, when beloved bullpen coach Darrel Akerfelds lost his 19-month fight with pancreatic cancer.

On the field, any hope of a winning record was wiped out by the rash of injuries to starting pitchers early in the season -- three-fifths of the projected rotation made a total of seven starts. Left-hander Cory Luebke was the first of three Padres pitchers to have Tommy John surgery. Right-handers Tim Stauffer (elbow) and Dustin Moseley (shoulder) made only one start before their seasons, too, ended in surgery. At one point, the Padres had nine starting pitchers on the disabled list.

After a 19-40 start, however, things started to pick up.

The turnaround began on May 17 when shortstop Jason Bartlett and second baseman Orlando Hudson were jettisoned and shortstop Everth Cabrera and infielder Alexi Amarista were promoted from Triple-A. That started an infusion of fresh faces with left fielder Carlos Quentin (May 28) and second baseman Logan Forsythe (June 3) being activated from the disabled list and catcher Yasmani Grandal being promoted from Triple-A on June 29.

The Padres were a much improved team in the second half despite the holes in the starting pitching. In between a 19-40 start and a 5-10 final two weeks, the Padres went 52-36.

Looking forward, the Padres like the nucleus of their position players led by third baseman Chase Headley, who had a breakout season with 31 homers and a National League-leading 115 RBI.

The Padres plan to make few changes in the field for 2013, although Triple-A infielder Jedd Gyorko will get a chance to win the job at second with Forsythe challenging Cabrera at short. The biggest question in the field could be the health of Quentin's knee. Quentin missed the first two months and most of the last month because of the knee. The Padres expect improvement from Grandal, first baseman Yonder Alonso and center fielder Cameron Maybin. They don't mind platooning Will Venable and Chris Denorfia in right.

The biggest question facing the Padres is starting pitching. Look for the Padres to sign two middle-echelon starters this winter. Right now, their only dependable starters are left-hander Clayton Richard and right-hander Edinson Volquez.
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