This is the final part of the 2010 Padre “IF’ list, but certainly not the least important. In fact, this Padre bench may be the most versatile and competent group that Buddy Black has had to work with, and could play an important role in any Padres success. There aren’t many “IFs” for this bench to be a useful tool, so let’s get to it.
- 1. Matt Stairs can hit without his bear belly: After a season where his playing time as a fielder was drastically reduced, he was ready to retire. Then the Padres came calling. Being just one clout shy of tying the career pinch hit home run record, and not being guaranteed a spot on the roster, he dropped 32 pounds before coming into camp this spring. It remains to be seen if at age 42 he still has the bat speed to be a threat off the bench. So far this spring he is hitting .083 (1 for 12), with that 1, of course, being a home run. He is the only experienced left-handed bat in camp, and if he doesn’t make the team Aaron Cunningham is a possible candidate, but that would make every bat coming off the bench right handed (unless Gwynn or Venable aren’t in the starting lineup). If he can still slug, he could be a nice, experienced, left handed power threat off the bench, who also happens to have a knack for creating heartache for the division rival Dodgers (just ask Jonathan Broxton).
That’s it, the only “IF” for the bench, as I see it. Yorvit Torrealba, Scott and Jerry Hairston, and Oscar Salazar are all presumed locks to be on the opening day roster. In fact, Torrealba and Scott Hairston could find themselves in the starting lineup more often than the bench once the season begins. Jerry Hairston is a competent and versatile veteran that will allow Black to give almost any player on the field a day off without a debilitating drop off in the field or at the plate. Salazar earned his spot last season by showing his ability to come off the bench hitting .292 as a pinch hitter, and also holding his own in the field for short stints. The versatility and competence of this year’s bench could also serve as daily motivation for the guys getting more playing time to stay hungry, focused, and producing if they want to keep it.
I’ll summarize this four part series breaking down the 2010 Padre “IF” list with this: Sure there are a lot of “IFs” for this club, just like there are for most clubs, but the exciting difference for the Padres this year is that most of them involve younger players. The “IFs” that do come true this year could have a significant and lasting impact on both the immediate and long-term turnaround of the organization.
Go get ‘em , boys!