Padres' offense could surprise
Club posting impressive numbers, despite naysayers
PEORIA, Ariz. -- If San Diego's offense were a restaurant, it would be getting one-star reviews from some observers.Scouts have generally been remarkably unimpressed by the Padres' lineup. Then, there was the GM of another National League West team who said anonymously that the Friars "look like a terrible team in terms of position players."
Pretty vicious, but the numbers tell a different story, despite San Diego's Cactus League record dipping to 4-15-3 with Sunday's 12-7 loss to Arizona. The Padres scored seven-plus for the ninth time in their last 16 exhibitions while banging out 15 hits."I couldn't care less what others think," said Adrian Gonzalez, who had a pair of doubles as he continues to work himself back into the mix following his World Baseball Classic tenure with Mexico. "We'll see what we've got when the season starts. We'll find out on April 6. "But I'm excited by what I see. Guys are swinging the bats well. We've been putting up plenty of runs every game. While I've been around, we haven't been shut down yet." All teams appear to have pitching issues. The Padres, like a lot of teams searching for a back end to their rotation, have struggled to keep the scoring down and allowed 10-plus runs for the eighth time in the same 16-game stretch on Sunday. Well, all teams which don't have $243.5 million laying around for CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. But the Padres stand out with those disparaging reviews of their offense. Maybe it's a lasting impression from 2008, when San Diego scored 637 runs, lowest in the Majors, and batted .250, No. 29 among the 30 teams. "We definitely have to improve on things we did not do last year," said manager Bud Black. "A lot of guys have to make adjustments. "Gonzalez had a great year [36 homers, 119 RBIs]. He may not duplicate it, but is he the type of player who can live up to those numbers? Yes, he is. Kouzmanoff is certainly getting better," hitting .438 after another two-hit game. Black appeared aware of the criticism of his lineup, but quickly turned the other cheek. "Everyone has an opinion," he said. "At least people are talking baseball, and that's good. But it doesn't bother me." The let-em-have-their-opinions feeling seemed unanimous among Padres veterans. Cliff Floyd said of the harsh reviews, "Good. They can talk all they want before we start. Like any other team, we just have to go out and perform Opening Day on." Floyd attributes much of the Padres' spring success -- Sunday's production raised their team average 12 points, to .293 -- to Jim Lefebvre, the new hitting coach. "We have a great instructor who works hard every day," Floyd said. "He realizes that to win some games, we'll have to score more. And he works hard at it." The "weak link" in San Diego's projected Opening Day lineup awoke on Sunday. Luis Rodriguez, Khalil Greene's successor at short, went 3-for-3 and lifted his average to .296. Of the other projected starters -- all but second baseman David Eckstein were in Sunday's lineup -- catcher Nick Hundley is hitting .233 after a tough day (three strikeouts, all by Dan Haren), but no one else is below .269. Eating crow is one of baseball's many traditions. Those who have dissed the San Diego offense may need to hone their appetite for that exotic dish.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.