03/18/12 10:39 PM ET
With Quentin out, who bats cleanup?
By Owen Perkins / Special to MLB.com
But it could make a mess of the batting order left behind.
Quentin was slated for the cleanup spot, adding much-needed production to a team that ranked last in Major League Baseball in home runs last year and was outscored by all but two teams. With an average of 26 homers and 75 RBIs over the last four seasons with the White Sox, Quentin was profiled as the key cog in the center of the Padres lineup.
"There's no doubt that there will be some guys moving in and around left field in the middle of the lineup," manager Bud Black said. "The simplest way to put it, when you have a guy like Quentin that you project to be an everyday player, meaning everyday at-bats and hit fourth, that causes a little bit of ripple effect on what you do every day when you construct your lineup."
The Padres expect Quentin's absence to be short term, with a four-week recovery period making him available about 10 days into the season, in a best-case scenario. But two weeks is a long time for a lineup to be absent its centerpiece cleanup hitter, and the Padres have no obvious candidate to fill Quentin's role.
"Here's the thing -- in a perfect world, boy, you would love to have a prototypical Ricky Henderson type player to lead off," Black said, penciling in his dream team. "You would love to have a David Eckstein prototypical guy who hits second. You would love to have Albert Pujols who can hit third who hits for average, power, on-base. And a Prince Fielder who hits fourth. And then a prototypical fifth-place hitter.
"So do we have a prototypical No. 4? Probably not. But you know what? When you write the numbers down, there's going to be a four, and somebody's going to be next to it."
One question Black must wrestle with is whether to plug whoever is playing left into Quentin's batting slot, as some managers would do for a short-term fix to avoid disrupting the rest of the lineup. A longer-range solution is to revamp the lineup, taking people out of the roles they might be best suited for and putting them into the best roles given the available bats in Quentin's absence.
"[Jesus] Guzman's going to get some at-bats in left, and so will [Kyle] Blanks," Black said. "[Mark] Kotsay will get some more at bats. [Chris] Denorfia could be over there in left ... Somebody will be there. But we might not have the prototypical guy out there."
Of those primary four left-field candidates, Guzman, 27, hit .312 with five homers and 45 RBIs over 76 games as a rookie Padre last year. Blanks, 25, hit .229 with seven homers and 26 RBIs. Kotsay, 36, hit .270 with three homers and 31 RBIs in 104 games for the Brewers. And Denorfia, 31, hit .277 with five homers and 19 RBIs in his sophomore season with the Padres.
None of them has been lighting the Cactus League on fire -- though Quentin had been, with a .533 average (8-for-15) with two doubles, a homer and four RBIs in six Cactus League games. Denorfia collected his first Cactus League hits Sunday afternoon, going 2-for-2 in his second spring game, and Kotsay has been taking at-bats in Minor League games.
The rest of the order is fairly well set, with Cameron Maybin leading off and Orlando Hudson in the two-hole, though Will Venable has hit second often while Hudson nurses a sore groin and could lead off against certain right-handers.
"It's good to have speed at the top of the order," Black said. "Those two fellows are the guys we feel can put the most pressure on the pitcher, catcher, and the defense. Every game that Cam has played this spring he's led off. Will's led off a couple games. He's hit second, he's hit sixth, he's hit fifth and seventh. We're just looking at a lot of different things."
Chase Headley looks to hit third, with Yonder Alonso set to start his first full season in the Majors hitting fifth. The bottom of the order is a toss-up, with Nick Hundley, Venable and Jason Bartlett mixing in the six, seven and eight holes.
Quentin's absence gives Black some balls in the air, and when it comes to the lineup card, he's shown a propensity for juggling. Last season Black used 140 different lineups.
"We will have eight guys in front of the pitcher," Black said with certainty. "And don't ask me if the pitcher's hitting eighth."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.