5 San Diego Padres An emerging rotation hopes for an end to the defense's reign of error

March 26, 2001

Even the Padres must do what they can to spin the advent of a new
season as a good thing, and so the quartet of Woody Williams,
Matt Clement, Adam Eaton and Bobby J. Jones was pulled from the
practice field at the Peoria, Ariz., training complex to pose for
any number of up-with-San Diego posters. These four were an apt
choice, and not just because they will constitute a capable, if
largely anonymous, rotation. On a team whose sole superstar is
playing on borrowed time (and bum knees), whose defense was
terrible a year ago (and not upgraded in the off-season) and
whose power is Lilliputian (its starting outfield combined for
eight home runs), the politely smiling pitchers were the Padres'
only reason to harbor fantasies of a .500 finish. "Each day we'll
put someone out there who can win," Williams says.

Such optimism, blind though it may be, is a sentiment shared by
all the starters, and most of the credit belongs to Williams, San
Diego's accidental ace. Before last season, the 34-year-old
righty was, at best, a decent No. 2 man often consumed, he says,
by skyrocketing stress levels. Then, after a 5-2 loss to Florida
last May 1, he felt numbness in his upper right arm; later, an
aneurysm was discovered under his right armpit. "I didn't know
what it meant, if it was life-threatening or not," he says. "I
didn't know if I'd pitch again."

After surgery to remove the aneurysm, the pitcher's perspective
underwent an overhaul. "It gave me time to reflect on my life,"
says Williams, who spent two months on the disabled list. "I
realized how much my family means to me and how I'd let baseball
interfere. I became a better husband, a better father. I learned
to relax. Truth is, the aneurysm is the best thing that ever
happened to me."

With his emotions--and his changeup--under control, Williams was a
better pitcher upon his return, finishing the year with a
National League-best 7.3 innings per start. Moreover, he became
the Padres' clubhouse leader. "To watch him go through that and
to see how he came out of it a better person was amazing," Eaton
says. "It's why I'm drawn to him. I can't thank him enough."

In Eaton, 23, the Padres have a righthander they believe will
someday replace Williams at the top of the rotation. Acquired in
the 1999 deal that sent Andy Ashby to Philadelphia, Eaton was
impressive early (5-2, 2.89 ERA in his first 16 starts) before
succumbing to late-season exhaustion (2-2, 8.69 ERA in his last
six starts). "He's the best pitcher we've had in the organization
in my 18 years here," says general manager Kevin Towers. "He
throws four pitches for strikes and can bring it when he needs
to." Clement has very good stuff but must improve his control
(5.5 walks per nine innings), and Jones was a surprisingly cheap
pickup (one year, $625,000) who pitched well in last year's
postseason.

The bullpen too is strong, as setup men Tom Davey and Kevin
Walker will give opponents more to worry about in the late
innings than just Trevor Hoffman. "Those guys have to step up
because we won't score a ton of runs," says skipper Bruce Bochy.
"We'll have to beat people with pitching and defense."

Ah, there's the rub. San Diego's 141 errors last season were the
most in the majors. Hamstrung by a scant $37 million payroll, the
division's smallest by almost $30 million, the front office could
do little to improve things during the winter. It's sad that the
Padres' Keystone Kop routine afield could overshadow Tony Gwynn's
20th and most likely final year in San Diego. After a
particularly acrimonious negotiation in the off-season, Gwynn
returns following knee surgery that allowed him to enter camp as
fit, he says, as he's been in seven years. "I'm tired of hearing
that I'm too fat and too old," says the certain Hall of Famer. "I
want to get through this year, to really contribute and not just
lie down." But Gwynn appeared in a mere 36 games in 2000, and he
has played in 130 games just twice since 1992, so the Padres
can't count on him as they once did. At the same time Gwynn has
no interest in being what he seemingly has become: a tarnished
Rolls-Royce hood ornament affixed to a Pinto.

"We were brutal a year ago, to the point where we should've been
embarrassed," Gwynn says. "We're professionals; Bruce shouldn't
have to tell us to pick things up. Playing good defense, at some
point, is a pride thing. For our pitchers' sake, we'd better
figure that out."

--J.E.

COLOR PHOTO: STEVE MOORE The pen, anchored by the fearsome Hoffman, is one of the mightiest, but the Padres' lineup remains largely bereft of swords. COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL NEVIN

[ENEMY LINES]
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Padres

The Padres are going to take their lumps because they cut so
much payroll....Ryan Klesko would probably rather be playing the
outfield than first base. As a hitter he's become very
consistent, and if you don't pay attention, he'll steal a
base....Damian Jackson has good range and moves his feet well,
but he's very inconsistent on routine plays and struggles
turning the double play. He has speed, but his swing is big, and
he tries to hit too many home runs....I've heard people talking
about how well Phil Nevin plays third base now, but I haven't
seen it. He's there for his bat. He has as much power to
rightfield as to left. You have to get the ball inside on
him....Ben Davis looks like the prototypical catcher--he's big
and strong, blocks the ball well, throws well--so why can't he
be better? There's something up with his intangibles. He needs a
good kick in the ass from a veteran player....Wiki Gonzalez is a
very good catcher; he's right behind [the Brewers'] Henry Blanco
as far as throwing in this league....I'd take Eric Owens on my
club in a heartbeat. He has one speed: all out. His arm is above
average, he runs balls down in the gap, and he's a solid
offensive player who runs the bases well and hits for
average....Mike Darr has a good arm and runs well, but he hasn't
established himself as a major league hitter....Rickey Henderson
could be a good signing. He's in phenomenal shape and can still
be disruptive to the opposition--and the Padres really need help
in the outfield. The only drawback is that he might take some
young kid's job.

[THE LINEUP]
projected roster with 2000 statistics

2000 record: 76-86 (fifth in NL West)
Manager: Bruce Bochy (seventh season with San Diego)

BATTING ORDER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB

2B Damian Jackson R 206 .255 6 37 28
LF Eric Owens R 140 .293 6 51 29
RF Tony Gwynn L 147 .323 1 17 0
3B Phil Nevin R 60 .303 31 107 2
1B Ryan Klesko L 41 .283 26 92 23
CF Mike Darr L-R 214 .268 1 30 9
C Ben Davis S-R 254 .223 3 14 1
SS Chris Gomez R 271 .222 0 3 0

BENCH

OF Bubba Trammell[1]* R 230 .265 10 45 4
C Wiki Gonzalez R 302 .232 5 30 1
IF Dave Magadan L-R 387 .273 2 21 0
IF Alex Arias[1] R 394 .187 2 15 1
OF Donaldo Mendez[1](R)[2] R 402 .270 2 51 39

STARTERS PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

RH Woody Williams 58 10 8 7.3 1.23 3.75
RH Matt Clement 141 13 17 6.0 1.56 5.14
RH Adam Eaton 107 7 4 6.1 1.44 4.13
RH Bobby J. Jones[1] 190 11 6 5.7 1.42 5.06
RH Brian Tollberg 197 4 5 6.2 1.36 3.58

BULLPEN PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Trevor Hoffman 15 4 7 43 1.00 2.99
RH Tom Davey 176 2 1 0 1.10 0.71
LH Kevin Walker 241 7 1 0 1.30 4.18
RH Rodney Myers 260 0 0 0 1.00 4.50
RH Jay Witasick* 273 6 10 0 1.67 5.82
RH Kevin Jarvis[1] 298 3 4 0 1.49 5.95
LH Sterling Hitchcock 166 1 6 0 1.45 4.93

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 156)
*Combined AL and NL stats
[2]Class A stats

"I would take Owens on my club in a heartbeat. He has one speed:
all out."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)