4 San Diego Padres Think there's nowhere to go but up for the NL's worst defensive team? Think again

March 25, 2002

The Padres don't think it's a mistake to move their two best
hitters, Ryan Klesko and Phil Nevin, to unfamiliar defensive
positions, and their judgment in these matters should be
respected. Having ranked last in the majors in defense the past
two seasons, this is a team that knows an error when it sees
one. San Diego committed 141 of them in 2000 and 145 more last
year, and it won't be surprising if the Padres' gloves fail them
in similar fashion this season.

Nevin, who led the team with 41 home runs and 126 RBIs in 2001,
will move from third base to first, displacing his good friend
Klesko. A leftfielder for most of his first six years in the
majors, Klesko, who hit 30 homers and drove in 113 runs, will be
stationed in right. The Padres felt the moves were necessary to
make room at third base for Sean Burroughs, 21, a highly
regarded prospect who is the son of 1974 American League MVP
Jeff Burroughs. The prized rookie hit .322 and played a solid
third base at Triple A Portland last season, and he'd better do
roughly the same thing for the Padres, or Klesko and Nevin's
mild annoyance over the moves could grow into something more
ominous.

"It's kind of tough to move two All-Star corner guys to different
positions, but we really don't have much of a say about it," says
Klesko, 30, who has played a total of two big league games in
rightfield. "At this point in our careers, it's not something we
were real receptive to doing, but if it makes us a better team,
so be it."

Nevin, who has played first base 20 times in his career (none
since 1999), spent much of the spring being tutored by former
first baseman Wally Joyner. "They're putting a lot of pressure on
the kid, and if he doesn't do his job, it's going to put us in a
tough spot," Nevin, 31, says of Burroughs. "It's not that we're
going to come down on him, but you've got two guys here who are
proven players in this league, and you're asking us to put in
extra time to learn new positions. If it works, great. But if it
doesn't...."

If it doesn't, not even Klesko's and Nevin's bats will keep San
Diego above .500. Manager Bruce Bochy also plans to move
D'Angelo Jimenez, whose .948 fielding percentage was the lowest
among National League shortstops last year, to second base and
replace him with rookie Ramon Vazquez. It's another risky shift,
especially because the Padres, with no overpowering arms on
their all-righthanded starting staff, need a dependable defense
even more than most clubs. Bochy will be satisfied if that
quintet and a questionable group of middle relievers can turn
over a lead to closer Trevor Hoffman, who converted 43 of 46
save opportunities.

Like his teammates, Hoffman will have to overcome the lingering
grief from the death of outfielder Mike Darr, one of the most
popular players on the team, who died in a single-car accident
on Feb. 15. The team is keeping Darr's memory alive in a way
that probably would have made the eccentric outfielder smile:
Each player was given a T-shirt with Darr's number 26 on the
back and a popular saying of his, my s---'s tight, bro, on the
front. Despite the attempt at humor, the Padres are in mourning.
"It's a sadness that isn't going to go away in a month or two
months," Hoffman says. "We're going to feel Mike's absence all
season and beyond."

The players know that they can't let their sorrow affect their
concentration, though, because they don't have much room for,
uh, error. "There's no reason we can't be in the race all year
if we stay healthy and maybe catch a few breaks," says Klesko.
Considering the state of their defense, the Padres need to make
sure that breaks aren't the only thing they catch. --P.T.

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN CORDES/SPORTS IMAGERY Nevin, who's coming off a career year at the plate, will be on unfamiliar footing as a first baseman. COLOR PHOTO: TOM HAUCK/GETTY IMAGES HOFFMAN

In FACT
Last season the Padres were no-hit twice and shut out a
major-league-high 16 times, yet wound up sixth in the NL in runs.

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

"It took Phil Nevin some time to figure out the majors, but he's
become a great righthanded power hitter, and there aren't too
many around. He's a pretty good breaking-ball hitter, but you
don't see him hit many out of the park to right. So I'd keep
stuff away from him.... Sean Burroughs can flat out swing the
pole. He doesn't have the power his dad [Jeff Burroughs] had,
but he's gonna drive in runs with a ton of doubles in the
gaps.... I'm not sure Ramon Vazquez is physically ready for the
majors. He has a high school body, and I wonder if he'll survive
a hard slide into second.... Damian Jackson is an O.K. player,
but he lapses on defense, and he has a big-man's swing in a
little-man's body. He's got to hit the ball on the ground, in
the gap.... It used to be said that Bubba Trammell would kiss a
manager's butt to get playing time, and I never thought he was
much beyond a fifth outfielder. Wrong. You can get him out with
hard breaking stuff, but don't give him a mistake or he'll beat
you.... Mark Kotsay gets a real good jump on fly balls, and he
has one of the best outfield arms around.... Wiki Gonzalez is an
above-average catcher. He doesn't have the physical gifts of Ben
Davis, but he can throw, and he's energetic back there.... Bobby
Jones couldn't pitch for a lot of teams. He must be on his ninth
life, because whenever I see the guy, he's getting shelled....
Trevor Hoffman has the best changeup in baseball. You know it's
coming, and you can't do a thing with it. He's the best closer
in the game."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2001 statistics

PLAYER B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
BATTING ORDER

2B D'Angelo Jimenez S-R 258 .276 3 33 2
CF Mark Kotsay L 134 .291 10 58 13
RF Ryan Klesko L 41 .286 30 113 23
1B Phil Nevin R 27 .306 41 126 4
LF Ray Lankford L 131 .252 19 58 10
C Wiki Gonzalez R 215 .275 8 27 2
3B Sean Burroughs (R)* L-R 120 .322 9 55 9
SS Ramon Vazquez (R)*[1]L-R 194 .300 10 79 9

BENCH

OF Bubba Trammell R 155 .261 25 92 2
IF Damian Jackson R 310 .241 4 38 23
OF Ron Gant[1][2] R 335 .258 10 35 5

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA
STARTERS

RH Kevin Jarvis 137 12 11 6.0 1.23 4.79
RH Bobby Jones 220 8 19 5.9 1.48 5.12
RH Brian Tollberg 164 10 4 6.2 1.35 4.30
RH Brian Lawrence 158 5 5 6.5 1.23 3.45
RH Brett Tomko[1] 205 3 1 4.6 1.64 5.19

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA
BULLPEN

RH Trevor Hoffman 22 3 4 43 1.14 3.43
RH Steve Reed[1][2] 179 3 3 1 1.29 3.55
LH Jose Nunez 233 4 2 0 1.47 4.58

[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 154)

*Triple A stats [2]Combined AL and NL stats

Manager
Bruce Bochy
eighth season with San Diego

2001 record
79-83
fourth in NL West

IN THE FIELD
with defensive ratings

Golden Glover

Kotsay
Burroughs

Good Leather

Lankford
Klesko
Nevin
Jimenez
Vazquez
Jarvis
Gonzalez

Iron Hands

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)