3 San Diego Padres Here's what's new: the ballpark and the staff ace, good ol' David Wells

April 04, 2004

Two days before training camp opened, Padres general manager
Kevin Towers was hosting a backyard barbecue for manager Bruce
Bochy in Scottsdale, Ariz., when the shaved head of his next-door
neighbor popped above the six-foot-high wall separating the
properties. "Hey, want me to bring some brats over for the 'cue?"
the man shouted. "It was right out of Home Improvement, with the
guy next door," Towers says.

Little did Towers know when he rented the property that his
neighbor would be David Wells, noted connoisseur of heavy metal,
brewed beverages and fire-cooked meat. Inviting Wells over for
food and refreshments was an easy call, seeing that over the
winter Towers had invited the free agent Wells to San Diego for a
less hospitable undertaking: to rescue a rotation that had given
up a National League-high 144 homers and walked more batters than
any but the Cubs'.

"He came [to the barbecue], and we did a little male bonding,"
Towers says. "Listen, I got the scouting report from [Yankees
G.M.] Brian Cashman. He told me, 'Kevin, there will be times when
David's lying on the trainer's table with gout and times when
you'll look at him and think he'll never be ready, but at the end
of the year he'll have 15 wins, 200 innings and 30 starts, and
you'll be very happy. You'll love him.'"

True to form, Wells flustered his new G.M. two weeks into camp by
joining a mosh pit at a Metallica concert in Phoenix. Towers read
about it in his morning paper. "From what I learned about mosh
pits," Towers says, "they do body passing and slam dancing. I
just hope his body was being passed, not slammed."

Mosh pits aside, the 40-year-old Wells's remarkable durability
and experience were two reasons that the Padres signed him to
front Brian Lawrence, 27, Adam Eaton, 26, and Jake Peavy, 22.
(Veterans Sterling Hitchcock and Ismael Valdez were competing for
the fifth spot.) Wells has thrown at least 200 innings in all but
one of the past eight seasons. Improving with age, Wells is 90-75
before 1997 and 110-53 since.

If Wells's rubber arm doesn't hold, San Diego's plan to turn a
98-loss team into a contender could go up in mesquite-flavored
smoke. Lawrence opened camp throwing 82 mph, an ominous sign for
a control pitcher who, at the end of last season, showed
diminished velocity from his usual 87-mph heater. Eaton pitched
well last season in his first full duty since Tommy John surgery
and looked shaky this spring. Peavy, a 180-pound righthander, has
logged strenuous seasons for a young, small-framed pitcher: 178
innings (combined majors and minors) two years ago and 194 2/3
last year.

"Freshman and sophomore years are over for these guys,''
leftfielder Ryan Klesko says. "It's time to go. We have the
offense. Pitching is big."

Towers expects San Diego to score 800 runs, which would be five
more than the team record set in 1997. To get that production the
Padres need Klesko, 32, centerfielder Jay Payton, 31, and first
baseman Phil Nevin, 33, to avoid the injuries that have plagued
them in recent years. That prospect was clouded when Nevin
strained his left shoulder in spring training--a year and a day
after he separated the same shoulder. He hopes to be in the
lineup on Opening Day.

San Diego's offense, especially its home run output, could be
further depressed by the team's new $411 million downtown
stadium, PETCO Park. Because of the 411-foot right centerfield
gap, Klesko, Nevin and rightfielder Brian Giles, all of whom have
power that way, may find it difficult to go downtown downtown.

PETCO, which owner John Moores says "will be the new standard for
ballparks," also boasts an existing factory building incorporated
into the leftfield corner; a grassy park area beyond centerfield;
and, because of a wacky configuration of walls and seating near
the rightfield foul pole, the most mind-blowing corner since
Haight and Ashbury. Says Giles, "It's going to make people look
stupid."

Between the quirks of PETCO and Wells, the Padres will at least
be interesting and assuredly better. How much? The 11 previous
teams coming off a minimum of 98 losses in the wild-card era
improved by an average of eight games. None, however, made the
playoffs. --T.V.

COLOR PHOTO: BRAD MANGIN YOUNG AT HEART At 40 Wells isn't too old for mosh pits or pitching 200 innings for the seventh time in eight seasons. COLOR PHOTO: CHRIS HARDY/WIREIMAGE.COM BURROUGHS

IN FACT
David Wells's 0.85 walks per nine innings last season were the
fewest since Greg Maddux averaged 0.77 in 1997.

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

"This is the most improved team in the division. David Wells is a
winner, and he'll take the pressure off the young guys.... Adam
Eaton is on the verge of becoming a star. He has two pitches that
can strike you out: a 95-plus fastball and a great curve. He just
needs to work on his consistency.... Trevor Hoffman looks like
he's healthy after having shoulder surgery in the off-season. His
velocity is as good as it ever was.... They're going to hit very
well--and they have to. They don't have much team speed, so it's
going to take a lot of hits to get everyone around.... With Brian
Giles, Phil Nevin and Ryan Klesko, the Padres have as good 3-4-5
hitters as anyone, and there really isn't an easy out in the
lineup. Nevin's getting his shoulder healthy is really important
for them, but I've got to wonder what's going to go through his
mind the next time he has to dive for a ball.... Sean Burroughs
keeps improving and people shouldn't worry about his lack of
power.... Khalil Greene is as accurate a thrower as I've ever
seen, and he has surprising power."

THE LINEUP
projected roster with 2003 statistics

BATTING ORDER

3B Burroughs
2B Loretta
RF Giles
1B Nevin
LF Klesko
CF Payton
C Hernandez
SS Greene

JAY PAYTON [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 127 .302 28 89 6

RYAN KLESKO

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 129 .252 21 67 2

BRIAN GILES

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L 45 .299 20 88 4

KHALIL GREENE (R)

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 192 .215 2 6 0

MARK LORETTA

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 154 .314 13 72 5

SEAN BURROUGHS

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 142 .286 7 58 7

PHIL NEVIN

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 67 .279 13 46 2

RAMON HERNANDEZ [New acquisition]

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 110 .273 21 78 0

BENCH

RAMON VAZQUEZ

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
L-R 310 .261 3 30 10

BRIAN BUCHANAN

B-T PVR BA HR RBI SB
R 279 .263 8 29 6

ROTATION

PITCHER PVR W L IPS WHIP ERA

LH David Wells 42 15 7 6.9 1.23 4.14
[New acquisition]
RH Brian Lawrence 59 10 15 6.4 1.25 4.19
RH Jake Peavy 87 12 11 6.1 1.31 4.11
RH Adam Eaton 123 9 12 5.9 1.32 4.08
LH Sterling Hitchcock 229 6 4 5.4 1.40 4.72
[New acquisition]

BULLPEN

PITCHER PVR W L S WHIP ERA

RH Trevor Hoffman 41 0 0 0 1.11 2.00
RH Antonio Osuna 270 2 5 0 1.54 3.73
[New acquisition]
RH Akinori Otsuka (R) 291 1 3 0 0.84 2.09
[New acquisition]

(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
IPS: Innings pitched per start
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Triple A stats
Japanese league stats
PVR: Player Value
Ranking (explanation on page 142)

2003 RECORD
64-98
fifth in NL West

MANAGER
Bruce Bochy
10th season with San Diego

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)