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Breakout performances helped define 2013

Gyorko, Cashner among highlights of year hindered by injuries, slow start

SAN DIEGO -- It wasn't just the Padres' record that was identical to the 2012 version, but it was also the plight of the team to get to that point.

Injuries, underperformance and another slow start proved crippling to the Padres, who endured their second 76-86 finish in as many years.

"I'm not sure that any team could withstand the number of injuries that we've had to key players," Padres manager Bud Black said. "You're talking many of your most productive offensive players -- that's tough to overcome.

"And if you add the time missed by Yonder [Alonso], Jedd [Gyorko] and [Yasmani] Grandal, then you're talking about many of your best players."

The Padres' depth was again tested, as regulars like Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso, Cameron Maybin, Yasmani Grandal and Carlos Quentin landed on the disabled list. Starting pitchers Jason Marquis and Clayton Richard saw their season end early. Prospect Casey Kelly, a rotation hopeful, needed Tommy John surgery. Another starter, Edinson Volquez, was released in August.

"We felt good about it last year," Black said of the team's depth. "[Then] things sort of went the other way for us."

There were a handful of bright spots, though.

Rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko had a big season at the plate and surprised defensively, as well. Will Venable had a breakout year at age 30. The Padres were able to add to their rotation on July 31 when they traded for starting pitcher Ian Kennedy at the Trade Deadline.

Here is one final look back at the highs and lows of the 2013 season, recapped by the top five storylines of the calendar year.

5. Cabrera makes All-Star team, later suspended

Shortstop Everth Cabrera parlayed a strong first half -- see his .459 batting average in June -- into a spot on the National League All-Star team. A switch-hitter, Cabrera saw marked improvement from the right side, as he hit .365 against left-handers, compared to just .195 the previous season.

But Cabrera's breakout season was halted when, after first being linked to the Biogenesis scandal during Spring Training, he was among the Major League players ultimately suspended for the last 50 games of the regular season.

4. Injuries galore (again)

For the second time in as many years, the Padres were hit hard by injuries -- Maybin (knee and wrist), Quentin (knee), Grandal (knee), Alonso (hand) and Gyorko missed a month with a sore groin. Maybin, Quentin and Grandal all needed surgery for their respective injuries.

Couple that with injuries to pitchers Richard and Marquis, and that Joe Wieland and Cory Luebke had setbacks in the rehabilitation process in their return from Tommy John surgery in 2012, and that Kelly, another highly regarded pitcher, also needed elbow reconstructive surgery, and you end up with a lot of missed service time to guys whom the Padres were hoping to lean on in 2013.

3. Gyorko a big hit in his rookie season

Missing a month with a strained groin cost Gyorko at-bats, though it didn't waylay an impressive rookie season, as documented on Twitter with #GyorkStoreCalled, which celebrates each and every one of his home runs.

Gyorko hit 23 home runs, the third-highest total in Major League history by a first-year second baseman. He led all big league rookies in home runs and was second in RBIs (63), third in doubles (26) and fifth in hits (121) and was better than advertised defensively at a position he's still learning. He had four errors, which was the fewest among those who qualified by playing a minimum of 108 games.

Should the Padres get to a point where they move Headley in a deal -- not likely, at least not before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline -- the team can slide Gyorko to third base, where he's spent most of his professional career before 2013.

2. Headley backslides after big 2012

After a monster 2012 campaign when he led the National League in RBIs, Headley saw his 2013 take a hit before the season started, when he fractured his thumb in Spring Training.

Headley never did find his offensive groove -- from either side of the plate -- until the final month of the season, when he hit .305 with five home runs. Headley eventually underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after the season. There's really no knowing how much that affected him in 2013, although it had bothered him to some degree since Spring Training.

Either way, he'll be healthy for the start of Spring Training and ready to put 2013 behind him. "It was, at times, a really frustrating season," Headley told in October.

1. Cashner, Ross each take big leap forward

The Padres got a pair of big performances in 2013 from Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, which were not only needed after Richard was lost to the disabled list and Volquez was designated for assignment, but they also provided a glimpse of what could possibly be ahead for this duo.

Cashner came close to tossing a perfect game against the Pirates in September and showed that not only can he miss bats with his mid-to-high 90s stuff, but he was better in terms of efficiency and developing his secondary pitches.

Ross limited opposing batters to a .210 average in 16 starts after he moved into the rotation for good after ironing out some mechanical flaws that had previously hurt him while with the A's.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter.
Read More: San Diego Padres, Andrew Cashner, Everth Cabrera, Clayton Richard, Ian Kennedy, Cameron Maybin, Edinson Volquez, Jason Marquis, Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, Yasmani Grandal, Casey Kelly, Tyson Ross, Jedd Gyorko, Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso