Around the Horn: Starting rotation

Green calls top three of Shields, Ross, Cashner club's strength

February 17th, 2016

With Spring Training around the corner, we continue our position-by-position look at the Padres. We've covered catcher, first base, second base, third base, shortstop, outfield and the bullpen. Today we tackle the starting rotation.

SAN DIEGO -- When asked at the Winter Meetings to highlight what he feels the strength of the Padres will be, first-year manager Andy Green didn't hesitate or waver when it came time for a response.

It's the starting rotation, Green said.

"[The] strength of the team would be those three horses in front of the rotation right now," Green said, as he referred to James Shields, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner.

• Around the Horn: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | OF | Bullpen

"When you look at Tyson, when you look at James and you look at Andrew, and you look at what they bring to the table, that's an obvious strength."

To be sure, the Padres will lean heavily on that trio in 2015, but they will also need a few others to step up and contribute big if the team is to improve upon the 74 victories it amassed a season ago.

Shields, Ross and Cashner combined for 97 starts in 2015, proving durable and dependable. Shields, who last February signed the largest contract in club history, won 13 games and surpassed the 200-inning mark for the ninth consecutive year.

Ross, an All-Star for the first time in 2014, shined again in 2015. He had the lowest ERA (3.26) among Padres starting pitchers, struck out 212 batters and made each one of his 33 starts.

Cashner struggled at times, losing 16 games. He allowed 22 unearned runs, as the defense wasn't good behind him. The 31 starts he made were a career high. The Padres are hopeful he bounces back in 2016, his last season before free agency.

The rest of the rotation is a question.

The team has opted to give Brandon Maurer, who shined as a reliever last season, the chance to move back into the rotation. He previously was a starter in Seattle, and the Padres are optimistic he'll be a good fit there.

Colin Rea showed signs of promise in his six starts. Lefty Robbie Erlin allowed two runs over seven innings in his last start against the Dodgers during the last weekend of the season, and he could be a fit at the back end of the rotation as well.

General manager A.J. Preller said that the team will look at Carlos Villanueva, the 32-year-old who the team signed in free agency, as a starter in Spring Training -- with the caveat that he could go back into the bullpen.

Brandon Morrow, who had five strong starts early last season before being felled by a right shoulder injury, is back, though on a Minor League deal.

Finally, the team will look at 22-year-old Luis Perdomo a lot in Spring Training. Perdomo was acquired from the Rockies at the Winter Meetings and, originally selected by Colorado in the Rule 5 Draft, has to stick on the roster the entire season or be offered by to his original club (Cardinals).

Perdomo has big-time upside, said pitching coach Darren Balsley, and his innings in Spring Training will rate as important. Still, it's hard for teams to stash a Rule 5 arm the entire season. He could slide back into a relief role.