Revamped roster ready to show its stuff in camp
Padres' lively offseason leaves fans with renewed optimism
SAN DIEGO -- It's certainly been a much different offseason for Padres manager Bud Black than any other he's experienced during his eight seasons as skipper of the team.
We're not just talking about the notable offensive additions that could lead the team to have as many as 11 new faces on the Opening Day roster, either.
It's been the heightened expectations -- and overwhelming optimism -- Black has noticed from the fan base as well.
"Just going to get a cup of coffee, going to the grocery store and having a bite to eat, the people who recognize me are pumped about the acquisitions," Black said recently. "… The fans have been very positive. It's been good stuff to see the Padre fan base excited."
It's certainly been a while.
The Padres, who will see pitchers and catchers report to their training facility in Arizona on Thursday, haven't been to the postseason since 2006 and haven't been relevant very often since.
But first-year general manager A.J. Preller has helped change the climate with a bevy of upgrades to the roster, adding Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and James Shields, among many others, in a series of trades and free agent acquisitions.
Upton, Kemp and Wil Myers will comprise a new outfield and catcher Derek Norris, an All-Star in 2014 with the A's, will be the Opening Day catcher.
The Padres feel their lineup, last in baseball in several offensive categories a year ago, will be markedly better.
Shields was the latest acquisition, agreeing to a four-year, $75 million deal last week, the largest deal in franchise history.
"We've had an offseason that made headlines," Preller said.
Shields will be part of a rotation that figures to be among the best in the National League, as Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy all return. The bullpen got two notable additions in Brandon Maurer and Shawn Kelley, two power arms to setup closer Joaquin Benoit.
To be sure, the Padres, without playing a single game, have become relevant again and have recaptured the attention of their fan base.
"It's a good thing for people to be talking about the Padres and for the fans to be excited," Preller said. "Baseball should be fun. It's entertainment. People want to come and see a team that's fun to watch. Hopefully that's what we'll put on the field this year."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Away vs. Mariners, March 4, 12:05 p.m. PT
Away vs. Dodgers, April 6, 1:10 p.m. PT