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Vexing start, strong finish marked Padres' season

SAN DIEGO -- It was a tale of two seasons, really. There was the one where the Padres struggled in the first three months of 2012, hampered by injury and underperformance. They were 22 games below .500 by June 27 and already 16 games out of first place in the National League West.

Then there was a brighter second half, as the Padres had winning months in July and August. Scoring runs wasn't a monumental chore. Carlos Quentin hit; Chase Headley seemingly couldn't make an out. From June 28 on, the Padres were 49-37 and scored the fifth-most runs in the league.

As much as the team would have liked to, you simply can't go back and erase the first three months of the season, nor can you somehow protect players in a plastic bubble, keeping them from injury and far away from the disabled list.

But for as much as the Padres were seemingly buried early by underperformance and injuries -- the team had 15 different disabled-list moves by May 19 -- they sure made for an interesting show in the second half, as they actually remained (mathematically, at least) in the Wild Card hunt until late September.

That's saying something considering their best-laid plans in Spring Training blew up on them early, as a handful of pitchers -- Dustin Moseley, Tim Stauffer, Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland and closer Huston Street -- landed on the disabled list, forcing the team to look outside the organization for reinforcements.

"You spend all winter building depth and we went into Spring Training thinking that our depth beyond our Major League team was really good," said Padres assistant general manager A.J. Hinch. "As it turned out, we tested that theory quite a bit this year."

When asked about the slew of injuries early in the season, general manager Josh Byrnes simply shook his head.

"Maybe more than I've ever dealt with," he said.

To be sure, the Padres are hoping to make better memories in 2012. Before moving ahead, though, here is one last look back at the highs and lows from 2012, recapped by the top five storylines of the calendar year.

5. A whole lot of injuries -- and it started early. Stauffer and Moseley landed on the disabled list in April. Later, it was Luebke, Wieland and Street. The Padres were decimated by injuries and no amount of organizational depth would have saved them. How bad was it? The team got 51 starts out of pitchers who weren't even on the 40-man roster on Feb. 1. Get this: Only two pitchers made more than 16 starts. Yikes!

4. Quentin didn't play in his first game with the team until May 28. He then hit five home runs in his first six games back and the lineup was generally better from that point on. In fact, the team finished fifth in the NL in runs scored from July 1 on, due in part to Quentin's bat and his presence, as he allowed hitters like Headley and Yonder Alonso to slide into parts of the order where they could be more successful. The Padres hope the knee surgery Quentin had in October will allow him to remain on the field more in 2013.

3. About that Mat Latos trade. The Padres got immediate returns from the deal last December that sent pitcher Mat Latos to the Reds for four players. Alonso had 39 doubles in his first full season in the big leagues and figures to get better. Pitcher Edinson Volquez won 11 games and made 32 starts. Catcher Yasmani Grandal had a nice debut, though he'll miss the first 50 games with a suspension after testing positive for testosterone. Reliever Brad Boxberger could play a larger role in 2013 and beyond.

2. Street battled injuries, but the Padres' bullpen kept right on rolling in 2012 thanks to the contributions of an unlikely bunch. Sure, Street made the NL All-Star team, but he was on the disabled list twice. It was 30-year-old rookie Dale Thayer (3.63 ERA over 64 games) and Brad Brach, the former 42nd-round Draft pick, who were steady. Brach had a 3.78 ERA in 67 games. The bullpen had a 3.24 ERA and held opponents to a .224 average. Don't forget Luke Gregerson, who had a 2.39 ERA in a team-high 77 appearances.

1. Headley hits (and hits, and ...). Toward the end of the 2011 season, Headley vowed to be more of a run producer in 2012. He bristled at the thought of his meager four-homer total in 2011. So he got better, created more pull-side loft and had a monster season at the plate, finishing fifth in the NL MVP vote while winning a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove. The home runs (31) and RBIs (115, best in the NL) were career bests. What will Headley do for an encore in 2013?

San Diego Padres, Yonder Alonso, Brad Boxberger, Brad Brach, Yasmani Grandal, Luke Gregerson, Chase Headley, Cory Luebke, Carlos Quentin, Huston Street, Dale Thayer, Edinson Volquez, Joe Wieland