Reloaded Padres ready to deliver on promise
Alonso and Co. joined by newcomers Johnson and Benoit at Spring Training
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Don't think for a moment that Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso neglected to take note of the many changes to the team's roster this offseason.
It wasn't just the players the Padres added that impressed Alonso, but the message such additions and acquisitions sent to the roster incumbents and fans who are starving for San Diego to field a playoff contender.
"It's a sign that we want to win right now," Alonso said. "It's not [contending] in two or three years; it's right now. We're definitely very happy and excited about it. I feel like we have all the pieces to compete and make it into the playoffs."
The Padres, coming off consecutive 76-win seasons, will take the first steps toward what they hope will be their first postseason berth since 2006 when pitchers and catchers report to Arizona for the start of Spring Training on Thursday.
The first workout for pitchers and catchers is set for Friday. Position players report on Tuesday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for the next day. The Padres will be greeted with a renovated facility in Peoria, complete with an expansive clubhouse.
The Padres will play their first Cactus League game, their annual charity game against the Mariners, on Feb. 27 at the Peoria Sports Complex.
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes was busy this winter, signing reliever Joaquin Benoit and starting pitcher Josh Johnson. He traded for outfielder Seth Smith and reliever Alex Torres. Those four players all figure prominently in the Padres' plans for 2014 and beyond.
The Padres, to some extent, have become a chic pick as a playoff hopeful among many national pundits. Manager Bud Black can see why.
"We feel good about the roster," Black said. "I think that some people in the game feel the same way."
Johnson will join a rotation that is as deep as any Black has presided over since becoming manager of the Padres in 2007. Johnson sees good things moving forward, especially from two of the power arms on the staff, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross.
"I've seen Cashner and Ross out of the bullpen before, and they were unreal," Johnson said. "Having them get stretched out [as starters], you learn how to pitch better and you get a better feel for your pitches, your curveball and slider."
The Padres' bullpen will have a different look with the addition of Benoit and Torres. Benoit will handle the eighth inning with Torres a candidate to handle the seventh inning, a left-hander capable of getting lefties and righties out.
"I think on the pitching side, the upside and potential of some big powerful arms is very exciting," Black said. "And there's a balance throughout the roster of youth, experience, speed and some power."
On Saturday, over 17,000 fans attended the team's annual FanFest event at Petco Park, where the vibe was generally more optimistic than in years past.
Catcher Nick Hundley can see why.
"When you bring in All-Star-caliber players, it's kind of a 180 from what we've done in the past, where we were trading guys like Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy," Hundley said. "... When you bring in Josh Johnson and Joaquin Benoit, it will do nothing but inject excitement into the franchise."