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Series Preview: San Diego Padres

Streaking Padres and red hot Chase Headley come to Tropicana Field for a 3-game set.

Thearon W. Henderson

From July 1st to the end of the 2012 season the San Diego Padres were 46-36 and appeared poised to take the next step in 2013. The early returns were mixed but recently they have began to hit their stride just as they come to Tropicana Field winners of 4 in a row, 11 of 14 and an overall record of 16-18.

The pitching matchups are Alex Cobb (4-2, 2.75 ERA) versus Edison Volquez (3-3, 5.50 ERA) on Friday night at 7:10, Jeremy Hellickson (1-2, 4.79 ERA) versus Burch Smith (Debut) on Saturday night at 6:10, and Roberto Hernandez (1-4, 4.66 ERA) versus Eric Stults (3-2, 4.50 ERA) on Sunday at 1:40.

The Padres were one of the least active teams in the off-season spending $3 million on Jason Marquis and acquired pitcher Tyson Ross along with first base prospect A.J. Kirby Jones fromm the Oakland Athletics in exchange for shortstop Andy Parrino and pitcher Andrew Werner. The Padres and Rays were involved in a minor transaction involving Rays pitching prospect Chris Rearick heading to San Diego for super utility infielder Vince Belnome.

Another Rays connection that bears mentioning is that the Padres did sign Brandon Allen over the winter and he is hitting .247/.367/.506 with 5 home runs in 98 plate appearances for their Triple A affiliate Tuscon Padres of the Pacific Coast League.

Chase Headley has been a big reason for the winning hitting .400 (20 for 50) during the streak/ The Padres will be rested as they come to Tropicana Field as they had an off-day Thursday.

Nick Hundley has received another opportunity as Yasmani Grandal serves a suspension for violating the leagues substance abuse policy and is hitting .270/.302/.450. Yonder Alonso, a key piece of the Mat Latos trade, is hitting .275/.331/.425.

The Roster:

(C) Nick Hundley, (1b) Yonder Alonso, (2b) Jedd Gyorko, (SS) Everth Cabrera, (3b) Chase Headley, (LF) Carlos Quentin, (CF) Will Venable, (RF) Chris Denorfia

(C) John Baker, (1b/OF) Kyle Blanks, Mark Kotsay (Utility IF), Alexi Amarista (Utility Inf/OF), Jesus Guzman (Utility IF/OF)

Notable On The Trainers Table:

(CF) Cameron Maybin (wrist impingement) is on the 15-day disabled list.

The Bullpen:

(CL) Huston Street, Luke Gregerson, Dale Thayer, Brd Bach, Joe Thatcher (LHP), Brad Boxberger, Tyson Ross, and Anthony Bass

Who the Rays will face:

Edison Volquez

Overall Edison Volquez is 3-3 with a 5.50 ERA/4.87 FIP and as his career has gone he has been inconsistent. Through his first four starts this year Volquez was 0-3 with a 8.08 ERA and the opposition was hitting .357 against him. He had walked 13 in 22.1 innings while striking out 16. In his last 3 outings he has worked 19.1 IP and is 3-0 with an ERA of 2.33 and has held the opposition to a batting average of .219 walking 6 and striking out 9.

One of the more alarming parts of Volquez game is his sudden inability to strike hitters out. His career strikeout rate is 21.2% but thus far this year he sits at 12.1%.

He throws a 4-seam fastball (29%, 92.7), a 2-seam sinker (21%, 93.3), curveball (27%, 80.3), and changeup (23%,83.2). Early in the count he'll throw any of his pitches but once ahead he likes to throw the curveball and change up.

Anther interesting early season split for Volquez are his home and away splits. At home he has held the opposition to a slash line of .221/.284/.382 in 3 starts while he has been banged around pretty good on the road .345/.408/.575. Although he may be just as comfortable in Tropicana Field (multi-year park factor for pitching of 94) as he is in his home park (multi-year park factor for pitching of 92).

Burch Smith

The Padres were in need of another starter and have decided to promote 2011 14th round pick Burch Smith from AA where he has made a total of 6 starts posting a 1-2 record with a 1.15 ERA and an impressive K/BB ratio of 6.17 with a K/9 of 10.6 and a BB/9 of 1.7.

Randy Smith, Padres Vice President of Player Development and International Development calls Smith "a power pitcher with control - His stuff produces high strikeouts with low walks and hits. He has an explosive fastball, that will reach the upper 90s and will ride it up in the zone and sink it down in the zone. Burch will pitch with purpose and can get outs at the top and bottom of the zone." (via SanDiegoSportingNews).

One more scouting report via Padres Prospects:

Burch Smith has a lighting quick arm, has touched 100* MPH in favorable conditions, quickly moving up internal boards as an organizational favorite; delivery shows a decent amount of deception and is capped off by low arm slot; employs a "drop and drive" style in delivery which is somewhat concerning for future control and currently causes him to pitch up in the zone; decent secondary offerings including a changeup with sink and a looping curveball.Smith has been nothing short of fantastic in his Double-A debut, striking out 10.73 batters per nine innings and walking just 1.38. While he continues to pitch up in the zone, Smith has only allowed one home run in 26 innings of work. There is legitimate concern that as he faces more advanced hitters Smith’s pitching style will become less effective, but his mix of deception and velocity will carry him into the Padres rotation at some point in 2013.

Eric Stults:

The 33 year old left handed Stults had a solid 1/2 season with the Padres in 2012 appearing in 20 games and making 15 starts posting a 8-3 record with a 2.91 ERA/3.78 FIP. He worked a total of 99 innings but seemed to get by with what appeared to be a lot of smoke and mirrors. He didn't strike many hitters out (5.0 K/9), had a HR/FB% of 6.5%, and a BABIP against of .264.

The roof has yet to collapse on him as he has made 7 starts in 2013 and has worked 40.1 innings and posted a record of 3-2 with a 4.50 ERA/3.38 FIP, a HR/FB% of 9.6%, and a BABIP against of .320.

Stults arsenal includes a 4-seamer (42%, 87.1), changeup (22%, 77.6), slider (17%, 78.7), curveball (13%, 66.7), and an occasional 2-seam sinker (5%, 85.6) and he will use any pitch at any time. Thus far in 2013 LHB are posting a slash line of .256/.275/.487 while RHB fare slightly better at .298/.341/.438.