I learned last night that Jon Garland has been named Opening Day starter, and Chris Young the starter at Petco Opening Day 6 games later. Starting on Opening Day is an honor normally reserved for the best pitcher on the staff. This is why Jake Peavy made several Opening Day starts, why Chris Carpenter will start the Cardinals opener in Cincinnati, and so on.
It gets a little tricky when a team opens the season on the road, as the Padres will do this year in Arizona, at least in my opinion. Teams don't want their home opener to be started by someone at the back of the rotation; and in some cases, teams will tweak their rotation so they get the guy they want starting the home opener. A good recent example is LA. Vincente Padilla will start the opener, and although he pitched very well down the stretch for the Dodgers last season, I don't think anyone would argue he's the best pitcher in that rotation. Clayton Kershaw will start the home opener at Dodger Stadium, and lots of people would argue he's the ace of that staff.
So Jon Garland starting Opening Day on the road doesn't surprise or bother me. There's probably some politics in play with the selection; after all, Garland was the big free-agent pickup by this team over the winter, he started the 2009 season with Arizona, he's probably fired up to pitch against them. All well and good. However Chris Young's selection as the home opener starter was a surprise.
Now, I like Young a lot as a pitcher, and have for a couple of years. Not to mention we have tickets to Opening Day, and he's my wife's favorite player, so getting to see him pitch is great. Plus, he's the 'old man' of the staff in terms of Padre service time, so perhaps he deserves this honor. However, he was hurt virtually all of last season, and when he did pitch he was ineffective due to injury.
I thought Kevin Correia should have gotten this start.
One of the reasons given for slotting Chris Young #2 in the rotation was to keep him from pitching in Coors. OK, that's fine, Coors isn't a great place to pitch, and Chris hasn't enjoyed all of his starts there (3-3, 5.31 career in 8 Denver starts). However if he was the #3 starter he still wouldn't pitch there next week.
It is a fine point, and over a 162-game schedule doesn't matter much, but I find it curious.
In other news, it appears Clayton Richard nailed down the #4 slot, and there's still been no official announcement as to who the #5 starter will be. With Tim Stauffer and Sean Gallagher apparently headed to the bullpen (and Joe Thatcher to the DL), we can reasonably narrow the competition down to two: Wade LeBlanc and Mat Latos. Both have pitched spectacularly during the spring, so either choice will be a good one.
The SD U-T put up a story yesterday projecting the final 25-man roster. It can be found here. I don't have any real issues with Bill Center's projected roster. I know Matt Antonelli returned from the dead only this spring (after two years in hitter's exile), but I cannot help but wonder if David Eckstein's days starting at second are numbered. If Antonelli continues to tear it up in AAA, like he has in spring training, how long will the club let him languish at Portland? Especially if Eckstein continues to struggle at the plate (.260/.323/.334).
Quick programming note: I will moderate a Padres Pre-season forum during the next Podcast (10 pm PDT Thursday). I will announce the confirmed list of Padre blogger participants tomorrow, stay tuned.