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A weblog covering the San Diego Padres.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Curbing Enthusiasm

As much as I am enamored with the acquisition of Jay Payton, Padre fans have reason to worry.

Right now, he's battling a right hamstring injury late into Spring Training. It's the same hammy that has been the one roadblock in his career, putting him on the shelf periodically throughout his career. There is no doubt that he is a legit hitter, which has me very excited. He is also a pretty good athlete, someone who when healthy should be an adequate fielder in center for the Padres.

The problem is that 1)the Padres have little centerfield depth and 2)he's playing in Petco, and a lot of other large NL West outfields (ahem, Colorado).

On point number one, the lone centerfield options are Terrance Long (scary) and moving Giles in from right.

To make matters worse, and transitioning to point number two, is that right field at Petco could be a major hazard. There are juts and angles and corners and all kinds of madness there. So, if Payton gets a game break or gets injured, and Giles moves over, that leaves a likely combination of Ryan Klesko, Long, and Brian Buchanan in right.

Given the fact that Jay will be working alongside one questionable fielder in Klesko and an ok one who has his hands full with a goofy rightfield in Giles, Jay will likely be asked to patrol as large of a range as any fielder in baseball.

This, of course, is a problem. Jay's hammy is already acting up a bit, and the running necessary to patrol that Petco outfield could be too much for his legs.

The papers and beat writers have alluded to some of this issue, but perhaps have only touched on it lightly. So I'll be the first to say I'm officially very worried.

Losing Jay not only makes the outfield situation very shaky, it also takes his solid bat out of the lineup. The Padres don't want that.

Hopefully some minor league outfielders can develop or Towers can trade for someone a bit more of an upgrade over Long. Or maybe things work out just fine and Jay has a fine season, helping the Padres contend for a top two finish in the NL West. Heck, he played in Colorado's outfield for most of last year. We shall see.

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