Jay Paris: Padres season ends much like the others

It’s nearly time to put a bow on the Padres’ season and weren’t we just in Peoria? 

Not exactly, just like those Arizona promises proved more mirage than meaningful.

The Padres are finishing better than they started, which is similar to saying for someone who can’t carry a tune, you sing well.

But the song remains the same for the Padres, as they head for the tape far from contention and not-so-close to breaking even.

It’s a refrain that’s grown familiar, if not fondly. There was that 2010 aberration when the Padres were relevant to the wire, but otherwise 2013 is like 2012, 2011, 2009 and 2008.

But could the light at end of the tunnel be more than the Dodgers’ flashing their money clip? Are better days ahead, or have those days in the North County sun clouded one’s vision?

Good luck when asking for show of hands from those upbeat on the Padres. But if you’re going to be bullish, it’s all about the arms.

The Padres have some, but their biggest worry isn’t about their stuff getting past major-league hitters, but an old major-league pitcher: Tommy John.

If the Padres don’t pace the league in surgeries bearing his name, they’re among the leaders.

But for the Padres to be Tampa Bay West or Oakland South, or whatever middle-market team getting ahead on brains instead of bucks, they must conquer that 60-foot, 6-inch divide. Where the rubber hits the road for the Padres is between the rubber and home plate.

Manager Bud Black is encouraged about his pitching depth. But it has to avoid the knife as much as elevated sliders.

“We have to stay healthy,’’ he said. “No doubt about it.’’

What’s clear is Andrew Cashner has the goods to be the top-of-the-rotation peg. He’s gone from being a reliever to a relief, and his progress is among the reasons the future could be rosy.

With Cashner is Tyson Ross, whose record is rank but not the impression he’s delivered.

“That’s not indicative of his pitching,’’ Black said of Ross’ lopsided won-loss mark.

Ian Kennedy? One can see why the Diamondbacks gave up on him; why he nearly won a Cy Young Award.

“Kennedy, next year, is going to do well,’’ Black predicted, betting a spring training with pitching guru Darren Balsley pays dividends.

Toss in lefty Robbie Erlin, who got the memo that low is the way to go with his offerings.

Add Burch Smith, with a decent fastball and promise.

Clayton Richard is rebounding from surgery, and that’s a long line he’s in. It includes Casey Kelly, Joe Wieland and all the best to Cory Luebke, but he’s had more setbacks than step-ups.

Then there’s the kids like Keyvius Sampson, Matt Wisler and just maybe the Padres aren’t whistling through the NL West graveyard.

The position players are set, with the hope another year of them marinating — and getting fit — has them on course. Although third baseman Chase Headley has to find his stroke, Everth Cabrera might have competition from Ronny Cedeno and Yonder Alonso’s hits have to find gaps again.

Jedd Gyorko is a keeper at second, showing a bat with pop and a glove with polish.

Cameron Maybin? A franchise face has disappeared and I don’t know what that means either.

So the Padres’ 2014 mug shot won’t look much different. Instead the brass prays, at the least, it produces more smiles than frowns and don’t patient Padres fans deserve that.

“We’re not going to out slug the Dodgers,’’ Black said. “We’re going to have to play really good defense, pitch well and hopefully have the position players we thought we were going to have. Offensively, we can do some things.’’

Spending big bucks the L.A. way isn’t one of them.

“That’s their business,’’ Black said. “We got to do what we do.’’

The R&D on the Padres is D&D — draft and develop.

“It all goes back to where it all starts,’’ Black said.

See you in Peoria.

 

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