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Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres won three of four games against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the season's first series. Photo via San Diego Padres on Twitter
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Sports Talk: Padres hope to save a season of promise

The phone pinged and the number was familiar. Trevor Hoffman was texting and, hells bells, if his message didn’t arrive with clarity: ”Pads have looked pretty good.”

Yes, they did, in winning three of their first four games over the Arizona Diamondbacks as baseball got back to business.

Hoffman, the Hall of Fame reliever and a Rancho Santa Fe resident, isn’t one to deliver back-slaps unless warranted. With the Padres looking spry under rookie manager Jayce Tingler, well, it sent tingles down the spines of the oh-so-patient Friar faithful.

The Padres got on base with regularity and often ran them with an aggressive bent. The starting pitching, for the most part, was keen. The defense was solid and the bullpen, save a hiccup in the lone loss, showed its potential.

“That’s how we wanted to get off, get started,” Tingler told reporters.

All that was missing was a crowded Petco Park to complement the buzz, which hasn’t been felt for the hometown nine in years.

But it had to be this year, of all years, that the Padres show promise. Unfortunately, cross-my-heart, it’s likely for naught.

While baseball has returned, COVID-19 never found the exit. It continues to rage across our great land and it has no interest in obliging the national pastime in its quest to find its feet again.

That’s proven to be especially true with MLB’s zany endeavor. It proposes to complete an abbreviated 60-game season by traveling around a nation that leads the world in many things, among them being the worst to join hands in combating this virus that has claimed nearly 150,000 Americans.

That point was underscored recently as 20 Miami Marlins players and coaches tested positive, which forced the postponement of multiple games and for them to pause their season.

The inevitable happened and it raised its ugly head just four contests into a season that was already like no other. It’s put this sporting experiment at risk, along with the players and personnel who are trying to deliver it.

That brings us to Dr. Anthony Fauci and yes, we saw his effort to christen the season. The right-hander’s first pitch before the National-Yankees opener ventured far from the heart of the plate.

But his words this week cut to the heart of matter.

“We’re in the middle of a crisis,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

That makes it unlikely the Padres, or any other team, will see the completion of this bizarre season. It’s possible the Padres will ask the recent stellar San Diego State men’s basketball team to make room for another squad experiencing a special year, only to see it roadblocked.

The visuals of the Padres, and others, ignoring the protocols to avoid COVID-19 were unmistakable. Baseball players are creatures of habits.

Among those rituals are high-fives, chest-bumps, spitting and sitting close to each other, despite being told otherwise, in the dugout.

There’s the unavoidable contact that comes with batters, catchers and umpires sharing space, which is similar to when a player reaches first.

“I don’t think those concerns and risks will go away at any point this year,” Tingler said. “We just have to be as responsible as we can.”

Rightfully, the Padres are playing every game as it might be their last. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to mask it.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected]. Follow him @jparis_sports