The Padres, who opened their season last Monday by hosting the NL West rival San Francisco Giants, have made a number of changes from the squad who took the field a year ago for Opening Day.
Among the departed are second baseman Mark Loretta (Boston), outfielder/infielder Xavier Nady (New York Mets), catcher Ramon Hernandez (Baltimore) and pitcher Adam Eaton (Texas). Among those added are outfielder
Mike Cameron (New York Mets), catcher Mike Piazza (New York Mets), and infielder Vinny Castilla (Washington).
As with any run to a pennant, the Padres will look to avoid the injury bug this season. Both Khalil Greene and Jake Peavy spent time on the injured list last season, and head coach Bruce Bochy knows that having Greene in the lineup each day at shortstop and Peavy leading the starting rotation, are keys to victory.
And just where might last year's division champions (swept in first round of playoffs by St. Louis), who finished just over .500 at 82-80, finish come fall?
Projections from most experts have the Padres finishing anywhere from first to third. With the Barry Bonds controversy swirling in San Francisco, a new manager and new faces in Los Angeles, and an always unpredictable squad in Colorado, the NL West appears up for grabs again this season.
For 2006, the Padres will feature their usual home battles with NL West rivals San Francisco and Los Angeles. The interleague schedule will bring Seattle (June 23-25) and Oakland (June 27-29) to town later this season.
Other attractions include visits from the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals (May 26-28) and a trio of visits from the rival Dodgers (April 28-30, June 13-15, Aug. 21-23).
In the chase for numbers category, a pair of future Hall of Famers are in the hunt. Piazza (397) is three homers shy of 400, and reliever Trevor Hoffman (436) is 43 saves away from breaking the all-time mark of 478 set by Lee Smith.
On the promotional side of things, the Padres will give away a number of desirable items this season, including caps (June 9, Aug. 2), beach towels (June 23), and mini-bobbleheads (Aug. 18). Fireworks are slated for April 8, June 10, July 1, Aug. 5 and Sept. 23.