The Padres made three cuts today. One, catcher Chris Stewart, was far from surprising.
The other two, outfielder Chris Denorfia and lefty Wade LeBlanc, were a bit more surprising. Matt Stairs is older, worse defensively, and left-handed (like the majority of the Padres outfielders) than Denorfia, and yet he beat out the former Reds and A’s outfielder for the thirteenth position player spot.
Stairs was my favorite player a few years back, and I still have a soft spot for the guy. He’s also setting a big league record for most teams played on, and has a good shot at breaking the big league record for pinch homers. Good for him. Stairs can still contribute walks and power off the bench; it’s not like he’s got nothing to offer.
It just bugs me that the Padres are picking him over Denorfia for what seem to be largely sentimental reasons.
I have to credit LeBlanc with an absolutely dominant spring that gives me a bit of hope he could be a useful back-of-the-rotation starter. He pitched well enough to be on the club, but with the team committed to Clayton Richard (however unfortunately) at the #4 spot and Mat Latos impressing even more than LeBlanc, there wasn’t much point in the soft-tossing lefty staying around in the majors. The Padres will likely look to him to fill a rotation slot if anyone gets hurt or struggles.
With Latos and Richard announced today as the two starters rounding out the rotation, that leaves three pitchers–Sean Gallagher, Tim Stauffer, and Adam Russell–vying for two slots in the bullpen. It appears all three will initially make the roster, with Joe Thatcher possibly opening the year on the DL. Those three will need to pitch well the first few weeks of the year to keep their jobs. In particular, Gallagher and Stauffer, who are out of options, will need to impress to avoid being stuck in waivers limbo.
I think the Padres missed a bit on the Stairs/Denorfia swap, but in general, they did a pretty solid job of picking the right players to break camp. Let the season begin.