Tucson Padres: Padres heading north to start year

2013-04-03T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Padres heading north to start yearDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson Padres will play 144 games over the next 152 days.

For new manager Pat Murphy, his job is simple.

"I'm like an offensive lineman - it's time for me to open holes and protect them," the former Arizona State coach said. "I want to provide a winning culture and play winning baseball.

"Does that translate into winning games? Not always, but it's my job to try."

Murphy will try to resurrect a team that has finished in last place in back-to-back seasons.

He inherits a squad that features 15 players with major-league experience and a couple of intriguing prospects.

The Padres will open their season with eight straight road games at Salt Lake City and Colorado Springs beginning Thursday before returning to Kino Stadium for the April 12 home opener.

"Who cares?" Murphy asked of opening on the road. "It's baseball, it's a game. It doesn't matter where you play. Your record at the end of eight games does not define your season."

Here's a closer look at the roster.

Starting pitchers

The personnel: Tim Stauffer; Sean O'Sullivan; Robbie Erlin; Thad Weber; Keyvius Sampson

The prospect: Erlin was rated as the ninth-best Padres prospect by MLB.com in the offseason and for good reason. A left-hander who works off his fastball, Erlin went 4-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts for Double-A San Antonio last season. He missed nearly three months with elbow tendinitis, but is healthy now.

The veteran: Stauffer has made 70 starts in the major leagues and was San Diego's opening day starter in 2011. He is working his way back from elbow surgery, and his time in Tucson could be limited.

Quotable: "It's going to be a challenge pitching in the PCL, but it just comes down to keeping the ball down and executing your pitches. That's really what it's all about. It will be a learning process." - Erlin

Bullpen

The personnel: Brad Boxberger; Fautino De Los Santos; Brandon Kloess; Tommy Layne; Miles Mikolas; Jorge Reyes; Daniel Stange

The familiar face: Boxberger appeared in 37 games for Tucson last year and sported a 2.70 ERA. He struck out 62 batters in 43 1/3 innings and was mostly used in late-inning situations. He just missed out on making San Diego's bullpen.

The man with a new role: Reyes started 24 games for Tucson last season and pitched a team-high 152 innings. Reyes appeared out of the bullpen 10 times at the end of the season and was strong in the role. The Padres will keep him in the bullpen to start 2013.

Quotable: "It's about getting outs. Potential and who puts up numbers on the gun doesn't matter. It's about the guys who gets guys out. There are some big-league arms down there, and I look at it as my challenge to get them out of here." - Murphy

Infield

The personnel: Jason Hagerty; Rene Rivera; Dean Anna; Kyle Blanks; Anthony Contreras; Cody Decker; Jonathan Galvez; Jesus Merchan; Gregorio Petit

The big stick: Blanks is a mountain of a man at 6 feet 6 inches and 255 pounds. He has 88 career minor-league home runs and 20 more in the big leagues.

He'll man first base and look to stay healthy, something he's struggled with in his career.

The journeyman: Merchan is back with the Padres after joining the team midseason in 2012. He played for the former Tucson Sidewinders in 2008 and has played for seven Triple-A teams in his career without ever making it to the majors.

Quotable: "Blanks can play some outfield, too. I hope he's not here very long, to be frank with you. He has great talents and is a great person.

"Now it's time for him to say goodbye to Triple-A." - Murphy

Outfielders

The personnel: Travis Buck; Sawyer Carroll; Jaff Decker; Daniel Robertson

The big-leaguer: Buck will open a season in the minor leagues for the first time since 2006. He played 33 games last season with the Houston Astros before being sent down to Triple-A.

The anchor: Robertson played in 129 games for Tucson last season and batted .302 and was the team's representative in the All-Star Game.

Quotable: "I think that's an exciting part of our club. D-Rob, in my mind, epitomizes what it means to be a baseball player.

"Travis has the potential to redefine his game and be a mainstay. Jaff is a good prospect, and Sawyer is a grizzly veteran." - Murphy

Season opener

• What: Tucson at Salt Lake

• When: 5:35 p.m. Thursday

• Radio: 1290-AM

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

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