Jedd Gyorko has played for the San Diego Padres since 2013, but even he felt out of sorts at spring training this year.
“It’s funny,” Padres.com writer Corey Brock said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “He thought he was going to need name tags in spring training to figure out who was who.”
That’s what happens when you have a roster overhaul like the Padres had this past offseason.
“I think those six weeks in Arizona really helped as far as assimilating the new guys in with the old guys,” Brock said. “It’s been so interesting the way A.J. Preller, a first-year general manager who’s never done this before, went about building this team (and) revamping the roster.”
There were 15 Padres on the Opening Day roster who were not there a year ago. Since the end of the 2014 season, San Diego made 10 trades involving 38 players.
“Notable names. Real guys. Something that manager Bud Black has not had in his first eight years,” Brock said. “That’s no small apology to the players that have passed through here, but (now they have) legitimate All-Stars. A former Rookie of the Year in Wil Myers, the starting pitching is very strong, James Shields – and lo and behold, Craig Kimbrel falls in their lap on Sunday on Easter. How’s that for an Easter egg hunt? You get one of the best closers in the game. So yeah, it’s been really interesting to see how he’s gone about building this. I think Padres fans finally have something to be really excited about.”
Kimbrel, 26, closed 42+ games in each of the last four seasons in Atlanta. San Diego got 41 saves last season from Huston Street (now with the Angels), Joaquin Benoit and Kevin Quackenbush.
“Preller looked at this as an opportunity to really strengthen that back end of the bullpen and viewed it as an opportunity he simply couldn’t pass up,” Brock said. “And when that opportunity came, he seized it right before the 25-man deadline was made. This deal was done less than 24 hours before Opening Day. Kimbrel had to fly all the way from Miami all the way out to Los Angeles. He arrived 45 minutes before the game. He came through the clubhouse doors and his teammates asked him why he was late – joking, of course.
“But it kind of lends itself to the mood of these guys,” Brock continued. “These newcomers have really bonded pretty well, and the chemistry is pretty good. It’s been wild. Just when you think (Preller is) done, he adds James Shields in February. When you think he’s really, really done, he trades for one of the best closers in the game. It’s been fascinating.”
The Padres (1-3) dropped three of four to open the season, but expectations remain quite high for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2006 and has had just two winning seasons under Black.
“As I mentioned, he hasn’t had a whole lot to work with his previous eight years here,” Brock said. “So the bar is certainly a lot higher now. Especially with the advent of the second Wild Card, it allows a few more teams to stay relevant and kind of hang around a little bit as we get into September. I would expect that they’re going to be there.”
Padres fans couldn’t be happier.
“People are just floored by what’s happened and are truly excited about the potential of what could happen,” Brock said.