by Tyler Handlan
PEORIA, Ariz. — Perhaps nothing captures the ever-changing nature of the Padres rotation more than this:
Christian Friedrich and Luis Perdomo led the Padres in games started last season with 23 and 20, respectively. But this spring, they have had to try and win back those jobs as starters.
The San Diego front office decided to overhaul the rotation and add veteran arms.
Entering the final stages of spring training, the three pitchers set for the Padres rotation were right-handers Jhoulys Chacin and Jered Weaver and left-hander Clayton Richard. The Padres have acquired all of them since the middle of last season.
Based on the comments of manager Andy Green, the remaining two spots are up for grabs among four pitchers: Perdomo, the right-hander who was a rookie last season; Jarred Cosart, a young veteran; right-hander Trevor Cahill, entering his ninth big-league season; and Friedrich, the left-hander whose arm soreness will most likely not heal in time for him to get a place in the season-opening rotation.
Richard, Weaver and Chacin — the top three starters — combined for 21 wins in the majors last season.
No matter which two pitchers take the two open spots, the rotation is due to have at most 35 big-league wins from last season. That’s two fewer than Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta combined for last season for the Cubs.
But Green expressed confidence in his starting pitchers.
“There’s a reason to believe in their future success and there’s reason, if you want to, to doubt them so they’ve got something to prove to people,” Green said. “I think all of them are hungry, all of them believe in themselves and we collectively believe in them.”
“Guys understand that’s how this game’s played,” Richard said on the competition among the pitching staff. “Everyone’s always competing for a job, and that’s why this is the top level, and it’s the best of the best because there’s competition to get there. I don’t think anyone shies away from that.”
If the Padres have any plans to improve on their 68-94 record in 2016, last in the National League West, they might need their more seasoned pitchers to set the tone.
Cahill and Richard both have eight seasons in the majors, and Weaver has 11 years, topped by a 20-win season in 2012 for the Los Angeles Angels.
The younger starting pitchers on the Padres have been absorbing the wisdom and work ethic of the older guys this spring.
“They all have their own individual thing,” starting pitcher Zach Lee said before he was sent to minor-league camp.
Lee then cited Richard.
“Clayton’s a superior worker,” Lee said. “A real veteran leader that will kind of anchor down the squad, being able to mentor the young guys but also kind of take care of business.”
Richard agrees that veterans can set an example.
“You see what their work habits are like,” Richard said. “And how they go through their process, and how they get their work done. It helps everyone else to see that in action and see what’s made them successful in the past.”