Padres Play Ball!

By Eric S. Page
|  Monday, Apr 5, 2010  |  Updated 8:46 AM PDT
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San Diego Padres 2010

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Jon Garland

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The Padres will give Jon Garland -- who had a brief, mostly unsuccessful stint with Arizona last season -- the ball on opening day on Monday in Arizona.

Garland disputed the perception that he hates throwing at Arizona's hitter-friendly Chase Field.
     
"It's not that I dislike it," he said on Sunday. "I'd rather the roof be closed than open. But that's just a personal preference. It's fine. You can't argue with pitching in any big league park, can you? It's a lot better than pitching in a minor league park. I understand why they like opening it and why they have it. It's good for the fans and it's good for the team."

The free agent acquisition told 619Sports.net that he was excited to start the season.

"You go to spring training and it just seems so long at times, there's so many games out there, so it's good to finally be in the clubhouse and be packing up and getting ready to start the season," Garland said.

The Padres, in their fourth season under manager Bud Black, stayed with the talented young lineup that finished last season 39-27. The heart of the offense, for now at least, remains two-time All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who had 40 homers and 99 RBIs last season. There could be speculation right up to the trade deadline about whether the cost-conscious Padres will deal their star player, in the final year of his contract.
     
It will be the first opening day as a manager for the 35-year-old Arizona manager A.J. Hinch, who took over when Bob Melvin was fired early last season.
     
"We're pretty hungry and ready to get started," Hinch said as he sat in the dugout Sunday. "Not that everything is going to be perfect for the entire year or even tomorrow, but I know that up to today, we are ready and I'm fortunate to be the manager of this club, to be in charge of these guys, and I feel like we have a good team."

For their part, Dan Haren and Brandon Webb were supposed to give Arizona a potent 1-2 punch in its attempt to climb out of the NL West cellar.
     
For now, it's just Haren in his first opening day start since he came to the Diamondbacks in 2008.
     
With Webb making a slower-than-expected comeback from shoulder surgery, Haren is the unquestioned ace of the pitching staff. He will be making his second career opening day start. His first was with Oakland in 2007.
     
"My first year here I had the home opener, which was nice," Haren said. "It was against the Dodgers. This will be an exciting environment, there will be tons of fans, it's going to be fun. It's a change. You go from pitching in Tucson or fields in Surprise. It's such a mellow atmosphere and you get out here and it's going to be electric."
     
Besides, it won't be long before the roof is closed for every game as the desert temperature rises into persistent triple-digits.
     
"What makes a big difference is if the windows (beyond the outfield) are open," Garland said. "If the roof's open I don't think it plays that much of a difference, but if you open up the windows it plays a little different. But I don't know, with how good guys are today, ballparks, I don't think it matters where you pitch. Guys are going to hit home runs, guys are going to score runs, guys are going to throw shutouts."
     
Garland was 4-5 at Chase last season with a 5.29 ERA. Overall, he was 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA with Arizona, then was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he was 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA.
     
"We're familiar with him. We've faced him twice since he took off our uniform," Hinch said. "So he's not going to have too many surprises for us. A reliable pitcher who throws strikes. ... He knows us, we know him. We'll have the roof open and it should be a good game."
     
The Diamondbacks say the game is sold out.
     
"The sun is supposed to be out. It should be a beautiful day," Hinch said.
     
Haren, 14-10 with a 3.14 ERA last season, expects better run support from the revamped Arizona lineup, with the return of left fielder Conor Jackson and the addition of first baseman Adam LaRoche. Last year, Haren started the season 0-3 despite a 1.89 ERA, becoming the first pitcher since 1983 to lose his first three starts with an ERA under 2.00.
     
"Our lineup has improved, bullpen is improved, I'm looking forward to getting out there and competing," he said. "I'm sure we'll score more runs, play better defense. That was the big key for us this spring."
     
The three-game series matches the bottom two teams in last year's division standings.
     
Arizona's' changes, in addition to LaRoche, include Kelly Johnson at second base, three new starters in the rotation, and three new relievers.

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