Latest Padres Rebuild Starts This Week

The Friars start Spring Training on Tuesday. Will this youth movement be different?

For Padres fans “rebuilding” is a 4-letter word. Yet in 2017 it is the state of affairs for San Diego’s professional baseball team. However, to hear at least one high-profile Padre tell it, this time they seem to have found the formula for constructing a solid foundation.

“Our franchise is a little bit on the rebuild phase of things,” said former closer Trevor Hoffman, who serves as a Spring Training instructor for the Padres. “We’ve got a unique opportunity to get back in on ground level and watch these guys grow.”

When workouts start on Wednesday, February 15, in Peoria, AZ, the man who will no doubt be in the Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2018 will start working with the young group of Padres who might not have any idea what his big league resume looks like.

“I’ve gotta re-introduce myself,” said Hoffy, saying this time the re-imagining of the San Diego Padres feels just a little bit different.

“We’ve gone through this before. But I love the fact that we’re kind of all-in. It’s not like a half-in; half the roster is the kinds of guys that are retreads in a sense trying to still make a living and kicking it around. I think the youth is the direction you need to go.”

That of course means the fan base is going to … once again … have to be patient. Which is a big ask for a group that has not seen a post-season game won since 2006.

“Prospects are a commodity that can be utilized in different ways,” said Hoffman, perhaps hinting that if the Padres do jump in to contention with their group of higher-level prospects the younger guys could be used as trade bait in a playoff push. “I think people will buy in long-term if they understand that the process is something you’re committed to.”

Manager Andy Green concurs, looking forward to the chance to take a young team and really start teaching the game from the ground up.

“There’s real excitement when you get to deal with a young, impressionable, hungry baseball player,” said Green. “You get to help them propel themselves forward in their careers and chase down dreams they’ve had since they were little boys. That’s a fulfilling part of the job. I think this young group, especially of position players, there’s a ton of possibility out front. They all have things they’ve gotta work on and we’re willing to start drilling down those things in the next couple of days.”

At the start of Spring Training the Padres will have exactly one player on their 40-man roster over the age of 29. That’s left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter, who turns 30 the day he reports. A year ago Green could rely on veterans like Jon Jay and James Shields to lead the group. This year, who does he have for the youngsters to rely on?

“We have Clayton Richard in camp right now,” said Green. “He’s a guy on the pitching staff side we’re going to lean a lot on. Jhoulys Chacin is a veteran pitcher. I’m a big fan of the way Carter Capps goes about doing things. He’s back healthy and has already been throwing in Arizona. On the position player side we’re going to look at Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte. We’re young there and we’re going to embrace that.”

Green says the coaching staff, from himself to Darren Balsley to Mark McGwire to Alan Zinter, will take more of a leadership role instead of relying on veteran players. It’s one of several changes he sees taking place in his second go-round as a big league skipper.

“There are changes, but there are still similarities. There’ll still be music piping in Peoria, there’s still going to be energy there. There are things we’re going to focus on that will be a better use of our time than some of the things we did last year. Overall it’s going to be about good, fundamentally-sound baseball. You don’t redefine that wheel you just get back to going it.”

Having a guy like Hoffman around can certainly help. A stickler for routine and details, the 7-time All-Star embraces the chance to show young players what it takes to be Major Leaguers.

“I always look to get back to say, Hey there’s a pot hole coming up that I stepped in pretty good so try and stay away from that,” said Hoffman. “They’re going to have to learn on their own. They’re going to have to learn on their own and go through it themselves. It never hurts until you get smacked in the face your own way. To be able to learn at this level; it’s hard to explain how important that is.”

The 2017 Padres will have to endure a lot of growing pains (and likely a lot of losses) but unlike past installments they should not be boring to watch. If enough of the youngsters develop the way the Friars expect them to then this rebuild should end up with them being exciting in October games in the next few years.

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