Padres: Who Will Fill 5th Spot in Rotation?

A couple young pitchers look to step into role after Josh Johnson injury

With the weekend news of starting pitcher Josh Johnson out for at least a month with a forearm injury, the Padres are in reshuffle mode for their starting rotation. How that will shake out remains to be seen.

Here's what we do know: Andrew Cashner will still start the opener, followed by Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross. Eric Stults will most likely move into the No. 4 spot. We also know that, with two days off in the first week of the season, the team likely won't need a No. 5 starter until April 8.

Who will that be?

It looks like it’s a battle between Matt Wisler and Robbie Erlin for the last spot in the rotation.

Wisler got the first chance to state his case as he started Sunday in place of Johnson with mixed results. The top-five prospect in the organization gave up five runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings, but did allow only one extra-base hit. And the Padres pulled out an 11-7 win -- even if it is a meaningless exhibition result.

Manager Bud Black praised the No. 5 prospect in the organization before the game on Sunday.

"He's a young pitcher that has a lot of poise and his game is calm," Black told "Just the person, you feel good about, because he has a good head on his shoulders. He thinks the right things."

Erlin would make more sense, for a few reasons. First, he has Major League experience. The 23-year-old lefty made nine starts with the team last year, striking out 40 and putting up a respectable 4.12 ERA in 54 2/3 innings. That also means his service clock is already ticking.

“Even though he is a young pitcher as far as service time, he's been around us in big league camp,” Black said. “He's been around our players. He knows our expectations. He has high expectations of himself. So when he pitches in a big league game it's not new to him.”

Donn Roach and Tim Stauffer have been floated as options. But Black more or less ruled them out right now. Another young arm, Jesse Hahn, was optioned to Double-A on Sunday.

Black also said the team probably won’t be looking to make a trade to fill the hole.

“We have enough quality pitching internally to fill out our 12-man pitching staff and our Triple-A staff and our Double-A staff,” he said.

So the Padres will play the hand they are dealt, at least for the four-to-six weeks Johnson is expected to be out. Will that be enough to keep them competitive through the first month of the season? Looking forward on the schedule, the Padres have just one off day from April 10 to May 12, which means the fifth starter will have to take the mound at least four or five times.

Looking Ahead: The Friars finish up the Arizona portion of spring training on Wednesday, hosting games against the Cubs and Royals in Peoria before returning to San Diego on Wednesday. They play a pair of games at University of San Diego on Friday and Saturday against the Indians before opening up the regular season on Sunday’s nationally televised game against the Dodgers.

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