Rebuilding Padres have work to do to catch up in NL West
By BERNIE WILSON
SAN DIEGO (AP) Deep in rebuilding mode, the San Diego Padres finished only three games better this year than last year.
That's good and bad.
Good because some people thought they could lose 100 games. A 15-30 start had them on the way.
Bad because as optimistic as the organization is about young talent in the pipeline, the Padres have a long way to go to be a factor in the competitive NL West.
The Padres finished fourth at 71-91, 33 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. While the Dodgers easily won the division despite a late-season slump, Arizona and Colorado took the NL's two wild-card spots.
San Diego lost seven of its last nine.
"I feel like we're better than we've played," manager Andy Green said during the season's final week. "That's probably not going to be the common opinion outside the industry. I see there's more in there, and when you see there's more in there you haven't exceeded my expectation for you. When you look around the diamond, there's something you can expect more of from each guy than you've gotten. I think that's what the job of a manager or coach is, to see what exists inside of somebody and believe in a high level of expectation and hold all of them to that level."
The Padres were spared a last-place finish because of San Francisco's unexpected plunge to the basement.
Here are some things to know about the Padres, who have missed the postseason for 11 straight seasons and have had only two winning records in that span:
PATIENT OWNERSHIP: It's been five years since an ownership group headed by Peter Seidler, a third-generation member of the O'Malley family, and local businessman Ron Fowler bought the Padres, and it's still waiting for its first winning season. Seidler and Fowler believe the Padres will be competitive by 2019 or 2020. They stood by general manager A.J. Preller after he was suspended for 30 days by MLB last fall after an investigation of the team's handling of medical records of players it was trading. They have OK'd the GM's plans to rebuild via the draft and international signings after a failed attempt at reloading via high-priced veterans prior to the 2015 season.
In August, the Padres gave Green a three-year contract extension through 2021. He is 139-185.
HITTING COACH: The Padres are looking for their ninth hitting coach since Petco Park opened in 2004. Alan Zinter was fired on Sept. 1. Green said they needed a "different voice" to tutor the Padres, who finished with the most anemic offense in the majors. They had the majors' worst run differential by far at minus-212.
MR. SEPTEMBER: Right fielder Hunter Renfroe rebounded from a monthlong demotion to Triple-A to finish with 26 home runs, breaking Nate Colbert's club rookie record of 24 in 1969.
Renfroe was part of the Padres' so-called first wave of young talent to arrive in September 2016. He responded to his first big league action with four homers and 14 RBIs in 11 games. He became the first player to homer onto the roof of the Western Metal Supply Co. Building in Petco Park's left-field corner.
Renfroe struggled in midseason and was sent down to Triple-A on Aug. 18. After being recalled on Sept. 18, he hit six homers in 11 games, including one in his first game back and his first three-homer game.
"It's cool," he said of the rookie record. "Obviously missing that month, this feels pretty special to me. I just want to keep going and keep hitting more. ... I think I have gotten more patient. I think I've kind of changed my approach, changed my way of thinking at the plate and got to keep evolving."
He finished with a .231 average and 140 strikeouts, with only 27 walks.
THE WAVES: Renfroe was joined by center fielder Manuel Margot and second baseman Carlos Asuaje in the first wave of talent that came up late last year. They were joined this season by right-hander Dinelson Lamet. Some in the organization think prized prospect Fernando Tatis Jr., an 18-year-old shortstop, could make the jump by late next season.
OLDER GUYS: The Padres gave 34-year-old lefty workhorse Clayton Richard (8-15, 4.79) a two-year contract extension through 2019, in part to tap his veteran clubhouse leadership. While his spot in the rotation is virtually assured to start next season, he could get bumped to the pen if younger talent emerges.
Jhoulys Chacin would like to return after going 13-10 with a 3.89 ERA, including 9-3 with a 1.79 ERA at Petco Park. Closer Brad Hand, the team's only All-Star, was the subject of trade talk before the deadline and could be dealt in the offseason. He had 21 saves.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Updated October 2, 2017