Injuries taking toll on Padres

The Padres thought they were finally building an offense last season, when they ranked fifth in the National League in runs after the All-Star break. But two weeks before Opening Day, the middle of their batting order has all but fallen apart

The San Diego Padres thought they were finally building an offense last season, when they ranked fifth in the National League in runs after the All-Star break.

But two weeks before Opening Day, the middle of their batting order has all but fallen apart:

•   The No. 3 hitter, third baseman Chase Headley, learned Monday that he will miss the first month of the season with a small fracture in his left thumb.

•   The No. 4 hitter, right fielder Carlos Quentin, has been dealing with soreness in his surgically repaired right knee.

•   And the No. 5 hitter, catcher Yasmani Grandal, will miss the first 50 games after testing positive for elevated testosterone levels in November.

Quentin is expected to play Opening Day. John Baker and Nick Hundley will share the catching dues during Grandal’s absence.

Third base, though, might be trickier.

Headley, who hit a career-high 31 homers last season and led the National League with 115 RBI, will be nearly impossible to replace.

The most logical candidate, Logan Forsythe, hasn’t played since March 7 due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot. The Padres’ top third-base prospect, Jedd Gyorko, has been playing second base this spring.

As if all that is not daunting enough, the Padres also are facing the loss of their top pitching prospect, right-hander Casey Kelly, who is likely to undergo Tommy John surgery.

"Injuries occur," manager Bud Black told reporters Monday upon learning the news on Headley. "You hate to see it happen, but it’s the nature of a physical sport like baseball."

Still, a low-revenue team like the Padres operates with less margin for error than wealthier clubs.

Even before losing Headley, club officials were worried about the possibility of a slow start due to the suspension of Grandal and questions about the team’s starting pitching.

The outlook for the rotation, though, is looking somewhat brighter, general manager Josh Byrnes told FOXSports.com on Monday night.

Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, Jason Marquis and Eric Stults figure to be the top four starters. Byrnes listed Tyson Ross, Anthony Bass, Robbie Erlin and Donn Roach among the team’s other options, and Cory Luebke, Andrew Cashner, Tim Stauffer are expected to return from injuries at some point this season.

The Padres’ early schedule is a mixed bag. They will play two series against both the powerful Los Angeles Dodgers and defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants in April, but also will play two against the Rockies and one each against the Mets, Brewers and Cubs.

In that first month, the Pads will be simply trying to survive.

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