Tucson Padres: Ugly numbers dominated ugly season

2012-09-06T00:00:00Z Tucson Padres: Ugly numbers dominated ugly seasonDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Triple-A baseball came to Tucson in 1969 and, with the exception of 2009 and 2010, has been here every year since.

Only once, in 1976, did a Tucson team win fewer games than the Tucson Padres did this season. That year's Tucson Toros went 54-88 in the Pacific Coast League. This year's Tucson Padres matched their loss total, but finished 56-88 in the 144-game season.

"You want to teach the players in your organization about winning, but you can't do that when you're not winning," Tucson manager Terry Kennedy said. "It was everything for us this year.

"When the starters were OK, the bullpen wasn't. When the bullpen was great, our starters couldn't go deep, and then when we would pitch, we wouldn't hit."

That combination led to some ugly numbers:

• The 112 home runs the team hit was second-worst in the league.

• The pitching staff's 5.13 ERA was also second-worst.

• The 1,520 hits the staff gave up was the most.

"It was a learning experience for a lot of us," said pitcher Colt Hynes, who was second on the team with 21 starts and 126 2/3 innings pitched. "Most of our roster was in Double-A last year, and it's difficult learning lessons at a new level.

"I think once we got acclimated to the level, we played better baseball."

There was another reason for Tucson's struggles, and Kennedy thinks it may be the biggest.

"The roster turnover all season was a killer," Kennedy said.

The team had 192 transactions, 24 more than last year, which was Kennedy's previous high as a manager.

Even more staggering: The team, with a 25-man active roster, employed 76 players this season.

The San Diego Padres suffered a storm of injuries early in the season, forcing a number of call-ups from Tucson.

When a player was called up, he was often replaced at the Triple-A level by a player from rookie ball, rather than Double-A or High-A.

"Double-A San Antonio was in a race for a while and so was Lake Elsinore," Kennedy said. "They want consistency there, but they are not worried about that at our level.

"It makes it tough."

The losing led to another year of bad attendance for the Padres. Tucson drew 200,991 fans this season, an average of 2,956 per game. It drew 242,136 fans last season.

The Padres' attendance was the lowest in the league by an eye-popping 110,525.

"You definitely notice a difference in the amount of people that come out for home games as opposed to when we're on the road," Hynes said. "Fans can definitely create momentum, and that's something that wasn't there for us.

"At the same time, you can't let that get to you when you're out there."

There were still a few positives for the Padres this season.

The team enjoyed 92 games of infielder Jedd Gyorko and saw him belt 24 home runs.

He started the year with San Antonio and finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs between the two levels.

"Gyorko, no doubt, turned in a better year than we expected," Kennedy said. "He was fantastic and stood out the most."

The year was also good to former Arizona Wildcats pitcher Cory Burns, who was traded to the Padres from Cleveland in the offseason and shined in his new setting. He was promoted to San Diego late in the season and has pitched 9 2/3 innings for the big-league club so far.

"Burnsy was a fringe guy coming into the year, and he made people sit up and notice," Kennedy said. "He's been OK in San Diego, and I think he'll just continue to get better and better."

Manager's superlatives

Tucson manager Terry Kennedy offered his picks for hitting MVP, pitching MVP and most improved for the 2012 Padres season.

• Hitting MVP: Jedd Gyorko (92 games, .328 avg., 24 HRs, 83 RBIs)

• Pitching MVP: Cory Burns (66 IP, 3.14 ERA, 78 Ks)

• Most improved: Pitcher Jorge Reyes (152 IP, 10 wins, 99 Ks)

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