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Updated: April 23, 2010, 3:57 PM ET

Padres' start built with solid foundation

By Eduardo Perez
ESPN
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Who would have thought that on April 23 the San Diego Padres would be in first place in the National League West? San Diego has developed the paragon from within with the leadership of owner Jeff Moorad and general manager Jed Hoyer.

[+] EnlargeChase Headley
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesAdrian Gonzalez and pitching are the headliners for the Padres, but Chase Headley is also a reason San Diego has the early lead in the NL West.

The Padres have won six straight games, and they are getting it done with their best asset -- pitching. If you look at their starting rotation, it's Chris Young, Mat Latos, Kevin Correia and Clayton Richard. The way the team is assembled shows that Hoyer has a lot of confidence in his players.

Right-handed pitcher Jon Garland is a big acquisition. Even though he's 1-2, he has pitched well with a 2.86 ERA. Even when Heath Bell blew that save in Monday's game against the San Francisco Giants, the Padres were able to come back and win the game. It's pretty clear that the Padres are demonstrating superior skill and unity as a team.

Everyone talks about Adrian Gonzalez. Yes, he's good and, yes, he's among the best first basemen in the NL. However, many people overlook the Padres' Chase Headley, who is one of the best third basemen in that division. He's hitting .368, has a solid .429 OBP and has stolen five bases. This is a guy who has truly come into his own. Shipping Kevin Kouzmanoff to Oakland gave Headley the opportunity to feel comfortable playing third base instead of outfield. This team has excelled in small ball and timely hitting. For the Padres to continue to surprise the NL West, they have to keep the momentum going.

San Diego has been so good that it has had a different hero every game. One day it was the two Hairstons, the next game it was David Eckstein, then Gonzalez, plus Headley. It's been a nice stretch for the Padres, so we'll see whether they can hang on to this bit of good fortune as they go on the road. The pitching has allowed more than six runs just once, and that came in Colorado five games into the season. They aren't giving up outs when they are at the plate, and they aren't giving up easy bases when they are in the field.

The Padres are in first place because they've done it from within. They are creating an environment in which players not only want to go to San Diego because of the weather but now want to go because they want to win. It looks as if the Padres are heading in the right direction.

Eduardo Perez is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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