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Updated: May 4, 2010, 1:51 AM ET

Pitching in for a strong Padres' start

Kruk By John Kruk
ESPN
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On May 3, who would have thought the San Diego Padres would be sitting at 16-9? Well, they've done it with a solid starting rotation. Last year, they got off to a good start with a pretty young team and then suddenly folded. The Padres won't win the division, but they are certainly off to a great start and have reason to be excited about the next couple of years.

[+] EnlargeJon Garland
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziThe addition of Jon Garland is one reason the Padres are off to a surprisingly strong start.

Starting pitching is the key to the Padres' recent success. They have a couple of veterans in Kevin Correia and Jon Garland, and once Chris Young returns they will have three veterans. David Eckstein, Will Venable and Yorvit Torrealba bring experience to the team as well. It's only May, but this team already has demonstrated more consistency than last year. At one point, you never knew what you were going to get out of the Padres, but they are starting to develop a true identity. This year, they are more settled because they don't have the "what-ifs" surrounding Jake Peavy to deal with anymore.

Chase Headley finally looks like he is the real deal. He was an infielder, and they had him play in the outfield because they had Kevin Kouzmanoff. Now that Kouzmanoff is gone, he's transitioned to third base and he's hitting well, and that's what they need in that lineup. They need someone like Adrian Gonzalez who can hit.

The addition of Garland from Arizona has been fantastic for this team because he's served as the Padres' anchor. Young was supposed to be their ace, but he has only had one start because he's been hurt. Clayton Richard, even though his record isn't great at 1-2, has pitched pretty well. Kevin Correia has four wins. Wade LeBlanc has come in and filled in for Young and he's 2-0. In three starts, he's given up only one run in 17 1/3 innings. But the guy San Diego is waiting on is Mat Latos. His stuff is good, but if he continues to develop this team has the potential of doing big things.

Gonzalez seems to be handling all the trade talk well. I talked to the Padres hitting coach, Randy Ready, and he said Gonzalez has been an absolute professional about everything. He said his work ethic and preparation for games has been the same as it's been his whole career.

All in all, the Padres have strong guys who can hit in the middle of their lineup, a deep rotation and one of the best closers in Heath Bell. In a couple of years, this could be the team to beat in the NL West.

John Kruk is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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