The first game of Spring Training is hardly meaningful, but nonetheless Padres manager Bud Black announced who is first starting pitcher will be. Local boy Sean O'Sullivan will get the nod ahead of any of the rotation favorites on Friday, February 22. I'm going to assume that even with the right hander 25 year old's San Diego ties most Padres fans haven't heard of him. He had major league stints in each of three seasons from 2009-2011, but spent the entire total 2012 in AAA for both Las Vegas (Blue Jays) and Omaha (Royals). His ERA is a lofty 6.13 in 43 major league games (34 starts). He's a pitch to contact guy who gives up a bit too many home runs for his own good.
We can only speculate as to why O'Sullivan gets to toe the slab first. First of all, as Friar fans are well aware, a number of pitchers had injuries in 2012 and are being eased into Spring Training or missing most of it all together. Corey Luebke, Joe Wieland, Andrew Cashner, Tim Stauffer were of course never going to be the ones chosen for the Spring Debut. Robbie Erlin, Anthony Bass and Casey Kelly didn't have the healthiest 2012s and probably could use a little extra time to get ready before pitching in games. Edinson Volquez is going off to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Perhaps, some of the other guys ticketed for the rotation or will be one of favorites competing for the spot don't need to worked too hard too early. This is going to be a longer Spring Training than most. So those guys, Clayton Richard, Jason Marquis and Eric Stults, will get held back a little before really ramping up. That leaves you with guys like O'Sullivan, Tyson Ross and Freddy Garcia. Perhaps Garcia needs some extra time after signing fairly late. Tyson Ross has been announced as the starting pitcher for the second game.
Pitchers arms are finicky and planning how they get their game reps before the season is tricky. Especially when planning a long spring training like this one, a few guys coming of injury and a couple of rotation spots up for grabs. The other thing that's going on here is that the team wants to get a good look at some of the fringe guys who can start. As we learned last year, sometimes you have to go quite deep in depth chart to get pitching and a guy like O'Sullivan will be trying to show that he's worth getting a call over a waiver wire pickup. So, even if we're all hoping that the situation never arises where the team has to go that deep again, if O'Sullivan shows us something it'll be nice to know there's a little more extra depth than last season.
Prospect Adys Portillo and Non Roster Invitee Thad Weber will also pitch on Friday. Portillo is 21 and has pitched mainly in the lower minors, but got some starts in AA last year. Thad Weber is 28 and has pitched in AAA each of the last 3 seasons, including 3 starts for Tucson last year.