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The San Diego Padres were one of the big spenders this off-season, acquiring multiple big-name players in trades and free agency, and now will have a payroll reach $100 million.  First year general manager A.J. Preller was not afraid to swing for the fences, trading for a completely new outfield that consists of former MVP candidate Matt Kemp, ex-Brave Justin Upton, and former AL ROY Wil Myers.  While the offense is sure to be improved, it is the Padres rotation that will have them playing baseball in October for the first time since 2006.

The top four starters in the Padres rotation are set, and they have a combined 222 big league wins.  Hold-overs Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and Tyson Ross will team up with free agent signee Big Game James Shields to arguably have the best rotation in the NL West.  The question mark the Padres have heading into spring training is who will step up and lock down the fifth starter job.  Here is a look at the realistic candidates:

1. Brandon Morrow- RHP- 30 years old
Brandon Morrow is a veteran pitcher who has spent time with both the Mariners and Blue Jays organizations.  Morrow has a career 42 wins, but has dealt with a multitude of injuries.  He could only make 16 starts the last two season in Toronto due to chronic arm and hand issues, and when he did suit up his ERA ballooned to 5.65.  If healthy, Morrow has a realistic chance to win the job this spring, but will he stay healthy?

2. Odrisamer Despaigne- RHP- 27 years old
Despaigne was signed heading into the 2014 season once he defected from Cuba.  While most Cuban baseball players that come to the big leagues aren’t in their late 20’s Despaigne shot through the Padres minor league system fast.  He was pitching in the big leagues by the early summer and performed well in 16 outings with a solid 3.36 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.  Despaigne will look to build off of that performance and will be Morrow’s biggest competition this spring.

3. Robbie Erlin- LHP- 22 years old
The young southpaw Erlin is a sleeper to take the fifth starter’s job away from either Morrow or Despaigne.  Manager Bud Black has been quoted in the past that he believes Erlin will be a solid starter in the big leagues, but may need time to develop his pitches.  Erlin has Black’s belief in him, as well as the Padres rotation containing only right handed pitchers.  Erlin would be the lone lefty in the rotation, but he will have to perform better than his 2014 stat line, in which he produced a 4-5 record with a 4.99 ERA  in 13 appearances with 11 starts.

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Projected winner: Odrisamer Despaigne– He will need a solid Cactus League showing, but based on last year’s output Despaigne should be able to lock down the job.  I can see Morrow staying with the club, but in a bullpen capacity, while Erlin will start the season in the minors.

Dan SchalkAnalysisBaseballMLB#BigGameJamesShields,#MLB,Atlanta Braves,Los Angeles Dodgers,San Diego Padres,spring training,Tampa Bay Rays,Toronto Blue JaysThe San Diego Padres were one of the big spenders this off-season, acquiring multiple big-name players in trades and free agency, and now will have a payroll reach $100 million.  First year general manager A.J. Preller was not afraid to swing for the fences, trading for a completely new...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?