Petco Park will be a little less pitcher friendly when it begins its ninth season of play in 2013. The Padres announced Monday that they’d bring the right field wall in 11 feet and shorten the distances from home plate to right center from 402 feet to 391 and from home to left-center from 402 feet to 390.
Petco has been viewed as baseball’s toughest park for hitters since it opened in 2004, and it’s been especially tough on left-handers. Still, it’s hard to argue that it’s been a bad thing for the Padres. It’s certainly helped them lure free agent pitchers who were hoping a year in San Diego could help them rebuild their value. And while free agent hitters have stayed away, it’s not as though the Padres were ever interested in spending the money to lure big names anyway.
In eight years in Petco, the Padres have gone to the postseason twice, won at least 87 games four times and lost 90 games just twice. They’ve had a payroll over $70 million just once in that span, and it was actually in their worst year: a 2008 season in which they went 63-99.
Still, today’s changes probably won’t radically change the way the ballpark plays. It figures to remain pitcher friendly, just not as much so as in the past.
We wrote a lot about Casey Kelly on this site circa 2010-12.
It was understandable. Kelly was a big-time draftee for the Red Sox and famously split time as a shortstop and a pitcher in the minors, with some people even wondering if he could do it full time. The Sox put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, as he became the top overall prospect in the Boston organization as a pitcher. He then made news when he was sent to San Diego — along with Anthony Rizzo — in the famous Adrian Gonzalez trade in December 2010.
He made his big league debut for the Padres in late August of 2012, holding a pretty darn good Atlanta Braves team scoreless for six innings, striking out four. He would pitch in five more games in the season’s final month to not very good results but missed all of 2013 and most of 2014 thanks to Tommy John surgery.
He wouldn’t make it back to the bigs until 2015 — pitching only three games after being converted to a reliever — before the Padres cut him loose, trading him to the Braves for Christian Bethancourt who, like a younger Kelly, the Padres thought could be a two-way player, catching and relieving. That didn’t work for him either, but I digress.
Kelly made a career-high ten appearances for a bad Braves team in 2016, was let go following the season and was out of the majors again in 2017 after the Cubs released him a couple of months after he failed to make the team out of spring training. He resurfaced with the Giants this past season for seven appearances. The Giants cut him loose last month.
Now Kelly’s journey takes him across the ocean. He announced on Instagram last night that he’s signed with the LG Twins in the Korean Baseball Organization. He seems pretty happy and eager about it in his little video there. I don’t blame him, as he’ll make $1 million for them, as opposed to staying here and almost certainly winding up in a Triple-A rotation making $60K or whatever it is veteran minor leaguers make.
This was probably way too many words to devote to a journeyman heading to play in Korea, but we so often forget top prospects once they fail to meet expectations. We also tend to forget all of the Tommy John casualties, focusing instead on the Tommy John successes. As such, I wanted to think a bit about Casey Kelly. I hope things work out well for him in the KBO and a baseball player who once seemed so promising can, after a delay, find success of his own.