PHOENIX – The San Diego Padres haven’t had their All-Star shortstop for a single inning this season.
Their MVP candidate hasn’t played in 10 days.
They are playing with a short bench and have offensive holes at three different positions.
Still, there was music blaring in the visitor’s clubhouse Wednesday afternoon after their 4-0 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, laughter that was even louder, and even faced with playing the next four days against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers at home, the boys in brown were almost giddy.
Scared? Apprehensive? Concerned?
The Dodgers have ruled the National League West for years.
Now, going to Dodger Stadium on Thursday for the first time this season to begin a four-game series, the Padres can’t wait to show what a difference a year can make.
No Fernando Tatis Jr.? No problem.
No Manny Machado? No biggie.
No manager for 20 games? No worries.
Precious little offense coming from the outfield, first base and DH positions? No fear.
The Padres, 46-31, are rolling into town with the third-best record in the National League, just 1 ½ games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.
“Our confidence is sky-high, the highest since I’ve been here,’’ says Machado, who hopes to be in the lineup this weekend after being out with a badly sprained ankle. “It’s just different now. A big part of it is the coaching staff we have, and [manager] Bob [Melvin] is the key to that. He gives us the confidence that we’ll go out there and win every day.
“We’ll know we’ll be there. We’ll be there to the end. Let other teams do the talking.’’
It would have been easy, if not natural, for the Padres to sit around and feel sorry for themselves the moment they heard this spring that Tatis broke his wrist in a motorcycle accident. Tatis originally was hoping to be back by early June, but the latest bone scan this week revealed that he likely will need at least two more week before he can even go on a rehab assignment. If he returns before Aug….