Yu Darvish at spring training. Photo by Chris Stone
Yu Darvish at spring training in 2021. Photo by Chris Stone

The San Diego Padres take the field in Arizona Thursday to open a new season in which they will aim to wipe away memories of 2021’s stunning collapse.

They still will be targeting the Los Angeles Dodgers, again predicted to win the National League West, and the San Francisco Giants, who unexpectedly ascended last year to snatch the division title from L.A.

The Padres, in the mix during the first half, fell off drastically after the All-Star break, a dismal performance that cost Jayce Tingler his job and led to veteran skipper Bob Melvin’s hiring.

It’s another chance to, if not take the NL West, at least to make the playoffs, as most baseball observers see happening, especially in the expanded format – 12 teams – recently approved by players as part of their new labor agreement.

So, despite the late start to the spring as the lockout wore on, and one big obstacle already in his path, Melvin is ready to see what he can do with all the tools with which his new team has armed him.

“I’ve never managed a team with this type of payroll,” he told MLB.com, “so I’m looking forward to it.”

The obstacle though is large – he won’t have the best tool in the team’s box – young star Fernando Tatis Jr., until he recovers from wrist surgery.

Melvin, who last managed in Oakland, saw a familiar face added to his new team earlier this week in starter Sean Manaea, acquired in a trade with the A’s Sunday. The lefty went 11-10 last year in 32 starts.

The Padres already had traded for former New York Yankee Luke Voit and former Dodger Matt Beaty.

The Padres though will be without catcher Victor Caratini, traded Wednesday to the Milwaukee Brewers as Austin Nola is expected to get the nod behind the plate most of the time. Closer Mark Melancon departed for Arizona. Perennial prospect MacKenzie Gore will start the year in AAA though he impressed the brass in the spring.

Yu Darvish, in his second season in San Diego, faces Madison Bumgarner, with the start against the Diamondbacks set for 6:40 p.m. Thursday. Manaea follows Friday, then Joe Musgrove.

The Padres move on to San Francisco after their four-game set in Arizona, before heading to Petco Park for their home opener April 14, when they host Atlanta.

Meanwhile, see New at Petco Park for a list of promotions and other happenings hosted by the Padres for the 2022 season.