MLB National League Baseball
Expectations are high for the Padres in 2023. Here, Jake Cronenworth, center, Juan Soto, left, and Fernando Tatis Jr., right top, celebrate a spring win in Arizona. Photo credit: @Padres via Twitter

Spring is the time for hope in baseball, when all teams enter the long season even. But the Padres have far more than hope in their back pockets to start the 2023 season.

The team, fresh off a year in which they made it to the National League Championship Series – and better yet, knocked off the hated Dodgers to get there – have added shortstop Xander Bogaerts, and will have slugger Juan Soto and reliever Josh Hader for a full year.

And that’s all while looking forward to the return of young star Fernando Tatis Jr. from his PED suspension.

Manager Bob Melvin, a former player and veteran skipper entering his second year at the helm with the Padres, knows expectations are high. But as he told 97.3 the Fan, the team has “a real chance to do some special things this year.”

The Padres open the season Thursday – in a 1:10 p.m. sellout at home against the Colorado Rockies – and for the first time in years as favorites over the Dodgers in some NL West projections. As one observer said simply, at full strength, with Manny Machado, Soto, Bogaerts, Tatis and Jake Cronenworth, the team is set to wield a “hell of a lineup.”

Blake Snell will be the Padres’ starter, with Yu Darvish preparing for the season after his stint for Japan, the World Baseball Classic champion.

“I love pitching in San Diego, I love that stadium – it’s my favorite one,” Snell told of the Opening Day honor at Petco Park. “So I don’t take it for granted.”

The team has some injury issues, with Joe Musgrove out to start the year as he continues to recover from a broken toe, and, according to MLB, Soto dealing with an oblique strain and catcher Austin Nola, a broken nose.

The Padres end spring training Monday. The Rockies series continues through Sunday and tickets are scarce, but remain available (Friday is the best bet).