SAN DIEGO -- While the Padres ponder the decision to add another starting pitcher to the rotation -- James Shields appears to be their preferred target -- they certainly have plenty of candidates returning that they are excited about for 2015.
There's the trio at the top of the rotation in Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy. Cashner has turned in some of the most electric and dominant starts in franchise history in his short time in San Diego. Ross took a big leap forward in 2014, making his first All-Star team while nearly reaching the 200-inning mark and striking out 195. Kennedy quietly surpassed the 200-inning and 200-strikeout marks, which is certainly no small feat in this era.
But the best bang-for-buck return for the Padres last year might have come from 27-year-old Cuban defector Odrisamer Despaigne, who signed a Minor League deal with the team for $1 million in May and posted a 3.36 ERA in 16 starts, flirting with a no-hitter in one of them.
"It was a great learning experience for him," manager Bud Black said of Despaigne's rookie year with the Padres. "I think the talent is there for him to be successful here, and he's shown that through his outings. All in all, he's shown very well. He's thrown a lot of good games."
Most of them, as it turned out, came at Petco Park.
Despaigne, who was signed by former general manager Josh Byrnes, was 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA over eight starts and 54 innings at home. On the road, he was 1-6 with a 5.31 ERA in 42 1/3 innings.
Granted, the bigger ballpark at home and the familiar surroundings might have had something to do with that, but if Despaigne is to hold onto a spot in the rotation this spring, he'll have to prove he can pitch on the road.
"I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said through an interpreter. "I have had my ups and downs. I've learned from those experiences."
While the Padres might not be done adding to their rotation, it appears Despaigne might have a spot in it regardless, though it might come at No. 5, depending on where newcomer Brandon Morrow slots in.
But, at the very least, Despaigne has shown Black he can be successful at this level.
Take Despaigne's big league debut on June 23 when he limited the Giants to four hits over seven shutout innings at AT&T Park, or his outing on July 20 when he held the Mets hitless through 7 2/3 innings before he allowed a run in a no-decision at home.
Black said that despite Despaigne's age and international experience, and even though he's closer to being a finished product than other players with less service time, there's still plenty to work on for 2015.
"I think we're going to try to firm up the changeup, which is rare to add, and work on the consistency of his breaking pitch," Black said. "There's not a lot he needs to do other than understand fastball command and locate the ball."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.