Petco Park’s fifth season opener arrives Monday night against the Houston Astros with bunting decorating the stands and a Cy Young Award-winning pitcher wearing the Padres colors’ gracing the mound.

Times flies when you’re winning games. Petco’s previous four division races have all gone down to the wire, with National West banners flying from the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

General Manager Kevin Towers — now the GM with the game’s longest active tenure with the same team — is still filling the roster, and his eye for talent is enough for me to wait and see how the season unfolds.

Complaints about recklessly spending money in pursuit of an outfield power bat will have to wait. Would you rather see the Padres depending on the emotionally unstable Milton Bradley?

Bradley’s tirade last year was as frightening a scene as I’ve seen in a game when he was screaming over manager Bud Black to get at an umpire until Black threw him to the ground.

Good thing the guy can hit a baseball. Would you like to see that temper explode in general society? That the Padres were willing to bring Bradley back suggests they’re still desperate in the outfield.

But if you look at the pitching staff and infield, I can accept waiting to see how Scott Hairston and Paul McAnulty develop in their first full-time opportunities, how Brian Giles’ knee holds up and whether prospect Chase Headley turns out to be the outfield’s No. 5 hitter before the season is out.

The Padres’ pitching staff is widely considered one of the best in the game.

Jake Peavy won the Cy Young, Chris Young might have won it if he hadn’t been injured and Greg Maddux is on his way to the Hall of Fame. Towers, with a pretty good eye for reclamation projects on the mound, envisions Randy Wolf at No. 4 and hopefully Mark Prior at No. 5 by June.

He also runs down an infield of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Tadahito Iguchi at second, Khalil Greene at shortstop and Kevin Kouzmanoff at third base.

“I’ll put that infield up against any in baseball,” said Towers, who was unusually bold in his optimism about this year’s team’s chances.

The Padres’ outfield doesn’t inspire the runaway optimism and expectations that the Chargers opened the 2007 with, but there is enough trust in Towers to wait and see.


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