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Padres Spring Training Round-up: February 23, 2021

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here!

San Diego Padres Spring Training
FTJ, taking his hacks in the cage during the first full-squad workout of the spring.
Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Good morning, Padres fans. The team formally kicked off Spring Training yesterday with their first full-squad workout. Below, I’ll cover some of the news and notes from around the web. Feel free to add your comments below!

Let’s get to it.

  • I led off yesterday with the official announcement of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s 14 year, $340 million contract extension, so why change things for today? AJ Cassavell reported on the proceedings, culminating with FTJ signing his “statue contract” in the GM’s office at the Peoria Sports Complex. The proceedings began in early January, when GM AJ Preller and two other members of the Padres’ front office set out for San Pedro de Macoris, where Tatis grew up in the Dominican Republic, and where he spends his offseasons. While Preller and his team were prepared for 3 different outcomes, with 2 being more likely (pushing off negotiations another year; or inking a shorter contract extension) FTJ was only interested in one: “Why not my whole career?” Tatis asked the general manager. “Why not go to a statue contract? People are saying, ‘Oh, too many years.’ But I just love what I’m seeing, what we’re going to do. I want that statue on one team. I want to stay on one team and build my legacy over here in San Diego.” (man, it’s like he’s speaking directly to my sports-fan heart...)
  • Cassavell also took a stab as a WAY-too early Opening Day roster for the Padres. Nothing revolutionary on it, as all the usual suspects are present. Cassavell though does predict the team will carry an extra pitcher, at least initially, given the team will play 24 games in the first 25 days of the season. The big question Cassavell sees is which of the 3 young LHP options the team has, MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Weathers, or Adrian Morejon, get the first crack as the swingman in the bullpen. Right now, he gives Morejon the edge.
  • Count’s Andrew Simon as a believer in LF Tommy Pham, as he marks Pham down as his candidate to rebound in a big way in 2021. Simon notes that, when Pham stays on the field, he’s produced. In fact, despite the injuries, Pham still walked and K’d in line with his career averages, and still had a great hard-hit rate. Simon believes Pham was just snakebit, as evidenced by Pham’s .345 xwOBA in 2020, which was 65 points higher than his actual batting average. xwOBA is stat intended to measure a batter’s skill, based on using exit velocity, launch angle and, on certain types of batted balls, Sprint Speed. For comparison, Pham’s xwOBA puts him in line with guys like Mookie Betts, Tim Anderson, and JT Realmuto.
  • While we may not get to go to games right away, efforts are underway to hopefully change that. All California-based MLB are working together to get fans into stadiums sooner rather than later. The teams are working with state and local governments to make it safe for fans to attend games as soon as possible, with an outside chance for opening day on April 1, so long as COVID-19 cases continue to drop in the state.
  • On the practice fields, Fernando Tatis Jr. took grounders at SS, and Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim did so at 2B during infield drills on the Padres’ first day holding a full-squad workout. Unfortunately missing were 3B Manny Machado, 1B Eric Hosmer, and CF Trent Grisham, as all 3 players were still waiting to clear MLB’s intake process.
  • Another key absence noted was Glenn Hoffman, the long-time player and coach who had spent the last 15 of his 45 years in professional baseball as the team’s 3B Coach. Players and fellow coaches noted that much of what will be missed will be the private moments the seemingly always-upbeat Hoffman shared with players; he was essentially the designated encourager on the staff. “Glenn Hoffman’s personality is irreplaceable,” associate manager Skip Schumacher said recently. “He was fun-loving, always keeping it light. He brought the fun factor.” Said manager Jayce Tingler: “Not having Hoffy here, his personality and all the experience, to fill those shoes, it certainly can’t be one person.” To that end, it was Schumaker and player development coordinator Keith Werman hitting fungoes along with infield coach Bobby Dickerson, who is also taking over coaching third base. Hoffman long wielded the fungo bat in spring drills for the past 3 decades, earning a rep as a precise and tireless groundball hitter.
  • Kevin Acee notes that Ha-Seong Kim can jump on a pitch, saying “Kim’s swing rips.” One concern the team has about Kim is how quickly he will adjust to increased and more consistent velocity from pitchers than he saw in Korea. His turns yesterday against live pitching were encouraging. See below for video.
  • RHP Michel Báez has generated a lot of buzz within the organization as mechanical changes he made this offseason have resulted in more break on his secondary pitches and more sizzle to his fastball. But he got hit a bit in a live batting practice yesterday while struggling with command.
  • Acee also noted that LF Tommy Pham looks noticeably stronger, compared to last year. Pham was playing a spirited game of catch on the first day of camp after not really throwing the first few weeks last spring due to an elbow injury. Reports have been for weeks that his arm is stronger than it was at any point last season.
  • LHP Jose Castillo finally looks healthy, after struggling with injuries much of the last 2 years. Castillo has already thrown 2 bullpen sessions, with Tingler and others saying he has improved from session to session, primarily with his velocity ticking up and his slider breaking more radically.
  • As for the other workout goings-on, Padres twitter has you covered. Here’s a sampling of yesterday’s batting cage hacks, and some work in the bullpen:

That’s it for today. GO PADRES!!!