Good morning, fellow Friar Faithful. I’m back with another round-up of news and notes out of Peoria. As always, anything I missed/you want to add, fire away in the comments.
Here we go:
- In case it wasn’t abundantly clear from the last few off-seasons, the Padres have revamped their mentality both on the field and in their front office; simply, they don’t see themselves as a small-market team anymore. “We are not a small-market franchise,” said Padres chairman Peter Seidler. “... I’ll speak for the people of San Diego: We’re the eighth-largest city in America. There’s nothing we can’t do.” Right now, the Padres’ contention window is well and truly open. With the bulk of their core on board through at least 2023, this group, as constructed, will have more than one shot at bringing an elusive title to San Diego. “It’s very clear what the message is,” GM AJ Preller said. “That’s to win championships. That’s to do something great, do something that’s sustainable, year-in, year-out — have an opportunity to play in October.” Safe to say, this ain’t our parents’ Padres anymore, and I LOVE it.
- To that end, the Padres saw there was no point building a deep roster this offseason if they didn’t also build a versatile one. The goal was to weather any storm — to field a relentless lineup, regardless of who wasn’t available on a given day. Case in point: the current roster flexibility probably allows the team to carry only 3 bench players to back-up all 8 starting spots, thanks to the signings of Jurickson Profar and Ha-Seong Kim. The team believes Profar can play all 3 outfield positions as well as 2B and 1B, and he’ll get an extended look in CF during Spring Training; if he shows he can backup CF, he’ll probably get a few starts against LHP during the season, giving Trent Grisham a day off. Kim will also likely play anywhere in the infield, just like nominal starting 2B Jake Cronenworth. Even C Austin Nola can slide to 1B, 2B or 3B in a pinch, too. Considering that level of infield depth, both Kim and Cronenworth are expected to see time in LF later this spring. As such, the team likely has 1 bench spot available, and multiple contenders: infielder/outfielder Brian O’Grady, infielder/outfielder Jorge Mateo, catcher Luis Campusano and outfielder Jorge Oña will all likely spend Spring Training duking it out, with Mateo and O’Grady the most likely at this point.
- Given the role the Padres are expecting Ha-Seong Kim to play this year, a big part of the team’s efforts will be to make Kim feel as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible. The acclimation process is what manager Jayce Tingler identified as the top priority for the Padres as Kim transitions to a higher level of baseball in a foreign land. To that end, the Padres introduced Kim to Chan Ho Park, now an adviser in the team’s baseball operations department, and a key component in how the Padres woo’d Kim to the West Coast. Apparently, it’s working; Kim speaks with Park every day. Kim also said that Padres players, coaches and front office have treated him “like family” and are helping to increase his comfort level. Even before they saw him play in person this week, the Padres were impressed by the reports of how Kim carried himself and in what they experienced when they spoke with him. “He seems like he’s got the makeup that whatever he chooses to do he’s going to do it the best he can do,” infield coach Bobby Dickerson said of his time on video chats with Kim and an interpreter. “What he said and watching his body language as he spoke, he has a lot of self-confidence, which in this industry you better have.” (Make sure you read the article for some shower etiquette tips from Chan Ho Park; pretty hysterical!)
- The Padres are no longer the team that feels compelled to promote players before they’re ready and/or to get them experience. In fact, some players that might be ready will inevitably have to wait for their time. To that end, it’s now looking highly likely LHP MacKenzie Gore begins the season in the minors. Same for LHP Ryan Weathers, who pitched 1.1 hitless innings in the 2020 NLDS, and C Luis Campusano, who hit a home run in his 1st MLB AB. UT Jorge Mateo and OF Jorge Oña could even become trade pieces, given the roster crunch. “The bar is set high,” General Manager A.J. Preller said recently when talking about the organization’s depth. “… That was the goal 5 years ago — to have that (depth) throughout the organization. It makes our standards higher and raises the level of competition. Ultimately, there is not room for everybody.”
- Every player except UT Jurickson Profar was at camp Tuesday. Tingler said Profar has experienced a complication with his visa and is expected in by Friday at the latest. The team believes he can be through the intake process and be on the field by the end of the weekend. Tuesday was the first day Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Trent Grisham worked out with the team after missing Monday as they awaited clearance following COVID testing.
- Ok, we can all start breathing a little bit. The main event from Padres camp on Tuesday was a bullpen session featuring Yu Darvish and Dinelson Lamet. Lamet ended his session with 5 consecutive sliders and reported no discomfort afterwards, a positive sign as he works his way back from an arm injury that kept him out of the postseason last year. The Padres remain optimistic that Lamet avoided a major injury by shutting things down when he did. But he still has a few hurdles to clear, and building back his wipeout slider the most noteworthy among them. See below for video (Lamet’s in the background, behind Yu Darvish).
- Along with Profar, Tingler mentioned some other options for the backup center-field role, among them: O’Grady, Mateo and, surprisingly, Tommy Pham. Pham hasn’t played CF with any regularity since 2017 with St. Louis. But what’s Spring Training for, if not for experimenting?
- Here’s some of the sights from yesterday’s workout:
That’s it for today. GO PADRES!!!