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Padres Spring Training Round-up: February 25, 2021

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Final prep before the Spring Opener.

San Diego Padres Spring Training
Yu Darvish throws during a bullpen session at the Peoria Sports Complex
Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Good morning, Padres fans, and welcome to another day of practice and preparation before the Spring Opener. Here’s the news and notes coming out of Peoria, where the team made several announcements. As always, feel free to add anything I missed down in the comments.

  • As mentioned yesterday, LHP Adrian Morejon will take the hill to start the Padres’ Spring Opener against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. Manager Jayce Tingler, though, stressed there was nothing to read into Morejon’s selection, however: “That’s just how it works in the rotation right now,” Tingler said. “He’s done probably the most simulated games or live (batting practice), so we feel confident that from a health standpoint that he’s going to be in a very good position.” Awfully convenient, given that Morejon is one of the more intriguing arms for the Pads this year, and his role somewhat undetermined. It’s also worth noting that Morejon, who will turn 22 on Saturday (making him just a few days younger than LHP MacKenzie Gore, who is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the sport’s top pitching prospect) lost his prospect status in 2019 and has already spent chunks of 2 seasons in the Majors. The Padres envision plenty of room for growth for Morejon. He has flashed some electric stuff in his 2 seasons in the Majors: a fastball that sat in the high 90s, a filthy knuckle-change that induced whiffs more than 50% of the time and two breaking pitches with bite. But with his fastball being eminently hittable last year (it blended elements of 2-seam and 4-seam run), the team worked with Morejon to make the 4-seamer and the 2-seamer distinct pitches. On top of that, Morejon polished his 3 offspeed offerings, giving him a legitimate 5-pitch mix. Given Tingler’s insistence that the Padres will slow-cook their starting pitchers this year (meaning extra rest and fewer innings early on for the starters), expect Morejon to get 1st crack in the starting rotation as the Padres likely deploy a 6-man rotation to start the season.
  • While it’s entirely possible LHP Matt Strahm can build up his ailing right knee in time for Opening Day, there’s no pressure on him to be ready by then. The Padres intend to give Strahm all the time he needs to make a full recovery, even if that means he opens the season on the injured list. “As motivated as he is to get ready for Opening Day, he also has the maturity to understand that we only get one clean runway at this,” said Tingler.” So being able to have a good takeoff, the most important thing is going to be that he gets back to 100%, and that he can pitch at 100% and keep that going.” Strahm’s underwent surgery to repair his right patellar tendon in October 2020, though he pitched the majority of 2020 through that pain, minus a 10-day stint on the IL in mid-September.
  • The Padres were busier Wednesday – by far – than they’ve been any other day this spring in terms of live hitter vs. pitcher matchups. The main event came on Field 2, where the trio of Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers faced Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack. Musgrove was the most impressive among that group. He didn’t allow a hit in 5 plate appearances, striking out 3 and showcasing his 2 excellent breaking pitches — a curveball and a slider, which earned praise from 1B Eric Hosmer. “His breaking ball, he can really control where he wants it,” Hosmer said afterward. “He throws a couple different types of it, too, which is obviously hard as a hitter. Once you see a guy’s breaking ball once or twice, you have a good idea how much it breaks and where you want it to start. It felt like he threw me three or four different ones today that started in different places, moved different ways.” Paddack was next, and he began his simulated outing by walking Machado before settling in nicely. Paddack got swings-and-misses with his changeup, and he mixed in a couple breaking balls (which Padres hitters laid off). He completed 4 plate appearances before he hit his pitch count in the middle of the 5th AB. Padres hitters combined to go 0-for-3 or 1-for-3 against him, depending on whether a hypothetical infielder would’ve reached Hosmer’s sharp ground ball up the middle.
  • Hosmer spoke with the SD-UT’s Kevin Acee regarding the changes he made to his swing, and the success he had in 2020. The secret to his resurgence? “Tempo,” Hosmer said Wednesday, smiling wide, as if the word were magic. Slowing down allowed him to stay back, see the ball longer and had the side effect of keeping his back side more grounded as he struck the ball, thereby turning one of the more prolific groundball hitters in MLB into a guy who sprayed line drives and fly balls around the field. His first 2 years with the Padres, Hosmer mashed the ball into the ground at a 58.2% rate, highest in MLB. In 2020, however, Hosmer dropped his rate to only 46.2%, which would have been 44th in MLB among qualified batters, if he had enough plate appearances.
  • Hosmer, for his part, authored the line of the day on Wednesday. When he was asked about adjustments he might make from his stellar 2020 season, he dropped this nugget: “Definitely not going to bunt again this year,” quipped Hosmer, who missed 3 weeks in September last season because he broke a finger during an ill-advised 2-strike bunt attempt.
  • CJ Abrams, the team’s No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 8 overall, will see time at 2B and SS this spring. It seems unlikely he’d get a look in CF, a position he’s yet to play in pro ball, but where some people feel he might be best suited on this Padres roster. Said Tingler: “Right now, to start, it’ll be shortstop, second base, and we’ll go from there.”
  • LHP Tim Hill threw a bullpen session for the first time in 6 days. He had been dealing with what was described as a “little” shoulder issue. Said Tingler: “He’s full go.”
  • UT Jurickson Profar remains in Curacao awaiting resolution of his visa issue, but the Padres still expect he’ll be in camp by the weekend. Said Tingler: “As soon as that goes through, he’s jumping on the first flight.”
  • For those of you with money to burn, here’s the latest odds, courtesy of BetOnline.ag, on the NL MVP and NL Cy Young. 3B Manny Machado opened at 18-1, while FTJ, fresh off his contract extension, opened at 8-1 odds (Mookie Betts remains the favorite at 13-2). As for the NL Cy Young, they list Jacob DeGrom as the favorite at 9-2 odds, with Yu Darvish cracking the list at 9-1, and Blake Snell coming in at 12-1 odds (further down the list, Dinelson Lamet comes in at 25-1, Joe Musgrove at 50-1, and Chris Paddack at 66-1). Anybody feeling lucky?
  • And here are some of the sights and sounds from yesterday’s action:

That’s it for today. GO PADRES!!!