Good morning, fellow Padres fans! We’re closing in on the Spring Opener, and the team is putting in the work. Here’s your news and notes out of Peoria on what’s happening. As always, add away down in the comments section as you see fit.
Ready? Let’s get it!
- Yu Darvish has apparently wasted no time getting down to being, well, Yu Darvish. The veteran RHP threw a live batting practice session on Thursday at the Peoria Sports Complex, and he gave his new teammates an early look at his eclectic pitch mix. To go along with his four-seam fastball, Darvish estimated he threw five different offspeed pitches in his 20-pitch session (must’ve been holding back, right John?). Facing off against Brian O’Grady and Jorge Oña, Darvish went 1-6 with 3 Ks, according to on-lookers, with the lone hit being a towering homer for O’Grady on a low and in pitch that wasn’t quite in enough. That’s immaterial right now for the Padres, though; they want to make sure they get the version of Darvish that has been one of the sport’s most dominant arms since midway through the 2019 season. To that end, they think they know the secret: Let Darvish be Darvish. “He knows himself really well, and I think where people have gotten in trouble with him in the past ... is that they took away what he’s really good at, and that’s manipulating the baseball and knowing what pitches to make when,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
- Perhaps no Padre player has made a bigger leap from last year than LHP Ryan Weathers. Last year, Weathers didn’t even get an invite to the big league camp; this year, not only is he in camp with other Padres regulars, Weathers is holding his own against the middle of the order. Weathers was the first Padres pitcher to work multiple innings in a simulated-game setting, facing the heart of the San Diego lineup twice on a back field at the Peoria Sports Complex. Weathers worked a 1-2-3 first inning with two strikeouts against Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado and Tommy Pham. (Though it wasn’t without some good-natured sim-game controversy. Hosmer contended that his opposite-field grounder would’ve been a “shift-beater.” Pitching coach Larry Rothschild overruled him.). After a half-inning break, Weathers faced four batters in his second frame, walking Pham twice and inducing a pair of fly-ball outs. “He’s in a position, when we start games, to step forward,” Rothschild said afterward. “We’ll see where it goes. He’s a young kid, and there’s still things he can work on. But he’s fun to watch.” Rothschild went on to add that Weathers’ presence on the Padres roster “ages me a lot,” considering that Rothschild was also pitching coach for Weathers’ father, David, on the mid-1990s Marlins. While there aren’t many similarities between father and son (David was a righty sinker-baller, and Weathers is a lefty whose fastball plays up in the zone), Rothschild mentioned one similarity: “They’re both smart pitchers. I think Ryan has gotten that from his dad — a really good understanding of the game, ahead of his years.”
- While 2B Jake Cronenworth hasn’t yet taken reps in left field this spring (“yet” being the key word there), at some point over the next month, the Padres’ do-everything infielder will almost certainly get some looks in the outfield, and Cronenworth is more than open to the concept. “Any way I can help the team win,” Cronenworth said. “I know I say that a lot, but I truly mean it. It’s what I’m here to do.” Considering his athleticism, the Padres think Cronenworth is more than capable. He played all four infield spots last season — and played them well. “I’ve always been comfortable moving around,” Cronenworth said.
- RHP Chris Paddack is slated to start the Padres’ second game of the spring on Monday against the Cubs, following Adrian Morejon in the opener against the Mariners on Sunday.
- INF CJ Abrams — ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Padres’ #2 prospect and MLB’s #8 overall prospect — took infield with the Padres’ starting group on Thursday, sharing reps with Fernando Tatis Jr. at shortstop. Abrams also received praise on MLB.com, being listed as the Padres’ fastest prospect, being listed as possessing true 80-grade speed.
- The Padres have several candidates to potentially close games with. While the leaders are currently Emilio Pagán, Drew Pomeranz and Pierce Johnson, with Keone Kela and Mark Melancon also possibilities, one player who hasn’t received quite as much attention from the outside is Austin Adams. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild noted that the Adams that pitched last year wasn’t at 100%, as he was still recovering from ACL reconstruction. Rothschild now notes that Adams’ velocity has been up in his bullpens here. More crucially, he has been more precise with his fastball. “It’s going to be command,” said Rothschild, who watched Adams throw this winter. “If he commands the baseball with both pitches, he’s pretty formidable for a hitter.”
- The Padres coaching staff is still emphasizing the fundamentals. The Padres ran a drill early in their workout in which the goal was to catch 21 straight fly balls (7 innings worth of outs) hit by manager Jayce Tingler. While that may seem like a relatively simple task for MLB players, on a bright and sunny day in Arizona, with the balls being hit by Tingler, who has a rep as an adept fungo batter, the drill was anything but. Time and again, the Padres would get to 7, 10 or 11 catches before a ball fell to the ground. Most often, that happened after a player had serpentined to the ball and/or twisted in a circle underneath it and/or stabbed for the ball at the last instant. After the 6th dropped ball, Tingler directed infield coach Bobby Dickerson to gather the players and “Talk to ‘em.” Immediately after the brief meeting, the Padres accomplished the goal of getting through seven perfect innings. And at that, Tingler announced, “8th inning.” And he kept on hitting. After one more catch, Jorge Mateo had a ball carom off his glove and onto the grass in left-center field; the coaching staff gave the players a reprieve, and ended the drill.
- Notable on Tuesday was that RF Wil Myers was one of the first veterans to stand in against live pitching. His doing so early was, to Tingler, illustrative of Myers’ mindset as he attempts to build on a breakout 2020 season. “The first time you’re seeing 95 (mph) with plus sliders and breaking balls, and he’s just at a good mind place (thinking), ‘The earlier I get these things going, the earlier I get on track and find my rhythm,’” Tingler said. “He doesn’t back down to too many challenging drills. He doesn’t back down to drills that are going to be tough but will ultimately make him better.”
- Another factor influencing moving Jake Cronenworth around the field is that Ha-Seong Kim might just be better defensively at 2B. While Kim played just 15 innings at 2B in the KBO, he’s so far displayed exceptional quickness and a smoothness that belies his relative inexperience. According to the SD-UT’s Kevin Acee, it’s likely that whoever is hitting better between Kim and Jake Cronenworth will get the bulk of playing time, but it would seem Kim’s superiority on defense would be yet another reason for the Padres to work Cronenworth in the outfield, as well to create more versatility.
- If you’re wondering how some of the Padres’ minor league affiliates survived the pandemic, head over to MadFriars.com. The writers there did interviews with team officials from all 4 of the full-season affiliates, from AAA-El Paso, down to newly re-designated A-Lake Elsinore. I especially recommend their interview with Storm co-GMs Shaun Brock and Christine Kavic regarding the difficulties the team experienced, and some of the changes they made in order to survive. Safe to say, the Storm were like a lot of minor league teams, and just barely making it to this point.
- Here’s your sights and sounds from camp yesterday:
Brb, just going to listen to this sound on repeat for a while. pic.twitter.com/LNhuWyt7lA— San Diego Padres (@Padres) February 26, 2021
That’s it for today. Have at it in the comments section (or don’t; whatevs).