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Padres Spring Training Round-up: March 1st, 2021

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And the first game is in the books.

San Diego Padres v Seattle Mariners
And we are underway! Trent Grisham swings away against the Mariners on Sunday.
Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Hello again, Padres fans! Baseball is finally back in action. While the Padres dropped their opening game against the Mariners on Sunday, they’ll be back in action today against the Cubs, with first pitch set for 1210 Pacific. Let’s cover all the news and notes from the weekend.

  • Sunday’s game had all the trappings of an early Spring Training game: early exits, Minor League players, and pitchers still trying to find their feel. Bottom line? Don’t read too much into yesterday’s action. Still though, there ain’t that much else to talk about, so...
  • The Padres left runners at 1B and 1B in the top of the 1st, but never made a third out. The inning was called after Mariners starter Marco Gonzales had thrown his 25th pitch. In the first 2 weeks of spring training, managers can end an inning if their pitcher has thrown more than 20 pitches. (I call shenanigans...)
  • If there’s a race for the final bench spot, then OF Jorge Oña took the early lead. Among Brian O’Grady, Luis Campusano, and Jorge Mateo, the hulking right-handed slugger sent a towering 2-run homer into the left-field bullpen to tie the game, 4-4, in the top of the 6th. While Oña doesn’t provide much in terms of defense, the team may just be looking for a pinch-hitter, now that the universal DH is off the table for 2021. “Seeing him drive the ball into the wind today – we know he’s got big-time power,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “To see him continue to develop as a hitter and continue to develop defensively, be able to play both corner spots, that’s going to be big for him.” As for the other candidates, O’Grady and Campusano went 0-for-2, while Mateo went 1-for-2, showing off his wheels with a bunt single. He was on first when Oña went deep.
  • Sunday’s starter (opener?) LHP Adrian Morejon reminded the Padres of both his youth and his potential. Morejon gave up a run over his 2 innings. While he allowed no solid contact, he did 3 BBs to the first 7 hitters he faced. “Early on, he just couldn’t get his secondary [pitches] over the plate,” Tingler said. “Then he got in trouble in the second, and then that’s when he started making pitches.” Morejon put 2 hitters aboard in the 2nd inning, before dialing up 3 consecutive Ks, finishing his afternoon with a nasty backdoor slider to Mariners leadoff man J.P. Crawford.
  • Ha-Seong Kim made a positive debut on Sunday as well. While he went 0-for-2, both were loud outs. He hit a liner (into the wind) to the warning track in left in the 2nd inning, then made solid contact and sent a fly to deep center in the 4th. The Padres were concerned about how Kim might adjust to big league pitching, particularly the uptick in fastball velocity. On Sunday, Kim looked pretty comfortable, as both his sharp contact came against fastballs, including one from Keynan Middleton, who averaged 97 mph on his fastball a season ago.
  • Almost every Padres regular started Sunday’s Cactus League opener against the Mariners, minus 1B Eric Hosmer. But after Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and the rest of the big names played 3 innings and batted twice, the Padres made mass changes. Among the substitutions in the 4th inning were 3 of the Padres’ top position prospects — CJ Abrams at SS, Robert Hassell III in CF, and Tucupita Marcano at 2B. C Luis Campusano, the team’s #2 position prospect, entered the game in the 5h inning. “It’s always good for them to get into this kind of action, especially after last year,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “… That’s nice to see for them to get into game one. And my guess is they’re going to see a lot of action here in the first couple weeks.” As for Hosmer, Tingler said the main reason is teams are required to start at least 3 regulars each spring training game. Hosmer will start Monday along with at least 2 more of the players who started Sunday. Veterans rarely start consecutive games this early in spring.
  • UT Jurickson Profar finally arrived in Padres camp over the weekend after dealing with a visa issue. he got straight into action on Sunday morning, facing a host of Padres pitchers in live batting practice and simulated-game settings. His arrival was cause for celebration in Padres camp. Profar, rarely devoid of a smile, is one of the team’s most beloved clubhouse presences. He was a free agent during the offseason and cited his teammates as the biggest reason he re-upped with the Padres.
  • RHP Dinelson Lamet, who did not pitch in the postseason due to an elbow injury, threw all his pitches and came through his first “up-down” bullpen healthy Friday. In such a session, a pitcher throws 10 to 15 pitches, sits for 5-6 minutes, then throws 10 to 15 more pitches in order to simulate working 2 innings. Hopefully, this will help quiet some of the injury concerns.
  • On Saturday, LHP MacKenzie Gore continued to impress in camp. In his first multi-inning live session of the spring, Gore faced 7 hitters and allowed only 1 baserunner, a leadoff walk to Manny Machado. Gore’s fastball played in the mid- to upper 90s, and he used his curveball plenty — including a gorgeous backdoor bender to cap his afternoon with a strikeout of Jorge Oña. Gore struck out 3 of the 7 batters he faced, and induced a weak pop-up from Fernando Tatis Jr, though the team allowed the AB to continue. It ultimately didn’t matter; Gore K’d FTJ a few pitches later with a fastball painting the outside corner. While it’s still early in spring and any enthusiasm should be tempered, pitching coach Larry Rothschild noted the difference from last year: “Last year, it was just so different.You’re a kid that comes in with a lot of fanfare, and rightfully so. You go to a place where you’re there every day, with the same guys. You’re facing the same hitters. ... Everybody looks around and expects incredible things, and you know you’re not necessarily there yet. I think that impacted him a lot, but I think he’s taken it in a positive way and used it to his advantage coming in here.”
  • Jayce Tingler announced that LHP Blake Snell will make his Cactus League debut on Wednesday against the Brewers. Coincidentally, that will be the first televised Spring Training game for the Padres.
  • LF Tommy Pham continues to recover from an off-season stabbing he suffered. In an interview with MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, Pham states that he’s only at about 80% strength, while emphasizing he’s lucky to be alive, let alone playing again. Pham also knows that, despite his off-season troubles, he still needs to put in work. “I had a terrible year,” Pham stated bluntly. “I know analytics with the best of ‘em. My wRC+ was down. That’s something I look at. I was negative in defensive runs saved last year. ... I feel like I have the most to prove, because I know I’m not a 78 wRC+ hitter, and I know I’m not a negative defensive player.” He has incentive to prove it this season. It’s a contract year for Pham, who can become a free agent after the 2021 season. But first, he wants to take care of business with the Padres — who, despite his injury concerns, agreed on an $8.9 million contract with him in his final arbitration year.
  • Expect more changes to the usual spring training going-ons. As part of MLB’s measures to limit players’ exposure, spring training games can be shortened to 5 or 7 innings the first 2 weeks. Both teams’ managers must consent, and most have said they prefer to play a full 9 to get all their pitchers enough work. “Our goal right now, whether we can do it or not, we’re trying the best we can to go for 9 innings,” Tingler said. “… That can change because somebody gets scratched or you have a setback or the other team is in the same position as well. We’re trying to line up on most days for 9 innings.”
  • The Padres signed OF Patrick Kivlehan to a minor league deal and added him to big-league camp. The 31-year-old has hit .208/.302/.401 with 10 homers over parts of three seasons (242 plate appearances) in the majors. He hit a home run in his major league debut, on Aug. 20, 2016, with the Padres, and has played all three outfield spots in the majors, in addition to first and third base, with the Padres, Reds and Diamondbacks. (Sounds like a AAAA guy)

That’s it for today. GO PADRES!!!