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Padres Spring Training Round-up: March 15th, 2021

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Just 2 weeks to Opening Day!

San Diego Padres v Cincinnati Reds
Cro, standing in the box against the Reds.
Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Howdy howdy howdy, everybody!

Apologies for disappearing last week; between work and some family obligations, writing was a hit or miss for me. But new week, new opportunities. Let’s take a look at what went down in Arizona.

The Padres went 1-2 since Friday, dropping games to the A’s and Diamondbacks on Friday and Saturday before shellacking the Reds on Sunday, winning 10-4. RHP Yu Darvish, making his 2nd start of the spring, had another exceptional start, going 3 scoreless IP, no BBs, and recording 3 Ks. Young LHP Ryan Weathers followed, and he also threw 3 innings. He got a little scuffed up though, giving up 4 hits and 1 BB and surrendering 2 runs (both earned) while K-ing 2. That would be all the Reds would get until the 9th inning, where they beat up RHP Mason Fox who, to be fair, has not pitched above Hi-A ball yet in his professional career.

The Padres offense was firing on all cylinders, though, scoring 4 runs in the first 2 innings, despite only fielding a lineup with 3.5 regulars: LF Tommy Pham, INF Jake Cronenworth, INF Ha-Seong Kim, and C Victor Caratini (yes, I’m counting Caratini as a regular now with the injury to C Austin Nola; Kim counts as half). Caratini decided to make an early impression in his first AB, just missing a home run to right center, instead hustling around to 3B for an RBI triple.

After that, the Padres were off and running, at times literally. After Jake Cronenworth earned a bases-loaded walk making it a 2-0 game, LF Tommy Pham flashed his wheels and scored on an infield single by INF Nick Tanielu, making it 4-0.

Tanielu later homered in the 6th, continuing his strong spring, making it a 6-1 game at that point. Pedro Florimon and Eguy Roasario would also homer in the 5th, young CJ Abrams, continuing his own string of highlights, singled in a run in the 8th, and OF Patrick Kivlehan added the last run in the 9th on an RBI single as well. All in all, a fine showing from the Boys in Brown.

Let’s get into the news and notes from the weekend.

  • As noted above, C Austin Nola fractured his finger after fouling off a pitch on Saturday. While the full extent of the injury, and its timetable, should become clear in the next few days, it’s possible that Nola starts the year on the IL. This does raise the probability that young prospect C Luis Campusano, makes the opening day roster, at least initially.
  • In other injury news, it appears that CF Trent Grisham will miss about a week in order to rest his strained hamstring, following an eval on Friday. Grisham is expected to play a major role for the Padres going forward, after batting .251/.352/.456 with 10 home runs and stolen bases apiece in 252 plate appearances in 2020 while playing Gold-Glove defense in CF, posting 7 Defensive Runs Saved and a 7.5 Ultimate Zone Rating. RF Wil Myers was a late scratch from Saturday’s game with soreness in his right knee. He took part in the team’s entire workout Saturday morning, but was withheld from the game as a precaution, Tingler said, in part because of the chilly temperatures. He should be back in the lineup either Monday or Tuesday.
  • Based on the recent string of injuries, MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell updates his projected Opening Day Roster for the Padres. Cassavell believes that Campusano will now make the OD roster, thanks to Nola’s injury. The only other major change is that Jorge Mateo survives, based on the slightly stronger spring he’s having, compared to his primary competitor OF Brian O’Grady (and the fact O’Grady still has minor league options while Mateo does not). Cassavell also predicts that LHP Adrian Morejon likely makes the starting rotation as the 5th starter, given that the Padres continue to slow-play the return of RHP Dinelson Lamet. This also likely means RHP Austin Adams makes the OD Roster out in the bullpen, barring some late trades (Adams is among several bullpen arms out of options if he doesn’t make the roster).
  • Manager Jayce Tingler singled out reliever LHP Tim Hill for praise yesterday. Acquired in July for Franchy Cordero and Ronald Bolaños, Hill fired a 4th straight shutout inning Sunday, striking out 2 batters without giving up a hit. He has struck out 8 batters so far this spring while walking only 1 and scattering 3 hits. “He’s been throwing the ball really well all camp,” Tingler said. “I like what he’s doing with the fastball and the secondary pitches as well. He’s looked sharp every time out.”
  • In a fight for a spot on the bench, Jorge Mateo has hits in 4 of his last 5 games after going 3-5 with 2 doubles and a steal on Sunday, his busiest day this spring as he played all 9 innings in RF. Mateo has also seen time in LF, CF and 2B, and was developed as a shortstop in the minors. He is hitting .375/.484/.500 with 3 RBIs and 5 BBs against 9 strikeouts.
  • LHP Adrian Morejon, penciled in as the team’s 5th starter at the moment, knows that, despite playing in the Majors the last 2 years, his real arrival is still yet to come. Morejon, signed as a 17-year old during the Padres’ much-heralded 2016 International class, made his MLB debut in 2019, though he has yet to replicate some of the success he enjoyed as a youth and prospect. Morejon acknowledges his continued growth, as he limited the D-Backs to only a run on 4 hits in his 3 innings of work on Saturday. “That’s an area I’ve grown in,” Morejón said. “I think a lot of it starts with the fact that when men got on base, I would try to do too much. I would try to throw harder. I would try to make a perfect pitch and it wouldn’t go well for me. Now I’m not so much focused on doing more or throwing harder or trying to get a strikeout because that’s what I feel I need to do. I can pitch to contact and not get off my game.” Morejon’s résumé includes MVP honors at the 15U World Cup while pitching for Cuban national team, highlighted by a 124-pitch complete-game win over the U.S. in which Morejón struck out 12 batters against 1 walk really opening eyes. Morejon obviously hasn’t approached that kind of workload since; the last time he completed 6 innings was back in 2018, for then Hi-A Lake Elsinore. He’s since battled a myriad of injuries, such as discomfort in his flexor and later his triceps, then in 2019, trouble with his lower back and shoulder sidelined him for three weeks before finishing the year on the IL with a shoulder issue. When he’s been on the mound, Morejon has seemingly tantalized and frustrated simultaneously, flashing a ridiculous slider and knuckle-change while his fastball got destroyed (opposing hitters slug .806 off it).
  • RHP Dinelson Lamet continues to make progress as the team slow plays him this spring back from injury. Lamet completed his 3rd live batting practice session of the spring on Saturday, throwing 20 pitches and mixing in all his pitches, with no reports of discomfort following. Lamet will likely throw a side session and another live BP session before the team throws him into game action, possibly at the end of this week.
  • The Padres have what’s known as a good problem: a bullpen full of closer candidates. While the team has yet to formally designate a 9th inning closer, they feel pretty confident that, among the 4 on the roster with experience, either Mark Melancon, Keone Kela, Drew Pomeranz, or Emilio Pagán can get the job done. “In an ideal world, you’d like to have a set ninth inning guy,” Tingler said. “Are we open to committee? Are we open to matchups? We are. But we’d love to come out of here feeling, ‘Well, this is our ninth-inning guy,’ and we can move forward. We’re open to a lot of things. This early on in Spring Training, I don’t think we’re interested in announcing anything or giving somebody that title. We’ve got some open competition, and we’d like to play that out for the next couple weeks until we get a little bit more clarity.” Right now, RHP Emilio Pagan looks to be the favorite, but Pagan reminds everyone that’s not the goal: “I definitely want a shot at that role, but we’ve got four guys that have done it before and probably four or five more that have the ability to do it,” Pagán said. “Yeah, obviously, I would love to be the closer. I’d love to have a 40-save season. But I could have a zero-save season — we win a World Series, I’m happy.” LHP Drew Pomeranz echoed those sentiments: “I don’t care when I pitch,” Pomeranz said. “I’m here to help the team win. Doesn’t matter what inning that is for me... We have so many guys here that can finish games. I’m personally not tied to a role. They want me to close, that’s fine. They want me to pitch the sixth, seventh, eighth, that’s fine, too.”
  • Young phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. is among rare company, especially when you include him amongst his fellow Latin superstars Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr. All 3 players are 22 years old or younger, and last year, all 3 posted an OPS+ of 150 (Soto posted a wild 212, while Acuña and Tatis each had a 155) while qualifying for the batting title. Ok, you’re probably saying “So what?” The so-what is, in the history of MLB, here’s how many times that has happened: once, back in 1909, when Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Tris Speaker did it. That’s it. MLB.com does a nice job of laying out how FTJ, Soto, and Acuna basically form a new Big 3 for MLB, forming a vanguard for the youthful takeover of MLB by other players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Luis Robert, Ozzie Albies, Ke’Bryan Hayes, Eloy Jiménez, Rafael Devers, Alec Bohm and Gleyber Torres, all of whom are 24 or younger. Safe to say, MLB might just be in good hands going forward.
  • Sunday’s onslaught of offense came on the first day MLB teams were no longer allowed to “roll” innings this spring. Reds manager David Bell pulled starter TeJay Antone with the traffic piling up in the 2nd, asking minor leaguer Reiver Sanmartin to get the final out. Antone did return to throw a 1-2-3 3rd inning, but left after sustaining a mild right groin strain before throwing a pitch in the 4th inning. this seems to indicate that some of the offensive struggles the team went through earlier in spring may just have been a product of not getting to stay after a pitcher as they typically would in a regular game.
  • A follow-up from earlier rumors: GM A.J. Preller, in his typical freewheeling fashion, kicked the tires on a potential trade with Milwaukee for reliever Josh Hader earlier this winter. According to sources, the high price tag on Hader proved prohibitive, and those talks never seriously progressed. Sources also said that, while the Padres are open to another bullpen upgrade, they don’t view it as a necessity.

That’s it for today. LHP Blake Snell will make his 3rd start of the spring today against the Brewers, with first pitch at 1310 Pacific. For those of you who’ve kept an eye on Padres minor league prospects for a while, RHP Anderson Espinoza, once the Padres’ top pitching prospect, is among 9 pitchers who could pitch as well, although Tingler said not everyone could get into that game as it is scheduled to be 8 innings. Espinoza is coming off back-to-back Tommy John surgeries, wiping away the last 4 seasons of his career.

GO PADRES!!!