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Padres Spring Training Round-up: March 18th, 2021

Welp, those last 2 sucked...

MLB: San Diego Padres at Chicago Cubs
INF Ha-Seong Kim during last night’s game against the Cubs at Sloan Park.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Happy post-St. Patrick’s Day, all!

Hopefully you have your preferred libation to help wash down the last 2 games, because woo man... they didn’t go well. The Pads fell to the White Sox 4-3 on Tuesday, as the team committed multiple errors in the field, and got caught stealing several times. Then last night, the team got schwacked by the Cubs, as RHP Chris Paddack seemed to revert to his 2020 form. Let’s go over each one before getting into news and notes.

RHP Joe Musgrove took the hill for his 3rd Cactus League start against the Sox, becoming the first Padres starter to throw more than 3 innings. He went 4 innings, throwing 64 pitches, and was pretty effective, scattering 3 hits and 2 walks to go with 4 Ks. Musgrove’s line would likely have looked a lot better, if not for the aforementioned errors, most of them occurring in the 3rd. Musgrove led off the 3rd with a walk to the Sox’ Zach Remillard, who then went to 3rd after Tim Anderson reached due to a fielding error by 1B Eric Hosmer. Musgrove then got Nick Madrigal to line out, but Jake Cronenworth committed a throwing error trying to double up a runner, allowing a run to score. Anderson would scamper home a batter later on a groundout, and just like that, the Sox led, 2-0. Another run would come in again in the 4th, again a product of a lead-off walk. Musgrove would then commit what the official scorer ruled a wild pitch, allowing another run to come in on the follow-up throwing error by Campusano.

The Padres offense kicked in during their half of the 4th, as a returning Wil Myers drove home a Jake Cronenworth on a double. Myers would score shortly thereafter, as Ha-Seong Kim singled up the middle (guess Wil’s knee is doing just fine.) The Padres tied it up in 8th inning, as prospect Tucupita Marcano lined a double to center. The Pads almost took the lead, but OF Patrick Kivlehan got gunned down at the plate. The Sox then pushed one more run across in the 9th to win the game.

There were some highlights, though. 3B Manny Machado showed why he’s regarded as one of the best 3B in the game today, snagging a high bouncer with his bare hand to gun down a runner at 1st in the 5th inning.

LHP MacKenzie Gore also made an appearance, throwing 2 scoreless innings of relief. Gore continued to tantalize by K-ing 2 and giving up only 1 hit, a check-swing that beat the shift, but also frustrate, as he also walked 2 more.

As for last night, the team hoped to get back on track against the Cubs, with RHP Chris Paddack looking to continue his string of effective Cactus league starts. That... didn’t happen. Paddack started out well enough, though he did issue 2 walks in the 1st inning, including a lead-off walk to the Cubs’ Ian Happ, and then a single to Willson Contreras. Paddack then buckled down, K-ing Anthony Rizzo, walking Kris Bryant, then getting Joc Pederson to pop out and Javy Baez to groundout to escape, giving up only a run. It all unraveled in the 2nd though. Despite getting 2 quick outs, including K-ing Jason Heyward, Paddack proceeded to give up 3 straight hits, 1 a home run, then hit Rizzo with a pitch and walking Bryant before Tingler came out with the hook. By that time, it was 4-0 Cubs, a lead they wouldn’t give up. As for the rest of the pitchers, only veterans Craig Stammen and Parker Markel really impressed; Stammen went 2 IP, giving up only 1 hit (a home run) while K-ing 4. As for Markel, a journeyman who has bounced around several minor and major league teams the last few years, went 1.2 IP, giving up no hits with 1 BB while K-ing 4.

The Padres offense also struggled, only scoring 2 runs. They both came in the 3rd, when Jake Cronenworth tripled to center to score Tommy Pham, and 3B Manny Machado then brought him home with a sac fly. But that was it. The team went 1-5 with runners in scoring position, and left 5 more on base.

Overall, these were two poorly played affairs that the coaching staff will be harping on for a few days. Let’s get into news and notes.

  • As mentioned above, while it’s not too late for MacKenzie Gore to make a late-spring push for a spot on the Padres’ roster, he REALLY needs to cut it out with all those walks. Across his 6 innings of spring work, Gore has issued 6 free passes, something that the team wants him to work on before considering him big league ready. “We’re really, really confident his stuff’s going to play,” Tingler said. “It’s just a matter of getting more of the pitches in the zone consistently.” Tingler cautioned against reading into Gore’s relief appearance, stating that there simply aren’t enough starts to go around. The Padres remain committed to building Gore toward a starter’s workload. As for a long-relief option, it’s far likelier that fellow LHPs Adrian Morejon and Ryan Weathers would fill that role.

LOTS of injury news updates:

  • RF Wil Myers and INF Ha-Seong Kim both returned to action on Tuesday after being out the last few games.
  • RHP Pierce Johnson exited his relief outing early on Tuesday because of tightness in his groin, Tingler said. Johnson faced 3 batters in the 9th inning, striking out a pair before issuing a walk. Tingler noted that Johnson first experienced the tightness when he landed a bit awkwardly on the Peoria Stadium mound. He’s been diagnosed with a Grade 1 strain. The hope is he can get a couple Cactus League games in after a period of rest. The Padres anticipate Johnson working the 7th and 8th inning with possibly even some turns in the 9th.
  • Fernando Tatis Jr. was slated to go through a workout on Tuesday, as he builds back slowly from the flu and some general soreness that he sustained while diving headfirst into home plate on Saturday. Those plans were called off when the skies broke loose and it began to rain and hail on Tuesday morning during the Padres’ scheduled workout time. He went through a full workout on Wednesday and is expected to return to the lineup for Thursday’s game against the A’s at Peoria Stadium, Tingler said.
  • CF Trent Grisham, out since suffering a hamstring strain on March 11, took some swings in the batting cage and could begin throwing long toss as soon as Wednesday.
  • C Austin Nola likely won’t be able to throw for at least a couple weeks, but he continues to work on catching; Nola worked on blocking balls thrown by catchers coach Rod Barajas with his fractured middle finger on his throwing hand taped.
  • RHP Michel Báez, first due to some fatigue in his arm and then because he has been working on fine-tuning some mechanical adjustments, has pitched in just one game, on March 2. Tingler said he hopes the right-hander is throwing in a game within the next week.
  • INF Gosuke Katoh has not played since Saturday, when he was tagged hard on the head while sliding into a base and suffered a concussion. He participated in conditioning and batted in the cage Tuesday but has not been cleared to play.
  • RHP Taylor Williams had his night cut short after an awkward play to end the 6th inning. Covering first base on a ground ball, Williams was forced to dive for Jake Cronenworth’s throw, and he landed hard on his left shoulder. When he re-emerged to pitch the 7th inning, his shoulder tightened up on him, Tingler said. Williams, who is vying for one of the final places in the Padres’ bullpen, will be re-evaluated on Thursday.
  • As for RHP Dinelson Lamet, AJ Cassavell address some fan concerns regarding the star pitcher. While some remained concerned that the team is hiding lingering issues, Cassavell points out that the team was uncertain about Lamet all off-season, largely due to the mysteriousness of his injury and their inability to determine the extent of the damage sustained. Cassavell then argues that the team’s plan was always to take it slow with Lamet, given that Lamet has never thrown more than 100 innings before, even without the added concern of a late season injury. After all, the intent isn’t to win just in April; it’s to win in the post-season, and Lamet is firmly a part of team’s plans in that regard.
  • Regarding the play of prospects Tucupita Marcano and CJ Abrams, the team currently has no plans on including the youngsters on the Opening Day roster, barring multiple injuries. But that shouldn’t cause folks to discount what they’ve done so far this spring. Instead, view both Abrams and Marcano’s springs in the same lens as FTJ’s 2018 spring training: proved they could hang, but ultimately still with a few things they need to work on in the Minors before they’re ready for an MLB breakthrough.
  • 3B Manny Machado and RF Wil Myers started for a 2nd straight day, becoming the first regulars not named Jake Cronenworth or Tommy Pham to do so.
  • With Jurickson Profar caught stealing last night, it marked the 12th time in 23 attempts this spring the Padres have been caught. Safe to say, they’ll need to put some work in on that.
  • One person you shouldn’t count on to start the year in the minors is INF Ha-Seong Kim. Cassavell reports that Kim remains very much a part of the team’s Opening Day plans. Citing his feel for hitting and his quick hands, the Padres staunchly believe Kim will cement his roster spot in the next 2 weeks, likely leaving 1 last roster spot for OF Brian O’Grady and UT Jorge Mateo to fight over.
  • In case you’ve done the math and wondered why I believe O’Grady and Mateo are fighting over the last roster spot, it’s because it’s highly likely (in my mind, at least) that the team will carry 14 pitchers to start the season. Manager Jayce Tingler illustrated why: “I think the biggest issue ahead is tripling the workload of the pitchers,” he said, referring to the fact teams will jump from 60 games played last year to the standard 162 in 2021 . “You’re multiplying their innings by three. So when it comes to construction (of the roster), understanding that historically it’s never been done. You can predict things, you can try to think ahead, but I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge going forward is the amount of quality innings and keeping these guys healthy.” This also helps explain why the team is taking it easy on RHP Dinelson Lamet, and preparing LHPs Adrian Morejon, MacKenzie Gore, and Ryan Weathers for some MLB starts sooner rather than later.
  • RHP Anderson Espinoza is expected to make his spring training debut Thursday. The 23-year-old right-hander, the Padres No. 1 prospect at the start of 2017, has had two Tommy John surgeries and hasn’t pitched in a game since 2016.
  • The Padres also announced a number of roster moves, mostly the movement of prospects to the minor league camp, which will be starting in the next few weeks. Among the more notable names are Pedro Avila, Robert Hassell III, Patrick Kivlehan, Aaron Leasher, Josh Mears, Jacob Nix, Eguy Rosario, and Steven Wilson. This leaves the team with 31 pitchers (22 RHPs, 9 LHPs), 4 catchers, 12 infielders, and 5 outfielders still in camp, 37 of whom are on the team’s 40-man roster. None of the players mentioned will actually be leaving Peoria, though; it just means they’ll do more of their work in the back fields, while still playing in some games as needed. The Minor League camp won’t start until major leaguers leave spring training facilities. More notably though, is who ISN’T leaving camp: prospects Tucupita Marcano and CJ Abrams. “Marcano has got the ability to play seven different positions out there, and I think he’s performed really well,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “He stays for that reason, and CJ has performed and played extremely well, also. We’ll see where we’re at in a couple weeks, but we definitely wanted to keep those guys around.”
  • RHP Mason Thompson was also optioned to the minor league camp yesterday, specifically to the AAA camp. The Padres feel he has the makings of a back-end bullpen arm, however, his roller-coaster progression has limited his development. He had TJ surgery as a junior in high school, and has suffered some sort of injury nearly every step of the way, missing time with biceps tendinitis in ‘17, a shoulder injury in ‘18, and took a comebacker off his leg in ‘19.
  • Looks like LF Tommy Pham has found his groove. After starting the spring in an 0-17 rut, Pham has pounded out hits in 7 of his last 13 at-bats, including a 3-3 night on Wednesday. “The difference is the contact lenses,” manager Jayce Tingler said. “He’s starting to find a set that he’s feeling better with, and he’s starting to get more reps.”
  • The Padres pitchers continue to feel out MLB’s new “deadened” ball. After seeing record numbers of homers on 2017 and 2019, MLB went back to Rawlings, the maker of MLB’s ball, and reduced it’s potential travel. Rawlings loosened the tension of the ball’s first wool winding, resulting in a reduction in weight by less than one-tenth of an ounce and, to put it simply, less bounciness. Similar changes to the baseball in the KBO in 2019 cut slugging percentage by 14% and home runs dropped by 42%, from 1,756 in 2018 to 1,014.

That’s it for today. The Padres face off against the A’s today, with LHP Adrian Morejon getting the start. First pitch is set for 1310 Pacific time.