Hello again, Padres fans, and welcome to another Spring Training Round-up. The good guys failed to generate any offense yesterday, falling to the Cubs, 1-0. They’ll be back at it today, with young LHP Ryan Weathers starting things off against the Diamondbacks. First pitch set for 1210 Pacific time. After playing only 7 innings Monday, the Padres hope to get a full 9 inning game against the Diamondbacks. Manager Jayce Tingler said of his conversations with Arizona manager Torey Lovullo: “We’re both trying for nine. … We’re going to circle the wagons at the end of the day and also one more time tomorrow morning and kind of see where we’re at.” Teams have the option to play 5, 7 or 9 innings the first 2 weeks of the spring schedule, largely predicated on their available pitchers.
So with that, let’s get into the news and notes from yesterday’s action:
- All those mechanical tweaks and changes Chris Paddack made during the offseason — early evidence suggests they’re working. Coming off a rough 2020 season, Paddack made his first Cactus League start on Monday against the Cubs and looked an awful lot like the dominant 2019 version of himself. Paddack worked 2 crisp, hitless frames, K-ing three and allowing only 1 baserunner, walking Joc Pederson, on a total of 22 pitches. “That’s exactly what we wanted to see, and that’s the way he’s been throwing the ball all through camp in what we’ve seen,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “You’re facing really, really good hitters on that side, so for him to carry that in, I thought was a great step.” No surprise, Paddack’s change-up was his most effective pitch, but more encouraging was the 2-strike fastball Paddack pumped past Javy Baez for his 3rd K. Opposing batters destroyed Paddack’s fastball last year, and so was the focus of his offseason work.
- Ha-Seong Kim recorded his first hit as a Padre yesterday; so far, he’s 1-4 in spring games, though it’s not from a lack of trying. The Korean import has hit the ball hard in all of his plate appearances. He flied out to the outfield twice Sunday and lined a ball directly at the left fielder his first time up Monday before lacing a hard single between shortstop and third base in the 4th inning. “If you like line drives, I guess it’s good,” Tingler quipped, as Kim served as designated hitter Sunday and then played shortstop Monday. “Four plate appearances, four barrels. He’s off to a really good start.”
- Despite never appearing in the OF in his 3 minor league seasons, 21-year old prospect Tucupita Marcano played 6 innings yesterday in left field. While the outfield is not easy to play under Arizona’s bright blue sky, Marcano made a nice play to record the 2nd out in the 1st inning while also singling in his 2 ABs. He’s now 3-4 on the spring.
- Speaking of Marcano, he was one of 3 Padres’ top prospects to get the start in yesterday’s game. CJ Abrams and Robert Hassell III also made starts in 2B and CF, respectively. Even though they’ve dealt dozens of prospects since the Trade Deadline last August, the Padres still own one of the sport’s top farm systems, a fact they seem determined to show it off this spring. Hassell showed off his swing, booming a double off the CF-wall in the 3rd inning.
- Over on the practice fields, RHP Anderson Espinoza appeared sharp in a live batting practice. He got misses with his curve and a popping fastball and generally was around the plate. Espinoza, the Padres’ top prospect in 2016, is working back from a 2nd Tommy John surgery and is expected to be ready to begin the minor league season.
- Tingler also indicated LHP José Castillo could get in a game soon. Castillo, who missed last season with a lat strain, has thrown 2 bullpen sessions since the start of spring. He has pitched in only 1 big-league game since 2018 due to various injuries.
- When the Padres traded for Trent Grisham in December 2019, they hoped he’d be able to fill a glaring roster void by handling center field. Grisham not only handled center in ‘20 — he thrived there, winning the franchise’s first Gold Glove Award in the outfield since Mike Cameron in ‘06. But entering his 2nd full season in the big leagues, the 24-year-old insists he’s not a finished product defensively. “It’s a great award, and I was really honored to get it, yes,” Grisham said. “But I wouldn’t say it’s Gold Glove or bust. There are certain things I know I’ve got to do to be a good defender, and I’m going to keep trying to get better at those things.” When Tingler met Grisham for lunch in Texas during the offseason, it was Grisham who outlined a few needed areas for improvement — notably his play at the wall and being smarter about when he takes chances with his arm. (Gotta love a young guy taking that kind of initiative, right?)
- Over on the roster side, the Padres officially signed 2 more international prospects: Victor Lizarraga out of Mexico, and Riley Yeatman from Australia. While expected for weeks, signing the 17-year-old Lizarraga was first reported by Baseball America, which rates him as the top prospect out of Mexico and #34 in their 2020-21 top international prospects list. The 6’4”, 185-pound Lizarraga has a fastball that sits 89 to 92 mph. He’s also developing a curveball and a change-up. As for Yeatman, the team views him as the top pitching prospect from Down Under. The 17-year-old Yeatman also stands at 6’4”, and weighs 170 pounds. He pairs good command of an 87-90 mph fastball with a big, 12-to-6 curveball. This past winter, Yeatman was the youngest member of the Adelaide Giants’ training squad in the Australian Baseball League. These 2 signings add to the Padres’ international class which already includes other top-50 signees like SS Victor Acosta (#21), OF Samuel Zavala (#37), and OF Daniel Montesino (#42), all of whom signed for at least $1 million in January.
- We’ve already gotten our own johnjprecoda to break down Yu Darvish’s arsenal. But now the SD-UT is in on the mix, courtesy of Michael Guerrero. Guerrero lists 11 of Darvish’s pitches (7 primarily) that he’s used so far, with more on the way (he’s been picking Padres adviser Hideo Nomo’s brain this spring, in hopes of “acquiring” a split-finger). “It’s really fun to work on a lot of pitches,” Darvish said recently. “He’ll be practicing a new pitch, throwing and throwing,” said Victor Caratini, the catcher who came to the Padres with Darvish as part of the December trade with the Cubs. “He’ll come to me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a new pitch.’ ” Give it a read!
- AJ Cassavell lists the 6 Padres to watch closely this spring. While most are no brainers like Dinelson lamet (primarily the health of his elbow), and the transition of Ha-Seong Kim, Cassavell also lists LHP Jose Castillo as well as youngsters like LHP MacKenzie Gore, RHP Anderson Espinoza, and INF CJ Abrams. In fact, here’s video evidence of Espinoza throwing a live BP session:
Anderson Espinoza (facing hitters for the first time this spring) with some March 1 cheddar. pic.twitter.com/xntSng4xoM— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) March 1, 2021
- Speaking of Lamet, Cassavell notes that today marked the first time the RHP threw a live BP session (Jose Castillo and Yu Darvish scheduled to follow). Cassavell notes that Lamet likely threw 3-4 sliders, though he claims he’s not at the best angle. Here’s the footage:
15 pitches for Lamet in an informal live BP setting. I counted 3-4 sliders (but I also don’t have the best angle here). Lamet leapt off the mound after his last pitch. Encouraging live session for Lamet and for the Padres. pic.twitter.com/sBtHNZTFVf— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) March 2, 2021
That’s it for today. GO PADRES!!!