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Padres Spring Training Round-up: March 29th, 2021

Last Spring Training game today!

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Angels
All together, now...
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Hello again, Friar Faithful. Today marks the last day of Spring Training. The Padres will soon head back to San Diego to open the season on April 1st, but before we get there, let’s take a look at the weekend that was.

The Padres won 2 of the 3 games played since Friday, defeating the Mariners 6-3 and the Angels 2-0 before tying the Cleveland Baseball Team 3-3 last night (undefeated weekend, woo!). The Padres got another strong performance, this time from projected #3 starter Joe Musgrove. The local boy went 5 strong innings, allowing no hits while allowing 2 BBs, but more than making up for it with 6 Ks.

He was followed by top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore, who posted another uneven performance. Gore was smacked around in his 1.1 innings of work, giving up 4 hits and issuing 1 BB, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) to score. One of those hits was a 3-run blast to former Padre Josh Naylor, who took an 0-1 pitch out to center field. Truthfully, it not for a fielding error by Ha-Seong Kim, Gore might’ve escaped the inning allowing just 1 run, but it was not to be. Gore’s performance on Sunday likely ended any push to include him on the Opening Day roster. The Padres certainly liked a lot of what they saw from the young lefty, and remain confident that, with a return on the Minors this year, Gore will get his development back on track and will be in San Diego sooner rather than later.

On the offensive side of things, we have another 2-WAY PLAYER ALERT!!!! RHP Joe Musgrove showed that he can help his own cause when needed, as he smacked a double into the left-ish-center gap in the 3rd. He was then brought home by Fernando Tatis Jr., who followed with a double of his own down the left-field line (FTJ would score a few batters later, coming home off a wild pitch).

Musgrove recorded a 2nd hit in the 5th, reaching on a lead-off bunt single. He came around to score again 3 batters later, as Pedro Florimon hit a sac fly. Unfortunately, though, that was all she wrote, as the team once again suffered from leaving runners on base. For the game, the team only went 2-10 with runners in scoring position, while leaving 12 total on base. That’s something the team will need to improve on if they actually want to dethrone the Dodgers this year.

With the tie, the team moves to 12-12-3 on the spring. Let’s get into news and notes:

  • With Opening Day just a few days away, many fans are looking around for some key starters who’ve been out with injury. Hate to disappoint you, but the team remains in no rush to bring back CF Trent Grisham, C Austin Nola, or RHP Dinelson Lamet. “From my lens, selfishly, of course you want them all there,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. “But also looking big-picture-wise, the last thing we want to do is have someone start the season at 70-75% and not be able to perform. It’s important that we see it big-picture-wise.” Lamet is a lock to open the season on the injured list, and both Grisham (hamstring strain) and Nola (fractured left middle finger) are candidates to join him as well as it’s doubtful either of those two would make another Cactus League appearance before the Padres break camp on Monday. If that occurs, AJ Cassavell lists a number of intriguing replacements for the roster: OF Tucupita Marcano, once a long shot to make the roster, might just make the team to start in LF (with Tommy Pham likely sliding over into CF), and C Luis Campusano likely breaking camp as the team’s back-up catcher, who might just stick around anyway given how much the Padres love his bat. As for Lamet, it looks like LHP Adrian Morejon will take on the 5th starter role, moving to the bullpen once Lamet returns, which will be occupied by LHP Ryan Weathers for the time being.
  • There’s been much discussion among fans as to weather young phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. should tone down his play. I personally wouldn’t count on it, especially in light of the support FTJ’s receiving from 3B Manny Machado. “No chance,” Machado replied when asked if FTJ should temper his play recently. “I can’t tell him to stop diving, I can’t tell him to stop sliding. Why would I tell him to not tag up on a fly ball to shortstop? No chance. That’s who he is. I wish I could do that. But I can’t.” For what it’s worth, Machado says he believes Tatis is learning for himself, but not at the expense of sacrificing the player he is. “From his first year to last year, he’s gotten better with knowing himself, knowing his limits,” Machado said. “The more he plays, he’ll understand certain things. ... But he can’t change his game play. He’s got to be Fernando Tatis, and I think he’s going to continue to be Fernando Tatis. That’s why he’s one of the most exciting players in baseball.”
  • In terms of roster battles, we’re coming down to the wire between UT Jorge Mateo and OF Brian O’Grady. Mateo likely holds the lead, as he’s slashed .333/.433/.481 in his 54 spring ABs, earning the praise of manager Jayce Tingler. “Long story short, he’s really worked on flattening out his bat path, so he can handle pitches at the top of the zone,” manager Jayce Tingler said. “A ton of credit goes to him. ... He’s a good decision-maker on the bases. We trust him in the infield. We trust him in the outfield. We trust him in the box. He just continues to work and keep improving.” O’Grady, meanwhile, the more natural OF of the two, has slashed .262/.392/.476 in his 42 ABs. Barring something surprising, it’s possible that, given the injury to Grisham, both players could make the Opening Day roster. To that end, the Padres have begun talking to players who made the team or will be sent down, and Tingler said they plan to finish that process today.
  • Regardless of who makes the lineup, one thing that’s come across abundantly from the entire roster is how excited the players are to have fans back in stadiums. “It won’t be an automated crowd noise,” Wil Myers said. “It will be real crowd noise for the first time in a year. Everybody here has wanted to play in front of fans. That’s what gets that adrenaline going.” While there will be some artificial crowd noise, it will be temporary and minimal. “It’ll be nice to get to play in front of a crowd again,” Eric Hosmer said. “There was so much excitement in San Diego last year on how the team was playing and what we were doing on the field. So, we know the fans are excited to get out there and watch us. We’re just as excited to get out there and play in front of these fans. That’s something that was talked about a lot last year was how electric Peto Park would be if there was fans last year during the course of the Slam Diego run, the winning streaks and the playoff berth and all that stuff. I think if there’s any team that’s excited to see some fans, it’s definitely us.”
  • LHP Drew Pomeranz is scheduled to pitch Monday for the 2nd time in 4 days. He had not pitched before that since March 9 due to forearm tightness. The news does not seem to be as good regarding Johnson, who has not pitched since leaving a March 16 game with a groin strain. It would seem unlikely he can start the season on time without having pitched in a game in two weeks. C Ausitn Nola worked in drills but did not play Sunday, seemingly furthering the likelihood he won’t be on the opening-day roster. Tingler said the Padres would like to see Nola and Grisham play games, which they can do by staying in Arizona, before participating in the regular season.
  • With Nola likely missing the Opening Day roster, it bears mentioning then that C Luis Campusano caught all 7 innings on Saturday, starting the game with LHP Blake Snell, and catching RHPs Craig Stammen and Keone Kela. Snell is slated to start the team’s 2nd game, likely meaning that Campusano would not only make the Opening Day roster, but also get the start with Snell. “There is significance,” Tingler said. “We wanted him with Snell. The whole goal is we have been trying to get him as much experience as possible.” That experience is critical for Campusano, who has never caught a game above High-A before this spring, and only has 143 games (1212.1 innings) caught so far in his professional career.
  • We’re not the only ones high on the Padres this year. Sports Illustrated came out with their initial MLB season predictions, where they list the Padres as 97-game winners (be still, my Padre-beating heart!). Unfortunately, that just means the Padres will be one of the best wild-card teams in MLB history, as they also predict that the stinkin’ Dodgers will win 101 games.

That’s it for today. As mentioned, today’s the last spring training game, with RHP Dinelson Lamet getting the start. First pitch will be at 1210 Pacific against the Rockies. Here’s today’s lineup: