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Padres Spring Training Round-Up: March 4th, 2021

Well, that was boring... until it wasn’t.

Milwaukee Brewers v San Diego Padres
Nice play, Jake!
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome back, Padres fans, to another day of Spring Training baseball. Yesterday’s game was a fairly boring affair, at least until the 4th inning. Then, as sometimes happens in early spring games, all hell broke loose. The Padres ultimately lost, 8-5, though they at least had some fun with it.

LHP Blake Snell made his Padres debut, and he looked sharp in his 1 inning of work. Snell didn’t allow a hit while walking 1 and K-ing another.

The Brewers got on the board first, scoring a run in the 2nd. They had a chance to add to it, but Jake Cronenworth, manning 1B during this one, let them know that was a hard no. Cro also recorded the Padres’ first hit of the game in the 6th inning, lacing a 1-out double into left.

Jake wasn’t the only one to flash the leather. Young CJ Abrams, not even 21-years old yet, showed off his defensive skills while playing SS. Ranging well to his right, he then threw a strike to nail the runner at first from the seat of his pants. He also singled in a run yesterday, then proceeded to steal 2B. Abrams has continued to impress during camp, whether it’s with his glove, bat, or his legs.

After that, though, the wind became a factor for the rest of the game (AJ Cassavell estimated the wind at 25 mph, blowing out). The Brewers hit a 3-run homer to extend their lead to 4-0, roughing up Padres reliever Pierce Johnson. With that, a plethora of fringe players and prospects came in to get in on the fun. San Diego boy Gosuke Katoh, a Rancho Bernardo High School alum, provide the key offensive highlight for the Good Guys, smashing a 3-run homer.

In the end though, the Brewers ended up tagging Padres pitchers Dan Altavilla and James Reeves in the final 2 frames, with poor Reeves ending up with his 2nd L of the Cactus League season so far. I’d recommend not looking too hard at this one, especially as the regulars only got a few innings of work in.

On that note, let’s get onto news and notes:

  • As mentioned above, LHP Blake Snell made his first appearance in Padres brown yesterday, using only 15 pitches to get through his 1 inning of work. While just about anyone else would have been satisfied with that, Snell was anything but: he expressed frustration with himself for his reaction to what he felt was a missed call. Snell said it affected his next pitch and he was kicking himself afterward for allowing it to do so. “Once they call it a ball or strike, it shouldn’t even matter,” Snell said. “I should already be thinking about: ‘What’s next, what are we doing, how are we setting them up?’ But I’m excited. First one’s out of the way, a lot to learn, a lot to grab. I’ll get better from it, I promise.” (I can’t wait to see what “better” is, compared to that performance)
  • AJ Cassavell also caught up with Padres RHP Mike Clevinger. Reflecting on the events of last fall, when Clevinger decided to try and pitch through his elbow injury (and ultimately needing a 2nd TJ surgery), he was emphatic: “One hundred%, would’ve done it again,” Clevinger said. “There’s a bunch of cool things that come along with playing in the big leagues. But there’s nothing that’s more fun than that postseason, where every single person’s out there willing to die for the man next to him... That’s why I want to play that game. There’s no better stage.” Clevinger is already looking forward to 2022, when he should join what looks to be a fearsome rotation. Clevinger has been an active participant in Padres camp, often scheduling his rehab around the throwing sessions of his rotation mates. He’s genuinely curious about their processes and the pitches they throw. He’s eager to offer input when asked, all while looking forward to the future. “We’ve got seven #1s over here, at least with a couple #1s in the making,” Clevinger said.
  • As mentioned above, Jake Cronenworth still plays a mean 1B, making a brilliant diving stop to preserve a 1-2-3 inning from RHP Craig Stammen. Cronenworth’s versatile play has earned praise from manager Jayce Tingler. “He can play double-plus defense at a lot of positions,” Tingler said. “He knows the positions, he knows the game, he knows where he’s supposed to be. I don’t know exactly how you can quantify it.”
  • The Padres’ solid play in the field is a credit to 3B coach Bobby Dickerson. Recognized by Baseball America as MLB’s top coach, Dickerson is noted for a relentless adherence to fundamentals, demanding accountability from even the highest-paid stars. However, as Kevin Acee of the SD-UT notes, its his relationship with the players that deserves more attention. “I just believe if the relationship is right, you can say anything to anybody,” he said last year after joining the Padres staff. “And I’m open, too. You can get in my (rear), too. I’m good. You show them you’re vulnerable.” His style can be a jolt, especially to some players who have been coached a different (friendlier) way in decades past. But Padres players quickly became convinced of his affection for them and his one goal. As 1B Eric Hosmer said: “You know he’s got the best intentions for you. He just wants you to be the best you can be.” Case in point: After offering correction to Fernando Tatis Jr., who had failed to get to second base in a situational drill, Dickerson shouted: “You already gave me one (expletive) heart attack,” referring to an incident last year when Dickerson had a total blockage of one artery and underwent surgery to insert a stent to open the artery, discovered after hitting grounders to FTJ in a nearly empty Petco Park when he felt short of breath and a tightness in his chest. Dickerson’s biggest endorsement comes from the player that has known him the longest: 3B Manny Machado. The smoothest of third basemen, Machado is among the team’s hardest workers, but everyone knows it doesn’t always look like it. During fungo drills, it’s always Dickerson paired up with Machado, with their personal dynamic on full display. Dickerson alternates between a sarcastic remark about Machado’s effort and/or execution and muttering not quite under his breath about same. Eventually, Machado barks back. At some point, Dickerson will shout some words of encouragement. And around they go. “He gets the most out of Manny,” said one staff member. Said Machado: “He’s one of the best guys out there in doing what he’s doing. Whenever you have a guy like that, that loves this game, who has a passion for what he does, you just admire it, enjoy it. He makes you come to the ballpark every day wanting to work and get better.”
  • MLB has authorized team to use alternate sites, at least for the start of the year, due to delays to the minor league seasons. The Padres, however, have not finalized their plans. While the University of San Diego baseball complex was used as an alternate site during last year’s COVID-19-shortened season, USD is playing baseball this year. As a result, the team looks likely to use The Diamond in Lake Elsinore, home to the Lake Elsinore Storm, the team’s low A-ball affiliate, which was the team’s back-up option had USD fallen through or had students returned to campus in 2020. MLB announced earlier in the week that the AAA season has been pushed back from its April 6 start day to the first week of May, when AA and A-ball seasons will start.
  • Good news for those of us looking to attend an MLB game this season: California Governor Gavin Newsome said stadiums could be open to fans by opening day, if the pandemic remains on its current downward trend. “We’re working on the final details,” Newsom said Wednesday at an appearance in Long Beach. “We’ve been working very closely with Major League Baseball and others across the spectrum.” The Padres have indicated they hoped to have 20 to 25% capacity at Petco Park, which would be about 10,000 to 12,000 fans. The first game at Petco Park is scheduled for April 1. Newsom stopped short of a guarantee, since a resurgence of the coronavirus could derail plans. But he noted that the state’s positivity rate has fallen to 2.2% and hospitalizations for the virus have dropped 43% in the past two weeks.

That’s it for today. The Padres take on the Rangers in Surprise, AZ today, with top prospect LHP MacKenzie Gore taking the hill. First pitch is set for 1205 Pacific. Just like yesterday, feel free to use the comments section as a game thread.