Welcome back to another week of Spring Training baseball, Padres fans! Our Friars continue to put in work, as they took on the Giants, Dodgers, and Royals over the last few days, taking 2 of 3. So far this year, the Padres remain undefeated against their NL West foes, so of course, this means your Western Division champions will reside in San Diego this year (you heard it here first!).
With that, let’s get into the news and notes from the last few days. As always, fire away down in the comments with anything not listed, or just stuff you want to discuss.
- RHP Chris Paddack made his 2nd start of the spring against the Dodgers on Saturday, and it was particularly encouraging to both the team and to Paddack. Facing the Dodgers, with neither his defense nor his fastball at its best, and his family sitting in seats behind home plate, Paddack still threw 2 scoreless innings, recording X Ks while giving up several weak groundball hits, a clear sign that some of his offseason work is paying off. “You never want innings like that to snowball,” Paddack said. “… For me to eliminate (noise) and build that mental strength and use these starts during spring training to really focus on not letting those situations — weak ground balls up the middle, that little bump-in play — to basically just stay disciplined, stay in my routine, stay in my game plan and take one pitch at a time, is huge for me. I can’t control what has already happened.” So far, Paddack has only thrown 53 pitches in his 2 outings, and would likely have finished with less if not for some errors in the field. While he wasn’t pleased that his fastball rode squarely into the zone (something that he noted a regular Dodger lineup would’ve done damage on), Paddack was still able to use his change-up effectively to get outs.
- Trent Grisham is 2-4 with 2 doubles and 4 BBs against left-handed pitchers so far this spring. At the end of last season, Grisham primarily batted 9th against lefty starters while leading off against righties. Grisham, who has led off in 3 of his 4 Cactus League starts, had a .359 on-base percentage against right-handers and .333 OBP against lefties in 2020, a clear area that Grisham wanted to improve on this year.
- RHP Anderson Espinoza remains the only pitcher in camp to have not gotten into a game so far this spring. The 22-year old as been dealing with a finger blister. He played long toss Saturday, and could throw a bullpen session Sunday before appearing in a game sometime next week. Espinoza once was the Padres’ top prospect in 2017 before the first of 2 Tommy John surgeries. He has not competitively in the minors since 2016.
- While the Padres had hoped to play more 9-inning games, Saturday’s 7-inning affair was their 6th straight of only 7 or 8 innings, as several pitchers who would have pitched in later innings have been ailing. Tingler said he expects to go 9 innings Sunday and after Monday’s off-day be able to go 9 innings regularly. Because there is no concurrent minor league camp to provide extra pitchers, teams have the option of playing as few as 5 innings the first 2 weeks of games this spring.
- Looks like LHP Matt Strahm will miss Opening Day. The team announced that Strahm, one of the bullpen’s most consistent performer over the past 3 years, is not expected to throw off a mound for 3 more weeks as he recovers from offseason patellar tendon surgery.
- Despite initially looking like a long-shot for the MLB roster, Rancho Bernardo High alum INF Gosuke Katoh has turned heads in Padres camp. Originally a 2nd round pick for the Yankees in 2013, the now 26-year old Katoh is finally looking to put on display the swing adjustments and body changes he implemented after spending the 2019 offseason working out with his boyhood hero, Ichiro Suzuki (Katoh spent all of 2020 at the Miami Marlins’ alt site). Katoh went into detail on how Ichiro put him through his paces. There was a lot of stretching, a lot of endurance work and a lot of hitting on the field where Irchiro started his career as an 18-year-old with the Orix Blue Wave more than 2 decades earlier. “Everyone talks about his worth ethic,” Katoh said, “but you don’t realize how hard he works until you work with him. It’s just unbelievable. It’s not just a lot of work, but it’s very accurate, very pinpoint. He has an agency and he sticks with it.” So far, it’s paid off: the improvements to his core, and the synchronization up through his pelvis and torso have flattened his bat through the zone and allowed him to finish with one hand for the 1st time in his career. The Padres’ staff have recognized it: “I’ve noticed his hand-eye (coordination) and his at-bats on the back fields,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “Sliding him over here into games, he’s played extremely well. Loved the at-bats. Love how he stays inside the zone. He’s been super impressive so far. He’s going to continue to get some at-bats moving forward.” Case in point: Katoh broke a scoreless tie and drove in both Padres’ runs with a 6th-inning single against the Dodgers; the non-roster invitee is now 4-for-10 this spring.
- LHP Adrian Morejon continues to play with fire. Morejon walked 3 batters on Saturday against the Dodgers, but managed to escape by inducing a groundball double play and then striking out Justin Turner. So far this spring Morejon has walked 6 batters and allowed 2 hits in his 4 innings of work, but has only allowed 1 run.
- RHP Keone Kela feels right at home in the Padres clubhouse. Long described as possessing a certain edge to him, Kela has found a like-minded band with the Padres. “If you look around in our clubhouse I would say that it’s kind of a group full of misfits to a small degree,” Kela said Sunday. “Even Manny (Machado), who is a tremendous ballplayer, he has an edge about him. (Fernando) Tatis has a complete edge about him. I think he’s one of the most dynamic and exciting players to play. You’ve got guys that have been through adversity on and off the field. Tommy Pham, an example. As far as our bullpen, we’ve got a bunch of dogs back there that I know are hungry and we’re all selfless.” Kela, who struck out all 3 Dodgers batters he faced Saturday, came to the Padres having been a successful closer in the majors, though like many pitchers in 2020, struggled mightily in the pandemic-interrupted season. “It was really, really frustrating,” he said. “Just disrupted my tempo as a baseball player, like I think it did for the whole world... I had a lot of time to myself to be introspective, look into my heart, look into who I wanted to be moving forward. I think it was something that has essentially helped me mature and figure out more of who I am and how I want to adjust and continue to be a dynamic part of this ballclub.” Manager Jayce Tingler, who was a coach in Texas when Kela was with the Rangers, has noticed a difference in the 27-year-old right-hander. “He’s matured over the years,” Tingler said. “He’s grown up. Having to battle some injuries and being away from the game and not being able to get out there, that changes perspective. When you have to go through the rehab and treatment when you’ve been injured, it’s been a long process for him to get back. I think he appreciates it and he’s enjoying being around new teammates and a new start.” Evidence of that new maturity was in abundance Saturday. While Kela dialed up his fastball to 96 mph, he instead utilized his curveball to record all 3 of his Ks, catching Dodger batters off-guard.
- More good news for RHP Dinelson Lamet. Lamet threw 20 pitches in a live batting practice Sunday, 5 more than he did Tuesday in his first time throwing to batters. “He had a really, really good day,” Tingler said. “He reported coming out of it feeling really good. We’ll keep moving forward.” Lamet appeared to mix in both his change-up and slider in the sequence. The Padres plan to continue slow playing the right-hander this spring, after he left his final regular-season start with elbow discomfort and did not pitch in the postseason.
- Just in case you didn’t appreciate how good LF Tommy Pham is, SD-UT writer Kevin Acee has this thought experiment for you: Rub soap on some glass, and attempt to see through to the other side. Then shine a spotlight on the glass, and try to hit a baseball while you look through the smeared glass. That’s basically what Pham does at the plate if he’s not wearing his specialized contact lenses due to keratoconus (he was diagnosed with the condition while a Cardinals farmhand in 2008). Pham, still adjusting to a new set of contacts, anticipates better results soon, as he’s 0-10 so far this spring with 3 BBs and 6 Ks. “My mechanics need to improve,” he said yesterday. “... But most of (the struggling) is probably vision. I’m too athletically gifted (and) I have enough bat speed to not strike out the way I’m striking out. Look at my strikeouts; a lot of them are me swinging at bad pitches or swinging through pitches. Right now — and I’m about to stop doing it — I’ll take an at-bat and then use a different pair,” Pham said. “… I’m experimenting. I have four different sets and all four sets have different power.”
- RHP Yu Darvish made his Padres debut against the Royals this weekend. Apparently, he decided to take it easy on them. When asked how many different pitches he used, Darvish, who possesses a repertoire of about 12 pitches responded thusly: “Seven,” he stated, after pausing for a moment to count. 7 different offerings, the slowest at 72 mph and several as high as 96 mph, in a span of 28 pitches. Darvish gets a lot of misses on swings, but it’s also no wonder 6 of the 11 strikes he got in the 1st inning were called.
- CF Trent Grisham and 1B Eric Hosmer got on the board Sunday with their 1st home runs of Spring Training. Grisham’s was a leadoff blast that snuck inside the right-field foul pole at Peoria Stadium. Hosmer went deep to the opposite field — typically a sign that he’s feeling good at the plate.
- RHP Austin Adams plunked the first batter he faced, but otherwise had a strong spring debut, working a scoreless 7th inning with a pair of Ks. Adams is a heavy favorite for a spot in the bullpen (especially with LHP Jose Castillo out for the year and RHP Javy Guerra out for at least 2-4 weeks). If he can showcase some improved control this spring, he could make a case for high-leverage innings during the season.
- In a stat that might only interest me, RHPs Mark Melancon and Craig Stammen pitched in back-to-back innings yesterday. Stammen, who turns 37 tomorrow, joins Melancon ( who will be 35 years old on March 28) and LHP Tim Hill, who just turned 31 last month, as the only Padres relievers older than 29.
- Here’s an interesting article for you fantasy baseball pl
That’s it for today. As a reminder, the Padres have their first off-day of the spring today. They’ll be back at it Tuesday, with LHP Blake Snell making his 2nd start against the Chicago White Sox out at Camelback Ranch. LHP MacKenzie Gore will follow on Wednesday, facing off against the Rockies.
GO PADRES, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TOMMY PHAM!