Notes from Padres Spring Training - Mar. 18
Originally published: The Sac Bunt Newsletter
PEORIA, Ariz. — The Padres Opening Day rotation is still unknown—shocker. Andy Green cited the “wide open” nature of the competition for the lack of present clarity, a clever response despite the high probability of the devout fan narrowing the race down to two or three arms. As decision day draws near, however, Green admitted the “unraveling” of overlapping start days for starting pitchers began over the weekend. Whoever starts Friday at Salt River Fields or Saturday in Peoria lines up well for a Thursday start Mar. 28 in Petco Park. The same idea applies for the following days in projecting the opening weekend rotation for the Padres.
In the sphere of forces influencing these decisions, one variable may have slipped through the cracks, that is, until Green promptly shot it down.
“[Hedges, Mejia] are not by any stretch having any impact on who makes our rotation,” Green said. “But they’re going to impact them when they’re in our rotation, so we care about their opinion and we care about what they see and what they think.”
Green’s comments about attempting to have Hedges and Mejia catch each rotation option prompted the thought. Green even made progress towards this goal when Hedges caught Logan Allen for the first time in a game Saturday. But who better to provide an opinion on an arm than the men receiving their pitches?
According to 37-year-old journeyman Chris Stewart, catcher influence on major league rotations has roots in reality.
“I’m a veteran guy,” Stewart said. “Some teams have come to me and said, ‘Hey, these are kind of the options we’re laying out, what do you think would be the best plan based on what you’re seeing.’”
Stewart refrained from going into detail about specific times when this occurred, but his tone squashed any thoughts of the feedback loop between catchers and decision makers being uncommon. Perhaps because of Stewart’s age, the suggestion held more merit.
Mejia is only 23 years old, with minimal catching reps at the major league level. Hedges has played more than 100 games once in his career and doesn’t turn 27 until August.
Stewart has over 3,000 innings of experience catching in the majors. He considers himself a “coach” and prides himself on having a good grasp on how teams are formed and how those formations play out over a season.
So maybe Green doesn’t dismiss the concept of catchers helping but rather the inexperienced catcher clouding the judgement of decision makers. Thankfully, there is still time for Stewart to help if his opinion is valued.
“I’m open and willing if they do come to me,” Stewart said. “But I don’t want to overstep my bounds either.”
Paddack faces Trout
On a windy Wednesday in Tempe, Arizona, Paddack tackled one of the few doubts left on his resume: success against major league-caliber hitting. The Angels presented him with Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, Jonathan Lucroy and Albert Pujols. Paddack’s final line reflected a sawed-off double by Trout, who came around to score later in the inning, and six punchouts. His 20 strikeouts in 12 ⅔ innings are a Cactus League-best heading into play Sunday.
“Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, I didn’t look from the waist up,” Paddack said. “I knew they were in the box, but I just focused on the mitt.”
Paddack earned seven swinging strikes against the Angels. Left-handed hitters struggled with his fastball-changeup combination, mustering no hits and accounting for half of his six strikeouts. He mixed his curveball early and opted for his changeup deep in counts, a pitch he seems to have constant and unwavering feel for from the first pitch in every outing.
Andy Green provided little guidance as to who will start the Padres Opening Day battle against the San Francisco Giants in a press conference Thursday. He did, however, caution projecting out a starting rotation based on who pitches on which day. Joey Lucchesi, Matt Strahm and Eric Lauer all pitched Friday, something Green cited as a spring training blip that would never occur during the regular season.
While the baseball universe waits to see if the 23-year-old Texan makes his major league debut Opening Day in Petco Park, Paddack continues to “dominate every detail” as Green said Thursday.
“In the moment, it was cool,” Paddack said of facing Trout and Pujols. “But once I kind of settled down and realized what just happened it was something special, it was something I’ll never forget.”
As of Sunday night, Paddack is projected to throw Tuesday in Arizona.
Patiño anticipates a bump to Lake Elsinore
The detail often overlooked with Padres 2018 breakout prospect Luis Patiño is the Padres suggestion he develop slider upon signing. His original fastball-changeup-curveball repertoire evolved by adding a lateral pitch to compliment the north-south action of his curveball and arm-side fade of his changeup. But the addition unintentionally caused the prospect to lose curveball feel. Patiño has continued to listen to advice from prospect MacKenzie Gore regarding the pitch, something the two bonded over with the Fort Wayne Tin Caps in 2018.
“I practiced it every single day in the offseason so when I get to the Cal League my curveball is better,” Patiño said.
During Patiño’s breakout 2018, the lone mark on his resume was a glaring split issue. Right-handed hitters had a .370 OPS (not a typo) while left-handed hitters mustered an .878 OPS. This existed in part because of an underdeveloped changeup despite the offering’s status as one of his original three pitches.
While changeups are often unnecessary at lower levels of the minor leagues, once Patiño makes it to Lake Elsinore, the key metric to watch will be how his splits develop, if at all. Patiño focused on his changeup this offseason as well, in hopes of regaining all four of his pitches for a new level of competition. His goals for the season ahead combine
“The first one is to stay healthy,” Patiño said. “The second is to throw fastballs in, [improve] my control, my command and have good command with my other pitches.”