Adrian Morejon threw his 15th pitch on Sunday afternoon -- a 2-0 fastball, low to Joey Gallo -- and exhaled in visible discomfort. The Padres left-hander shook the fingers on his left hand, moseyed around the mound, threw Gallo one more fastball, and that was that.
Catcher Victor Caratini summoned a team athletic trainer, and Morejon was removed after just three batters with what the team said is a left forearm strain.
It was an ominous sight for the rising star in the Padres' rotation, who was officially placed on the 10-day injured list before Monday's series opener in Pittsburgh.
“You feel horrible for him,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler on Sunday. "You hope everything’s going to be all right, but we just don’t know much right now.”
In the short term, the challenge of replacing Morejon did not prove too much for a red-hot San Diego bullpen. Six Padres relievers combined to pitch 8 1/3 innings of scoreless ball in a tense 2-0 win to complete another sweep of the Rangers at Globe Life Field -- their second in as many seasons. Right-hander Nabil Crismatt was recalled from the alternate training site to make up for the loss of Morejon.
It marked the first time in franchise history that the Padres have thrown a combined shutout in which their starting pitcher didn't make it through the first inning -- and the first time in MLB since Cleveland blanked Detroit in September 2016. Through 10 games, the Padres’ relief corps has been nothing short of outstanding, leading the Majors with a 0.84 ERA.
“This bullpen is special,” said right-hander Craig Stammen, who has allowed three of the ‘pen’s four earned runs this season but was brilliant Sunday over 3 1/3 scoreless frames in relief of Morejon. “We’ve got a great group of guys. We’ve got some studs down there. I was just happy to do my part for once -- I was the only one giving up runs.”
For one day at least, the Padres handled the loss of Morejon seamlessly. But the effects of his injury on the rest of the San Diego pitching staff ultimately might be felt well beyond Sunday. The injury to Morejon, who was in line to start the opener of a three-game series against the Dodgers this weekend, leaves the Padres in a bit of a bind for that set, their first against Los Angeles this season.
That could prompt the return of right-hander Dinelson Lamet, who has been building up slowly at the team’s alternate site this spring. He pitched into the fourth inning Friday, and Tingler indicated that Lamet could make his return this week -- though he cautioned that the Padres wouldn’t push Lamet.
“It will not be out of necessity,” Tingler said of Lamet’s return. “It will be when he’s good to go. And I think we’re getting close.”
Lefty MacKenzie Gore, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the sport’s top overall pitching prospect, also could replace Morejon. Gore struggled during Spring Training, ultimately losing out on the fifth and final rotation spot in a battle with Morejon. Another option could see lefty Ryan Weathers, the team’s swingman, enter the rotation mix.
Of course, it’s not entirely necessary that the Padres use their replacement starter for that game against the Dodgers on Friday. They could insert another starter into the rotation on Wednesday, pushing Joe Musgrove and Chris Paddack back by a day. That move could help preserve Musgrove after he threw 112 pitches for his no-hitter on Friday. In that scenario, Paddack would start Game 1 vs. L.A.
In retrospect, Musgrove probably won the Padres more than one game this weekend. His no-hitter allowed Tingler to dip into his bullpen early on Saturday, after two off-days for Padres relievers. Then, on Sunday, San Diego had just enough fresh arms to cover for the loss of Morejon.
“Looking back now, for Joe to give us that no-hitter -- and obviously the complete game that goes with it -- that played out so big today,” Tingler said.
Machado’s eventful weekend
With the Padres clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth inning, Manny Machado offered the bullpen some much-needed breathing room with his second home run of the season. It came less than 24 hours after Machado was tossed for arguing balls and strikes in the eighth inning Saturday night.
Rangers pitchers nibbled all weekend against Machado, who was clearly displeased with a handful of calls. That said, Machado didn’t feel he had done nearly enough to warrant the ejection Saturday. He chirped at home-plate ump Jansen Visconti but didn’t appear to do much else.
“Pitchers are going to make their pitches, and some of those times you’ve just got to tip your cap,” Machado said. “But then there’s some times that those pitches aren’t perfect pitches, and they’re a little off. But what are we going to do about it? We can’t do anything about it these days.
“Obviously you can’t even show your emotions, either, without getting tossed. So we’ll try to find an adjustment. Go out there and hit ’em over the fence, like I did my last at-bat.”
Machado, who was made available to the media for the first time since Musgrove’s no-hitter on Friday, also spoke excitedly about being “a part of history.” It was the first no-hitter Machado had ever been a part of at any level. An unabashed student of the game, Machado loved every second.
“That was one of the most incredible nights of my career,” Machado said. “I’ve never been a part of one. It was just amazing. You can’t even describe it -- how well he threw the ball. I noticed it from the fifth inning that he had something going, and after that I knew he was going to get it. It was just meant to be.
“He’s from San Diego. We’ve never thrown one in the history of our organization, and it couldn’t land on a better person, on a better guy than Joe. I was just glad to be a part of that special night.”