Padres' offense celebrates Melvin's return

June 23rd, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- While he spent 10 days at home in COVID-19 protocols, Padres manager Bob Melvin didn't spend all that much time speaking directly with his players.

He texted and called sporadically, perhaps to explain a lineup decision, perhaps to check on an injury. But for the most part, Melvin communicated directly with his coaches. They did the rest of the work.

"I didn't want to overdo it," said Melvin, who returned to the dugout Wednesday before the Padres completed a sweep of the D-backs with a 10-4 victory at Petco Park. "We have a staff here that's doing a great job. I didn't want to micro-manage from afar."

There was one minor exception, however. On Monday, a day after the Padres lost Manny Machado to a gruesome-looking ankle injury, Melvin FaceTimed into the team's hitters meeting. It was mostly just to provide an update -- that he and bench coach Ryan Christenson would be returning soon.

But Melvin also had a reminder. The Padres never panicked when they lost Fernando Tatis Jr. to injury. They simply found ways to win without him. So why should that be any different with Machado out of the lineup?

"What we talked about the other day with Manny going down was: Just treat every day that Manny's not in the lineup like he's getting a day off," Melvin said. "We expect to win those games if we give Manny a day off -- why wouldn't you?

"That's the way the guys have treated everything all year long. Worry about today's game. Try to win today's game. And know that, as far as a health standpoint, we have guys coming."

That’s the scary part. The Padres are in a virtual tie for first place in the NL West with the Dodgers. They’ve done it without Tatis all season and without Machado for the past three games, all victories.

They’ve also done it without Melvin for the past 11 games and for nine games in May, when he missed time due to prostate surgery. (Prior to this year, Melvin had only missed three games in his entire managerial career -- for the high school and college graduations of his daughter and to treat a neck injury.) He said he was asymptomatic for most of his absence, but even still…

“That was a rough 10 days,” Melvin said. “Just getting back in this ballpark -- you watch it on TV, you miss the excitement, the fans and all that goes on here. So, to be able to get back in the dugout and see all that again -- and get a win on top of it -- it was great.”

Right-hander pitched four innings of one-run ball, and by the time he exited, the Padres had a five-run lead. It’s been a stop-start season for Clevinger, who has dealt with injuries and a COVID-related absence.

Clevinger worked into a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the first inning. Then he worked his way out of it, ending the threat with a dotted 96-mph fastball on the outside corner to punch out Jordan Luplow. Given his recent trials and tribulations, Clevinger lasted only 81 pitches. But the Padres think he’s finally back on course to being a regular contributor in their deep rotation again.

“It’s been an uphill climb for a minute,” Clevinger said. “I’m used to the adversity, at this point. Now I’m just taking the challenge as … I’m lucky to have this challenge.”

In the meantime, the Padres’ offense broke out for 10 runs, including three standout performances:

  • singled, doubled and tripled, and could have become the first player in at least the last 50 years to complete a cycle by hitting his first career home run. Afterward, Azocar said he didn’t even realize, and was just trying to hit the ball up the middle. (He did -- into an inning-ending double play.)
  • went 2-for-5 with a mammoth homer in the seventh -- a 430-foot blast off the third level of the Western Metal Building. At 114.8 mph off the bat, it was the hardest homer by a Padres hitter this season.
  • singled in each of his first four at-bats before he was plunked in the hamstring with a 3-0 Caleb Smith fastball in the seventh. Frustrated, Profar flung his bat down the first-base line, before walking gingerly to first base without incident. He was removed for a pinch-runner. After the game Profar was in good spirits and said his removal was merely precautionary.

In any case, it was another impressive offensive display for a team missing its two biggest superstars.

“That’s huge,” Clevinger said. “It just shows the camaraderie we have in this clubhouse. It’s always a next-man-up mentality here. It’s not going to be ‘poor me.’ Its going to be: ‘Let’s go get it with what we’ve got.’”

Really, that’s the message Melvin has preached since day one. He may have been sidelined for the past 10 days, but his presence in the Padres’ clubhouse never left.