Notes: Adams' slider; Rivas' value; rotation

July 8th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- At long last, got the chance to face the team that gave him his big league breakthrough. He faced four Nationals on Tuesday night, walked two and struck out two, holding scoreless the organization that once designated him for assignment.

Adams has been one of the most important weapons in the Padres' excellent bullpen this season. Coming into Wednesday, he had a 1.80 ERA, and although he has struggled with his command -- having walked 18 hitters and plunked a Major League-leading 13 more in 30 innings -- Adams has allowed just 14 hits this year. That’s 4.2 per nine innings, putting him among the best in baseball in that department.

How did he get here?

"Best thing that ever happened to me was to leave that organization," Adams said of the Nationals – and let him explain:

"They were going for it [in 2019]. They were trying to win. And I wasn't in a position in my career to help that team win."

The Nationals did win -- the first World Series title in franchise history. But Adams needed time to develop. He needed time to learn how to use his unique arsenal.

After Adams was DFA’ed, he was traded to Seattle midseason, and that's where his career took off. The key to his success has never been a secret: His slider is borderline untouchable. It was in Seattle where he was encouraged to throw it and throw it often.

Adams arrived in San Diego at the Trade Deadline last season, and his slider usage has only increased. He's throwing it at an 89% clip this season, and opponents are hitting just .146 against it -- a stark contrast from his time in Washington.

“I was still kind of brainwashed with the old-school theory that you need to throw your fastballs for strikes," Adams said. "Then I came to understand that in the Major Leagues, getting outs is what matters. It's not about how you do it.

"Really, I was just trying to jam this square peg in a round hole when I was with the Nationals. And I didn't really get to figure out how good my slider was until I [got traded]."

Rivas stands out
For all of their offseason maneuvering, if there was one area where the Padres were thin, it was their organizational catching depth. Behind and , there were question marks. If either of those two got hurt, there was no ready answer as to how the Padres could withstand it.

Looks like the Padres have found that answer from within. Lately, has been more than serviceable as the team's No. 3 backstop.

Since Rivas was called up when Nola went down in late May with a left knee sprain, the Padres have relied on the journeyman of 11 Minor League seasons more than they ever could've imagined. He has responded by posting a wholly serviceable .326 on-base percentage and a .736 OPS entering Wednesday.

"He's given us exactly what we had hoped for -- a smooth transition behind the plate," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "He's working well with the pitchers. There's a comfort level back there. Defensively, he's been good, and he's come up with a couple big hits."

That includes a three-run homer on Sunday afternoon in the rain in Philadelphia.

It's entirely possible that Rivas' time with the big league club is nearing an end. Nola is headed for a rehab assignment in the near future. But that shouldn't discount Rivas' impact and his ability to keep the Padres afloat behind the plate while they've waited on Nola.

"I'm fortunate enough to be part of a group that's a competitive team," Rivas said. "It's a team with expectations, a winning team, and it's a hard-working team. I want to be a part of that."

Nola sustained a fractured finger in April, and the Padres opted to promote catching prospect , who struggled. At 22, Campusano wasn't quite ready for the big leagues, the team determined, even though MLB Pipeline ranks him as the organization’s No. 3 prospect. So when Nola went down again, it was Rivas' turn.

Rivas has spent the past five seasons in the Padres organization, working extensively with a handful of pitchers on staff right now. That knowledge has paid dividends.

"Being around them, and having caught them, it's good knowing how it is that they pitch and what they do," Rivas said. "Once that opportunity presented itself for me to be up here, I think knowing them helped a lot."

One spot left
The Padres have yet to finalize their rotation plans for their weekend series against the Rockies to finish out the first half of the season. is slated to start Friday night, with likely for Saturday.

That leaves Sunday’s outing open. It’s possible rookie makes one more start, though the Padres have done their best to limit his workload this season. If progresses in his recovery from right-forearm inflammation, he’s an option, too, Tingler said.

Then again, maybe it isn’t an either-or proposition. Lamet and Weathers have piggybacked multiple times already this season. That could be how the Padres wrap up their first half.