With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking the team down position-by-position. We conclude our series by previewing San Diego's bullpen.• Around the Horn series:C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | SPSAN
With Spring Training on the horizon, MLB.com is taking an in-depth look at the 2018 Padres, breaking the team down position-by-position. We conclude our series by previewing San Diego's bullpen.
• Around the Horn series:C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | LF | CF | RF | SP
SAN DIEGO -- Brad Hand is still a San Diego Padre. So, too, is Craig Stammen.
Four months ago, the Padres seemed destined for a major bullpen shake-up, with two of their top arms potentially on the move. Instead, pitchers and catchers are slated to report to Spring Training next week, and San Diego's bullpen saw only a minor restructuring.
Stammen re-upped with the Padres for two years and $4.5 million in January. Hand, who has been the subject of trade speculation for a year and a half, later inked a three-year extension, keeping him on board through 2020.
Hand is coming off a career year, in which he made his first All-Star Game and posted a 2.16 ERA. He's proven extremely durable, as well. Since his arrival in San Diego two years ago, only Addison Reed has pitched in more games across the Majors.
"I haven't been around a pitcher that takes the ball as willingly and as often," said Padres manager Andy Green in reference to Hand. "He needs to be on the mound. He wants to be on the mound every single day. That's the guy you want impacting ... the young guys you have coming through the system. I'd love to see Brad be a part of championship-winning clubs here in San Diego."
Hand is expected to slot into the Padres' closer role, as he did during the second half of the 2017 season. Stammen, meanwhile, will fill a role similar to last year's, where he served as something of a late-inning escape artist.
Joining Hand and Stammen at the back end of San Diego's bullpen are Phil Maton, Kazuhisa Makita and Kirby Yates. Makita is the most interesting name of the bunch. Signed for two years from the Seibu Lions of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball, Makita notched a 1.91 ERA over the past two seasons. His extreme sidearm delivery will be a challenge for right-handed hitters.
"[Makita] is a guy that probably brings up dirt when he throws," Green said. "It's from way underneath. The beauty of the way the bullpen is right now is: You've got a dominant lefty in Brad Hand, you've got a guy in Craig Stammen who sinks the baseball, throws a slider off that, gets ground ball after ground ball. You've got Makita for a different look. ... You have so much variety to choose from that if you're actually any good at managing, you can utilize those guys in situations they should flourish. That's definitely exciting for me."
Hand, Stammen, Makita, Yates and Maton are all favorites for the Opening Day roster. After them, things get murkier. Don't be surprised if the Padres pull from their starting mix to find a long man -- someone in the mold of Jordan Lyles or Matt Strahm. That leaves a handful of effective relievers fighting for two spots, at most.
That group consists of: Buddy Baumann, Carter Capps, Jose Torres, Kyle McGrath, Miguel Diaz, Colten Brewer, Tom Wilhelmsen and Brad Wieck.
San Diego is optimistic that Capps is ready to bounce back from his recent struggles. This year marked his first offseason having fully recovered from his Tommy John surgery in 2016. He's used it to hone his quirky mechanics.
But if Hand is the only other lefty in the Padres' bullpen, it's possible that the club might lean toward Baumann, Torres or McGrath for the final relief job. With an excess of options, don't be surprised if the bullpen battle comes down to the final day of camp.
Projected closer: Hand
Projected setup men: Makita, Stammen, Maton, Yates
On the bubble: Baumann, Capps, Torres, McGrath, Diaz, Brewer, Brad Wieck, Lyles, Strahm
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.