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Likely to make rotation, Lamet mixing in curveball

MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Even if they haven't stated it publicly, the Padres are making it increasingly clear that Dinelson Lamet has a place in their Opening Day rotation.

The latest hint came Thursday, when Lamet started a back-field game against the Rangers to avoid facing the National League West-rival Giants. Over five scoreless innings, Lamet allowed three hits and a walk and struck out eight.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Even if they haven't stated it publicly, the Padres are making it increasingly clear that Dinelson Lamet has a place in their Opening Day rotation.

The latest hint came Thursday, when Lamet started a back-field game against the Rangers to avoid facing the National League West-rival Giants. Over five scoreless innings, Lamet allowed three hits and a walk and struck out eight.

Of course, Lamet's likely place in the rotation isn't the least bit surprising. He showed flashes of brilliance during an up-and-down rookie 2017 campaign, in which he posted a 4.57 ERA. He had 139 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings, giving him the best strikeouts per nine innings by a rookie starter in franchise history.

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In his second year, Lamet will be looking to harness his swing-and-miss stuff into better results -- namely by cutting down on walks and avoiding big innings.

"I think of myself as a No. 1 starter," Lamet said. "That's what's in my mind always. Wherever the team wants to put me -- second, third, wherever -- as long as I'm in the rotation, I think of myself as a No. 1 starter, and I'm going to put in the work for that."

Video: Outlook: Lamet enters '18 with great potential

The way the Padres' pitching plans line up, Clayton Richard is currently in line to start Opening Day on March 29 against the Brewers. That would set Lamet up to start the following day -- meaning he'll have two more spring outings to build for the season.

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Last year, Lamet leaned mainly on his fastball and slider, but he's incorporating a curveball into his arsenal this spring. The pitch is similar to his slider, but he stays on top of the ball a bit longer before his release.

"It breaks at a different angle than the slider, and it comes in a lot slower," Lamet said. "It's a slower pitch that can throw off the timing of the hitter, and that's what I'm trying to do. It's something I can throw for a strike, too."

The pitch was particularly effective on Thursday, albeit against a Minor League lineup.

"He was just dropping it in whenever he wanted to," Padres manager Andy Green said. "That's the idea for the pitch for him. It's a different kind of spin pitch to get them off of the slider. it looked really good."

Hosmer powers up
Eric Hosmer's bat hasn't started to heat up, but the Padres don't seem too concerned about their new first baseman. Hosmer may have broken out of his Cactus League funk in Thursday's 9-7 win over the Giants, as he demolished a two-run homer onto the right-field berm at Peoria Sports Complex.

It was Hosmer's second homer of the spring, though he's batting just .176 (6-for-34). Chase Headley and Cory Spangenberg also went deep to right field in the inning.

Lauer makes another impression
If this was Eric Lauer's final start for the Padres this spring, he went out in style. Lauer, the club's No. 13 prospect per MLB Pipeline, pitched four innings of one-run ball against the Giants, striking out four and allowing four hits.

"It's good stuff," Green said. "You can't ask for anything more from him."

Lauer and fellow lefty pitching prospect Joey Lucchesi could be headed to Minor League camp, as there are fewer innings to go around. But they certainly left their marks. Lauer finished with a 2.51 ERA in four spring appearances, while Lucchesi, the Padres' No. 9 prospect, pitched seven scoreless innings over three outings.

Camp battles
• The Padres' second-base race is still as tight as it's been all spring. Spangenberg homered and walked on Thursday, pushing his batting average to .323 and his OPS to 1.077. He's looking to keep pace with an equally red-hot Carlos Asuaje, who hit a pinch-hit double in the eighth.

• Lefty reliever Buddy Baumann worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning, which included a strikeout, as he vies for one of approximately three available bullpen spots.

Injury updates
• Left-hander Kyle McGrath has been slowed by minor elbow soreness for two weeks, but he will throw a bullpen session on Friday, Green said. Green called the injury "not anything drastic," and said McGrath could return to game action next week.

• Catcher Luis Torrens was optioned to Minor League camp on Wednesday. He's fully recovered from oblique tightness that sidelined him early in camp.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, Dinelson Lamet