PEORIA, Ariz. – The Padres have expressed unrelenting optimism as Dinelson Lamet builds his way back from the right elbow injury that kept him out of the postseason last year. Behind the scenes, however, team officials have always acknowledged one truth: They couldn't be certain Lamet was "back" until he did it against opposing hitters in game action.
On Wednesday, Lamet will finally get that chance.
The Padres right-hander will make his Cactus League debut against the Giants in Scottsdale, where he’s scheduled to throw one inning. The late-March start leaves almost no path to a spot on the Opening Day roster for Lamet. But that's by design.
The specifics of Lamet's injury were never revealed by the club, but he said his early shutdown allowed him to avoid Tommy John surgery. He received a platelet-rich plasma injection in October.
Considering that Lamet threw only 69 innings in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season, there was no chance the Padres were ever going to ask him for a full workload in '21, especially coming off an elbow injury.
All along, the Padres have safeguarded the details of their plan for Lamet. But as Spring Training progressed, it became apparent he wouldn't be fully built up by Opening Day. Lamet has spent the past month pitching simulated games on the Peoria Sports Complex backfields.
The most recent of those outings came Thursday, and Lamet cleared an important hurdle, pitching multiple innings for the first time.
"After he did his first up-down against hitters, we wanted to see how he responded," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "He's feeling really good, so we're going to shoot for Wednesday night, get under the lights and go from there. Obviously, we're excited to have him on the mound and see where we're at."
In 2020, Lamet broke out as a certifiable ace. He posted a 2.09 ERA that ranks as the best single-season qualifying mark in franchise history, and finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting.
The Padres would obviously love to have that version of Lamet for Opening Day. All along, however, they've insisted it's far more important they have him for September and October.
Snell labors, but posts another 'zero'
Blake Snell has made four starts this spring and has yet to allow a run, but you'd never know it from his harsh assessment of himself.
Indeed, Snell struggled with his command on Sunday -- throwing more balls than strikes -- but he worked his way into and out of trouble for another 3 1/3 scoreless innings in the Padres' 4-1 victory over the Angels.
"Just very, very inconsistent," Snell said afterward. "There's just a lot there that I need to dissect.”
Snell loaded the bases in the third inning, but he escaped by getting Anthony Rendon to pop out and Justin Upton to ground out weakly to second.
The Angels brought a lineup full of regulars to Peoria, which Snell appreciated.
"This was the most excited I was to face a lineup," Snell said. "This is how you get a true understanding of where you're at, how good you actually are doing. It gives you an idea of: 'How ready are you, really?'"
The scoreless spring says he's probably ready -- even if Snell says he has a few things left to work on.
• Sunday was an eventful day in the battle for the final spot on the Padres' bench -- presumably between Brian O'Grady and Jorge Mateo. O'Grady pounded out two hits, including a leadoff triple against Shohei Ohtani. But he committed an error in the third inning, dropping a David Fletcher liner in center field. Mateo, meanwhile, singled and worked a pair of walks and also nailed Ohtani from left field when he tried to stretch a single into a double.
"The good thing is they're both playing really well," Tingler said. "They're showing some versatility, and they're both having really good at-bats, which is good to see.”
• Eric Hosmer felt the full effects of a stomach bug on Saturday and was sent home from Padres camp. But he went through a full workout on Sunday and is expected to play Monday, Tingler said.
• Tommy Pham is still dealing with hip soreness following his collision with the left-field wall on Saturday afternoon. He was held out of the lineup Sunday, but he, too, could return on Monday.