SAN DIEGO -- The Padres, already down five position players because of COVID-19 issues, placed left-handed setup reliever Drew Pomeranz on the 10-day injured list on Friday with a left shoulder impingement.
This roster turnover represents the biggest challenge the Padres have faced this season. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wil Myers -- two of the offense’s most important contributors -- tested positive for COVID-19 and are on the IL. Eric Hosmer, Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo joined them because of the league's contact-tracing protocols.
How, exactly, can the Padres withstand the sheer volume of absences without having their on-field results too greatly impacted? Here’s how, in four easy steps:
1. More production from Pham and Kim
Manager Jayce Tingler was quick to point out that the burden won't fall to any single player. And while there's some truth to that statement, the spate of roster moves will give two slumping Padres in particular a chance to take center stage: infielder Ha-Seong Kim and left fielder Tommy Pham.
Kim replaces Tatis as the team's primary shortstop, and Pham will receive regular starts in left with Myers and Profar sidelined. Pham and Kim have combined to post a dreadful .196 batting average this season (which is, after all, why they’d been resigned to bench duty in the first place).
If there were ever a chance for those two to make a statement, it's right now. Kim has been excellent defensively and has hits in all three games since Tatis landed on the IL. Pham has shown signs of a breakout lately, too, though he went 0-for-6 Wednesday during a doubleheader split in Colorado.
The Padres don't need Pham and Kim to perform like Myers and Tatis. They just need more than what they’ve gotten.
2. Get Manny going
When Manny Machado gets hot, Tingler likes to say, Manny Machado stays hot.
Well, Machado hasn't gotten particularly hot just yet. He's been excellent defensively and on the basepaths. But at the plate, Machado has been nowhere near his All-MLB-caliber self. He has shown flashes, sure. But Machado has yet to string together consecutive multi-hit games this season.
On an offense that features Tatis, Myers and Hosmer, there's cover when Machado needs time to work through some kinks. Right now, however, that cover isn't there.
"Guys are going to need to step up," said Machado, who entered Friday with a slash line of .226/.327/.387. "But you just go out there and try to win a ballgame, keep playing baseball. It sucks that we have players down. That hurts the ballclub. ... But we have guys that can step up big-time."
He's chief among them.
3. Let the rotation do the heavy lifting
Even with a full contingent of offensive weapons at their disposal, the Padres have struggled to score runs. Their pitching staff has kept them afloat, and if they're going to emerge from this spate of IL trips unscathed, they need more where that came from.
Entering Friday, the Padres’ 2.82 ERA registered as the best mark in baseball. Their rotation and bullpen have both been excellent, but right now, that rotation is perhaps asking a bit too much of the bullpen. No relief corps in the National League is even close to the Padres’ 167 1/3 innings.
That's partly because of injuries. Three different Padres starters have left games early due to injury this season, and Dinelson Lamet is still starting games even though he’s not built up to his regular workload.
But that isn’t the only issue here. Blake Snell, Chris Paddack and, lately, Joe Musgrove haven't provided nearly enough length. The Padres have gotten just eight starts of at least six innings -- five belonging to Yu Darvish. (The other three belong to Musgrove, who hasn't completed the sixth since April 19.)
4. Ride the wave with Hill and Adams
Consider the state of the left-handers in the Padres’ bullpen this year:
The burden has fallen squarely on the left arm of Tim Hill -- and Hill has risen to the occasion. He entered Friday one shy of the Major League lead with 20 games pitched and an 2.65 ERA while recording some of the season's biggest outs. With Pomeranz on the IL -- and the Padres are optimistic it’ll be a short stint there -- those high-leverage spots will continue to fall to Hill.
Meanwhile, right-hander Austin Adams is riding a streak of 10 straight scoreless outings in which he has allowed only one hit. Adams' control has improved lately, too, and he's striking out nearly two hitters per inning. With Keone Kela (right forearm tightness) on the IL, Adams is being asked to help fill that void, and he has stepped up. Just like Hill.
The injuries are mounting. But thus far, the San Diego bullpen has weathered the storm.
"The whole crew down there has done a good job," Tingler said. "Adams has been on a pretty good roll as of late. We think we've got the guys to do it."
• Members of the USA Softball Women’s National Team who will be participating in the Tokyo Olympics attended Friday's game as guests of the Padres. They took in the game from the owner’s box after ringing the ceremonial mission bell beforehand.
The team is training in Chula Vista for their fifth training camp of the 2021 season. The practices are being held at the Elite Athlete Training Center, and the team also has several exhibition contests scheduled during the two-week camp. Opponents include the University of San Diego, Loyola Marymount University and Cal State Northridge. The games are part of the 2021 “Stand Beside Her” tour as the team eyes a fourth Olympic gold medal at the upcoming Tokyo Games.
• With Pomeranz on the IL, the Padres selected the contract of infielder Ivan Castillo to fill out their 26-man roster.