Notes: Hosmer producing; Yates' balky back

August 12th, 2020

The 2020 season has been a slog for Padres first baseman . But when he's on the field, it hasn’t shown.

Consider what Hosmer dealt with for the first week of the season. He struggled to keep food down as he battled a non-COVID-19-related gastrointestinal illness. Yet he still managed to suit up three times, going 5-for-10 with seven RBIs.

Then, consider what Hosmer has dealt with over the past week, as he returned from the injured list. He's not yet back to his playing weight, having dropped an estimated 10-15 pounds, down to about 207. Yet Hosmer still managed to tally the decisive hit against the Dodgers on Monday night, an opposite-field single in the sixth that put the Padres in front.

"I feel great," Hosmer said Monday night. "Honestly, I do. I've been able to get some good work in in the days before I was playing. The weight's coming back pretty good. The staff here in the training room, the strength coaches, have been doing great."

Still, in the wake of his bout with gastritis, Hosmer has had to significantly alter his diet. The Padres still aren't certain what prompted the ailment. To avoid a potential recurrence, Hosmer has removed several foods -- sauces in particular -- from his regular intake.

"It's just being really aware of what I put into my body now," Hosmer said. "I've always done a pretty good job of that, but even more now. I’ve really got to stay on top of it. It's not fun being on the IL. It's not fun watching these games on TV. "

Even if he's still building strength back, Hosmer says he feels fully healthy. On Monday, he noted with a grin: "I can gain weight really easily, that shouldn't be a problem."

Nonetheless, when the season is over, Hosmer plans to see specialists for further evaluations in an attempt to nail down the root cause of the illness.

The Padres could stand to make sure Hosmer's bat is in the lineup. He was 6-for-18 with a pair of walks and three extra-base hits entering Tuesday's game against the Dodgers. Despite missing 10 days, he's fourth on the team with eight RBIs.

But manager Jayce Tingler has indicated he’ll play things slowly with Hosmer, who sat Sunday against left-hander Madison Bumgarner. Hosmer might be a candidate to sit again on Wednesday against lefty Julio Urías.

“His presence out there has lifted all of us,” Tingler said. “Now we've just got to be wise, smart, on not running him down. ... Now it's just a matter of just building some of that strength back up over the next week or two.”

Balky back for Yates
For the first time, Tingler got into the specifics of the “soreness” that has troubled recently, forcing the Padres to be extra careful with their closer.

Yates is dealing with “a little bit of back tightness,” Tingler said, though he expressed optimism that he might be available in relief on Tuesday night. The Padres have routinely checked in with Yates after he’s finished playing catch pregame.

“If I gotta be the bad guy and say we’re not going to [push] it right now, then so be it,” Tingler said of his conversations with Yates. “We want to be really strong and fresh toward the end.”

Yates is off to a slow start, having allowed five earned runs over 4 1/3 innings, but he’s looked much sharper in his last two appearances.

Pham due for a bounce-back?
With three extra-base hits in the past two games, Manny Machado may have finally broken out of his slump. Is Tommy Pham next?

Pham, like Machado, has struggled in the middle of the Padres' order this season, even though the San Diego offense has been among the most prolific in baseball. Pham entered play Tuesday hitting just .226 with a .663 OPS.

Frankly, the Padres don't seem concerned. Pham is still reaching base with his usual self-assurance, and the underlying metrics indicate he hasn't been nearly as poor offensively as the numbers reflect. Pham is hitting the ball roughly as hard as he usually does with an expected batting average of .292, according to Statcast.

"He's hitting the ball hard," said Tingler. "If I have concerns, I can't reiterate enough that Tommy Pham is ... at the very bottom of [our] concerns. I mean this with a lot of respect to a lot of players that I've been around -- I've just never really seen somebody with his work ethic, drive, just desire to master his craft.

"There's zero concerns. I'm just excited. As soon as that adjustment's made and it clicks, look out."

Tingler reiterated that the elbow injury that limited Pham to designated-hitter duty during Spring Training has not been a part of his early-season struggles, though Pham has now served as DH in two straight games.

Super utility
The transition back to second base has gone smoothly for Jake Cronenworth -- not that Cronenworth knows any other way to play defense.

After filling in for Hosmer at first, Cronenworth has returned to his more natural position, and he made two excellent plays Monday night -- including a glove flip to first on a slow roller in the second inning.

"This is probably a boring term, but Jake's just a ballplayer," Tingler said. "He's going to go out and make plays."