DENVER -- Fernando Tatis Jr. and the Padres opened a three-game series against the Rockies on Monday night at Coors Field. There's a good chance that Tatis will be making a return trip next month.
Major League Baseball unveiled its early voting results for the All-Star Game – set for July 13 in Colorado – and Tatis tops all National League shortstops with 701,251 votes. That’s triple the total of his nearest competitor, the Cubs’ Javier Báez. Tatis trails only Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. among all National Leaguers.
"I don't think that's a surprise," quipped manager Jayce Tingler.
It certainly shouldn't be. Through 2 1/2 months, Tatis has been one of the game's most impactful players, posting a .279/.354/.654 slash line. He leads the National League in homers and steals -- which would earn him a remarkable bit of history if he could keep it up.
That certainly sounds like the starter at shortstop in the All-Star Game. No Padres position player has started an All-Star Game since Tony Gwynn earned the nod in right field in 1998. (That does not count Wil Myers, who was not voted into his starting role but was selected as DH for the 2016 Midsummer Classic.)
Of course, Tatis' early lead is only half the battle. The top three vote-getters at each position (and the top nine outfielders) will all enter Phase 2 on equal footing. Phase 2 begins June 28 and runs until 11 a.m. PT on July 1.
Currently, center fielder Trent Grisham is the only other Padre who would qualify for Phase 2. He sits eighth among outfielders with 142,390 votes. First baseman Eric Hosmer (fourth), third baseman Manny Machado (fourth) and second baseman Jake Cronenworth (fifth) are all within striking distance of the top three at their respective positions.
Weathers to the bullpen
The Padres have asked an awful lot of Ryan Weathers this season, and the rookie left-hander has been up to every challenge.
The newest challenge: A return to the bullpen. The Padres shifted Weathers into a starting role last month amid a particularly tricky stretch of games, moving from a five- to a six-man rotation.
"Whatever my role is, it's just helping the team win games any way I can," Weathers said.
He's done plenty of that this season. Weathers owns a 2.44 ERA across 13 appearances spanning 44 1/3 innings.
The Padres are keeping a sharp eye on Weathers' workload this year. He's never thrown more than 100 innings in a professional season, and the team envisions him as an integral part of its pitching plans come October.
"I know I'm not realistically going to go out there and throw 200 innings this year," Weathers said. "Whatever way they can find to trim my innings, make sure I'm healthy throughout the year -- right now that role is coming out of the bullpen."
Since Grisham returned from a bruised left heel on Saturday, he's made two starts, both coming in the No. 2 spot in the lineup behind Tommy Pham.
That's an especially useful 1-2 punch atop the Padres' batting order. Entering play Monday, Grisham led the team with a .375 OBP, with Pham close behind at .374.
"If they're getting on-base at a high clip, I love the idea of having some traffic on for Manny and Tatis and Hosmer and Wil [Myers]," Tingler said.
The other noteworthy development of Grisham's return is that it has pushed Cronenworth, a valuable hitter in his own right, into the No. 7 spot in the lineup. The Padres' production at the bottom of their order this season has been practically nonexistent.
"Adding Grisham, we've been able to extend our lineup a little bit deeper, to get a little bit more team production maybe in the 7-8-9 holes," Tingler added.
Hill loves the hill
With consecutive scoreless outings on Saturday and Sunday in New York, Tim Hill moved back into a tie for the National League lead in appearances with 31. He's been the Padres go-to arm in a pinch -- and that's just the way he likes it.
"I like pitching often, I like getting a lot of opportunities," Hill said. "I would say it helps my command. I tend to walk less people the more that I pitch."
In those 31 outings this season, Hill owns a 2.03 ERA. He was used heavily by the Royals during his rookie season in 2018 -- but in a very different capacity. Hill appeared in 70 games that year, but he only totaled 45 2/3 innings. Prior to the implementation of the three-batter minimum, Hill was used solely as a lefty specialist.
Now, he's been tasked with getting both lefties and righties out, and he's posted curious splits this season (albeit in a relatively small sample). Righties own a .443 OPS against Hill, while lefties have posted an .822 mark.
In any case, Hill has delivered when the Padres needed him most. They've lost half a bullpen's worth of left-handers due to injury – Drew Pomeranz (shoulder), Matt Strahm (left knee surgery), Adrian Morejon (Tommy John surgery) and José Castillo (Tommy John surgery). Hill has been the constant.