Richards moves to 'pen with playoffs in mind
SAN DIEGO -- Jayce Tingler wants to make one thing clear about Garrett Richards' move to the bullpen.
"It's not a demotion," the Padres manager said Friday. "It's just an opportunity to pitch more meaningful games and more meaningful innings for us."
That isn't bluster. Given the way the next two weeks line up for the Padres, Richards' best chance to make an impact clearly comes in relief -- even if it’s been seven years since he last filled that role.
The Padres have 10 days remaining in their season, including two off-days. Then, their first-round Wild Card Series -- they can clinch a postseason berth as early as Saturday -- would consist of a maximum of three games. Mike Clevinger, Dinelson Lamet and Zach Davies are in line to start those.
"Quite frankly, when we make the playoffs, the four and five starter, there's really no role for them, potentially, at the beginning," Tingler said. "We thought it would be best -- because we believe in his stuff and we believe he can transition down there -- we thought it would be best to use these next nine or 10 games to give him a chance to transition down there."
It's still possible that Richards will return to a starting role in the later rounds, but even that might be unlikely. Chris Paddack remains in the rotation, and he's currently lined up as the team's No. 4 starter.
Tingler was asked why the team made the decision to move Richards -- and not Paddack -- to the 'pen. The two right-handers have posted similarly middling numbers this season, but they have very different pitch mixes.
"I thought we had maybe a little bit more of a wild card upside in Garrett in the fastball, slider and curveball," Tingler said.
The Padres are obviously confident in Richards' ability to eat multiple innings in relief. But they plan to use him in short bursts down the stretch this season, perhaps an inning at a time.
In his bullpen debut on Wednesday, Richards allowed a solo homer to the Dodgers' Chris Taylor, the first batter he faced, but he settled down to retire Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Justin Turner in order.
Rookie of the Year buzz
Jake Cronenworth hears the National League Rookie of the Year Award chatter that surrounds him. Then he does his best to forget it.
"I hear some of it from family and friends, but I just try to block it out as much as I can and try to come to the field as focused as possible for what I've got to do that day," Cronenworth said.
With nine games to play, Cronenworth is a strong favorite to become the first Padre to take home the award since Benito Santiago in 1987. He entered Friday hitting .310/.369/.531 while playing outstanding defense at second base.
Cronenworth leads all NL hitters in Wins Above Replacement by both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. His biggest competition for the Award might be Marlins right-hander Sixto Sánchez, who allowed five runs in four innings against Washington on Friday night.
Not that Cronenworth is doing any scoreboard watching.
"Just take care of things when I get to the field, and everything else will fall into place," he said.