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Nix to miss 2 months with strained UCL (source)

Wieck could pitch this weekend; Renfroe returns to lineup
@AJCassavell
March 20, 2019

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Padres right-hander Jacob Nix has been diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm and will be sidelined for at least two months, according to team sources. Over the next few days, Nix will meet with Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a second opinion before

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Padres right-hander Jacob Nix has been diagnosed with a strained ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing arm and will be sidelined for at least two months, according to team sources.

Over the next few days, Nix will meet with Dr. Neal ElAttrache for a second opinion before he and the Padres commit to a course of action. The current plan is for a cautious recovery period of 6-8 weeks before Nix begins throwing again. Tommy John surgery -- which would sideline Nix for the remainder of the year and perhaps part of 2020 -- remains an option. But team officials seem hopeful it won’t be necessary.

It's an unfortunate blow for the Padres, who are already thin on starting-pitching options and still have three places available in their season-opening rotation.

Nix, San Diego's No. 19 prospect per MLB Pipeline, was a candidate for the final spot in the starting rotation before his elbow flared up last week. He pitched one inning against Oakland in a rain-shortened game last Tuesday before throwing three simulated frames at the Padres' complex.

The next day, Nix reported feeling soreness in his elbow, and he was shut down shortly after. The Padres set this past Monday as a target for Nix to play light catch. He did so, but his elbow barked and the team ordered an MRI on Tuesday, which revealed the strain.

In nine starts for the Padres last year, Nix posted a 7.02 ERA with only 4.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Following the season, he underwent surgery to address a sports hernia, and the recovery period put a dent into the early stages of his throwing progression.

Still, Nix and the Padres were confident that a sharper breaking ball would lead to better results during his second season. Including his rain-shortened start, Nix notched a 5.87 ERA in four spring outings.

Nix's absence perhaps opens an extra spot in the Padres' rotation. Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer are already in, while Chris Paddack and Matt Strahm seem like strong favorites.

It's possible that general manager A.J. Preller will look externally to fill that fifth spot, but sources said it’s currently unlikely and no further moves are imminent. If the Padres don't make a move within the next week, Logan Allen, Cal Quantrill and Robbie Erlin are in the mix for the job.

Wieck nearing return

Barely two months ago, Brad Wieck was diagnosed with testicular cancer. This weekend, he might get on the mound for an appearance in a Cactus League game.

The Padres left-hander faced hitters for the first time this spring during a batting-practice session on Tuesday afternoon. Assuming Wieck feels no ill effects from the outing on Wednesday, manager Andy Green indicated he could pitch this weekend. The team hasn't settled on a specific date.

"If he bounces back tomorrow really well, we'll start talking about an outing in the Cactus League, which makes you want to clap your hands and feel really good for him," Green said. "When spring started, we didn't expect that from him. It's really great. He's pushed himself."

Wieck, 27, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in early January while in San Diego for a series of workouts. He underwent successful surgery only a few days later and reported to camp with the rest of the club's pitchers and catchers.

Because of the operation, the Padres placed Wieck on a slower spring progression than the rest of the group. But he's checked every box thus far. On Saturday, he threw an intense bullpen session that included two simulated innings.

Wieck, a 6-foot-9 southpaw, is still expected to miss the first few weeks of the season. But when he returns, he could be an integral piece in a bullpen that's short on left-handers. Following his September callup last year, Wieck allowed one run in seven innings while striking out 10.

"Before he got the health news, he was a guy we expected to be right in the thick of the competition," Green said. "At the end of last season, we gave him pivotal innings and he handled them really, really well. We expected him to be a prime candidate to be in our bullpen."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Hunter Renfroe returned to the Padres' lineup on Tuesday after he was held out for five days due to general fatigue. Renfroe received several at-bats in backfield games during that stretch. He started in left field and went 1-for-4 with an RBI single in a 4-3 win over the D-backs at Salt River Fields.

• Eric Hosmer launched his first homer of the spring, an opposite-field blast off Nick Green in the seventh inning.

• Manny Machado went 1-for-4, while making three impressive defensive plays at third base, including a diving stop in the sixth to rob Christian Walker of a hit.

• Nick Margevicius allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over four innings while striking out three. The 22-year-old left-hander has turned heads all spring, and he owns a 4.50 ERA in four outings. But he's yet to pitch a game above Class A Advanced, and it's unlikely he remains in big league camp much longer.

Up next

Strahm gets the ball Wednesday as the Padres host the Brewers at 1:10 p.m. PT at Peoria Stadium. The 27-year-old left-hander is competing for a place in the rotation after spending last year in the bullpen. He'll be looking to reach five innings for the first time this spring (and for the first time since 2017 knee surgery).

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.