Lucchesi will take the rotation place of Dinelson Lamet, who was initially slated to pitch the Padres' second game of the season. A day after Lucchesi was sent to the Minors, Lamet sustained a flexor strain in his right elbow on Sunday, and he will be out for at least a month.
That cleared the way for Lucchesi, who was excellent in his first big league camp. The club's No. 9 prospect posted a 1.54 ERA in four spring outings.
Big league hitters struggled mightily in their attempts to solve his funky left-handed delivery.
"It's good stuff, first of all, a competitive nature, ability to focus on the mound despite what's spinning around him," said Padres manager Andy Green. "His stuff plays. There's a real deception to it. It's tough to pick up. It's a real three-pitch mix that's going to play well at the big league level."
The club offered no update on the status of Lamet, who is still being examined. Early tests have revealed no ligament damage -- a very positive sign -- and club officials are hopeful for a May return. Lamet, who set a club rookie record with 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings last season, entered the year as the Padres' most exciting young pitcher. He's being replaced by another candidate for that title.
"I definitely wanted Dinelson Lamet starting tomorrow," Green said. "Coming into the year, Dinelson was arguably our top arm and arguably the biggest impact arm we have in that rotation. … We loved the things he was doing. We weren't dying for Joey to start in his spot. But we have tons of confidence in Joey starting and being part of the rotation for a long time."
Since Lucchesi was drafted in the fourth round in the 2016 Draft, he has been dominant at every level. He owns a 1.99 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings in parts of two professional seasons.
"He made the decision a lot easier with his performance over the last month," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "We felt very comfortable putting him in a big spot.
Lucchesi's presence at Petco Park means a corresponding move is also on the horizon. The specifics of that move remain unclear. But the Padres have made it clear that Lucchesi isn't here for a spot start. He will be a part of their rotation going forward.
Even with Lucchesi's presence, there's one rotation spot available. Because of Sunday's off-day, the Padres wouldn't need to fill it until April 6 in Houston. It sounds as though they're leaning toward pitching their fifth starter on Tuesday instead, giving the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest.
Tyson Ross and Robbie Erlin are candidates to fill that last spot in the rotation. Ross pitched a Minor League game with Triple-A Peoria on Wednesday and would line up nicely to face the Rockies in the second game of the Padres' second series of the season.
If, indeed, the Padres add Lucchesi and Ross, they'd need to find room on their roster. To clear space on the 40-man, they could move Allen Cordoba (concussion) and Colin Rea (right lat strain) to the 60-day DL.
It's not quite that simple regarding the Padres' active roster, which currently features 14 position players. One of them -- perhaps No. 3 catcher Raffy Lopez -- is almost certain to be moved to the Minors before Friday's game to clear room for Lucchesi.
Across the board, Lucchesi has drawn rave reviews this spring. Count Opening Day starter Clayton Richard among the impressed. Richard was Lucchesi's throwing partner during Spring Training and came away thoroughly excited about the youngster's potential.
"From what I've seen, it looks as if he's ready," Richard said earlier this month. "He's had no problem transitioning against the highest level of hitters and seems to hold his own really well."