Strong start to '18 earns Lyles increased role

Padres manager says righty reliever will appear in more late-and-close situations

April 7th, 2018

HOUSTON -- is pitching his way into an increased role in the Padres' bullpen.
The 27-year-old right-hander signed a one-year deal during the offseason and entered camp as a rotation candidate. Instead, Lyles is carving himself a niche as a reliever. He's faced 23 batters in four appearances. Three have hits, one has walked, eight have struck out and only one has hit the ball harder than 95 mph against Lyles.
On Saturday, Padres manager Andy Green indicated that Lyles will begin seeing increased time in late-and-close situtations. On Friday night, Lyles pitched the sixth and seventh innings of a two-run game against his former team. He was perfect, striking out four Astros along the way.
"You see the way he's thrown the ball in the bullpen, and there's reason to believe he can be a dominant reliever," Green said. "He's showing he can do that."
Since Lyles' move to the bullpen, he's seen a significant uptick in his velocity. He's throwing his fastball at an average of 94.4 mph this year. In his five starts for the Padres last season, he averaged 92.9 mph. The velocity on his changeup, curveball and slider have also increased by about one tick apiece.

It's not as though Lyles has simply ramped things up for one inning either. In four appearances, he's filled four different roles -- lengths of: one-third, one, two and three innings.
"I'm still throwing full throttle as long as I can," Lyles said. "I just don't know with that role, where we're headed yet. But overall, I'm just letting it go from the start."
Lyles signed as a starter, before struggling during the spring in that capacity. If he's still eyeing a starter's role, he's not letting it show.
"I've done a good job of putting that aside, mentally," Lyles said. "Whatever I want to do isn't going to change what Andy wants me to do. So I'm going to do whatever I can, the best that I can."
Injury updates
• Padres right fielder has yet to resume throwing or hitting as he recovers from nerve irritation in his throwing arm. But he indicated that the resulting triceps soreness is almost entirely gone. Myers said he could resume baseball activity in Colorado next week, but that would be "at the earliest."

• Right-hander played catch for the third consecutive day, this time from 90 feet. Lamet has been slowly building arm strength as he recovers from a flexor strain in his right elbow.
• Outfielder Alex Dickerson had successful Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last week, as scheduled. Said Green when asked for a timetable: "We're very hopeful at the start of next year he's ready to go."
• Left-hander struck out six over two innings in his first rehab appearance for Double-A San Antonio, though he allowed a leadoff home run and another hit. The Padres are still deciding whether they'd like to stretch Strahm into a starting pitcher or use him in the 'pen. But they'll likely give him chances to do both in the Minors as he builds strength in his surgically repaired left knee.