The Padres promoted prospect Jorge Mateo ahead of Thursday's game in Los Angeles, and the do-everything speedster was in left field batting ninth against the Dodgers for his big league debut.
Mateo spent the first few weeks of the season on the COVID injured list, though nearly all of that time was spent on a rehab stint at the University of San Diego, the team's alternate site. Infielder Ty France was optioned there in a corresponding move.
The Padres landed Mateo at the end of June in a deal with the A's, sending a player to be named to Oakland. They envisioned him as a utility man capable of playing both middle infield spots and both corner outfield spots. But after a positive coronavirus test upon intake screening, he was forced to miss the entirety of Summer Camp.
“We got him to hopefully bring some of that athleticism, some of that speed and move him around the field,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “I’m sure he’s going to play a lot of roles moving forward. Hopefully he gets off to a nice start.”
Mateo, the team’s No 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, batted .289/.330/.504 at Triple-A Las Vegas last season. It’s worth taking those numbers with a grain of salt, given the hitter-friendly nature of Las Vegas -- and the Pacific Coast League as a whole. But Mateo is unquestionably one of the sport's premier speed threats, having stolen 283 bases in eight Minor League seasons.
San Diego’s decision to demote France is a bit curious, given that France had emerged as a useful right-handed bench bat. With 15 pitchers still on the roster, the Padres might be planning for another bullpen day. They haven’t named a starter for Saturday’s game against the D-backs.
France will remain with the team as part of its taxi squad, and he will be eligible for a recall in the event of an injury.