Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Padres confident in Yates despite struggles

@AJCassavell
August 1, 2020

Nearly every time Jayce Tingler is asked a question during his daily zoom call with the media, he nods pensively and pauses before responding as he collects his thoughts. But not on Friday night. Not when the Padres' skipper was asked what happens the next time a save situation arises.

Nearly every time Jayce Tingler is asked a question during his daily zoom call with the media, he nods pensively and pauses before responding as he collects his thoughts.

But not on Friday night. Not when the Padres' skipper was asked what happens the next time a save situation arises.

"Kirby Yates will get the ball," Tingler said emphatically, practically interjecting the moment the question was asked.

Indeed, Yates unsurprisingly remains the closer after a vote of confidence from his manager on Friday night. Yates has allowed multiple runs in each of his past two outings and was removed mid-inning in both -- something that happened just once in the entire 2019 season.

"Jayce has our backs, and I appreciate everything he said about me. It goes a long way," Yates said Saturday. "It's not a confidence thing. I still know who I am. I've just sucked the last two times. That's the bottom line. I've got to get better."

Yates is coming off one of the most successful relief seasons in franchise history. He posted a 1.19 ERA while leading the National League with 41 saves en route to being named first-team All-MLB. This year, however, Yates has allowed four earned runs in three appearances -- half as many as he allowed in 2019.

Meanwhile, Drew Pomeranz, who signed a four-year deal in the offseason, has pitched like he's worth every penny. Pomeranz relieved Yates on Friday night and earned the save. He's struck out seven and allowed just one hit over 4 1/3 innings this season. Given Yates' struggles, Pomeranz’s performance has been crucial in the team's best start since 2009.

"Pom's been on fire, and he's kind of carried our bullpen so far," Yates said. "As bad as this has been, we're sitting here, 6-2, and in first place. To me, that's the most important thing. If the biggest problem we have as a team is myself, I'm pretty confident in that, because I think I'll get it right, and we'll be really good."

Of course, the Padres' relief struggles aren't limited to Yates. Presumed to be the team's strength entering the season, the San Diego bullpen has posted a 5.40 ERA, 24th in the Majors.

But the early struggles have not stopped Tingler from going right back to those arms. Craig Stammen and Matt Strahm struggled on Wednesday, but both were back pitching critical innings on Friday night. Tingler added that a major bullpen reshuffling seems unlikely.

"These are our guys, and we're going to ride or die with them," he said. "We do not throw away teammates. I cannot repeat this enough: There is going to be a part of this season where they're going to carry us."

It's worth noting the caution Tingler is using with his relief arms at this early juncture. Yates felt a bit sore after a rough outing on Sunday, so Tingler assured him the next two days off. In a tight game in San Francisco on Tuesday night, Tingler went to Pomeranz in the ninth instead.

Tingler has also been hesitant to use his relievers on back-to-back days, given the quick buildup to the season. He noted that their workload will likely ramp up after the team's first off-day on Thursday (when rosters are set to decrease from 30 to 28 players).

Perhaps a steadier routine will allow the Padres' bullpen to find its rhythm. But in reality, there's nothing routine about baseball in 2020. Yates spoke of the challenges of pitching in empty ballparks, calling it "awkward," before quickly pointing out that it's no excuse for his early performance.

"It's definitely different," Yates said. "You've got to get used to it, and you've got to adapt quickly. I think we'll be fine, and I think I'll be fine. I'm not worried. ... It's just: Get better and move on. That's the only thing you can do."

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