SAN DIEGO -- Kirby Yates has already established himself as one of baseball's most dominant relief weapons. He's making his mark on the Padres' single-season leaderboards, too.
With a scoreless ninth inning against the Rockies on Saturday night, Yates became the first pitcher in the big leagues to reach 40 saves this season. He also joined an elite group of San Diego relievers to hit that milestone.
In franchise history, only Trevor Hoffman, Mark Davis and Heath Bell have notched 40 saves in a season for the Padres. Hoffman did so nine times, including the franchise record of 53 in 1998. Bell accomplished the feat three times, most recently in 2011.
"It's pretty cool," Yates said. "I'm sure I'll reflect on it more at some point. ... I'm thankful I have this opportunity. My teammates are the ones that put me in the position to come in and close the game. My job is to go out there and get three outs. I take pride in that."
No one has done that job better than Yates this season. Not only does he top the saves leaderboard, but his 1.27 ERA and his 1.31 FIP are also the best marks among relievers.
Padres manager Andy Green touted Yates' consistency as the biggest reason for his success this year. Yates’ save on Saturday came after a full week off the mound.
"Three days in a row, four out of five days, six days off -- he's always good," Green said. "He hasn't let anything become an excuse. ... He's stepped on the mound, and he's executed every single day. That says a lot about the type of pitcher he is and the type of person he is."
Yates was a journeyman with a 5.38 ERA when the Padres claimed him in April 2017. He'd pitched in nearly every bullpen role imaginable -- except closer.
After arriving in San Diego, Yates developed a splitter, which quickly became one of the sport's best wipe-out pitches. He also moved from his native Hawaii to Arizona during the offseason, and he dedicated himself more stringently to his training regimen.
Clearly, it's paying dividends. There's been no dropoff for Yates, who has struck out 12 batters in his past six outings.
"Everybody prepares themselves for September," Yates said. "That's the toughest month. All the work and everything you do in the offseason is to prepare you for this month. It's when you want to feel strong. And I feel good."
Forty saves down. A few more to go, perhaps.
The Padres recalled Trey Wingenter on Sunday, an expected move after he’d spent his minimum of 10 days in the Minors. The hard-throwing right-hander was optioned in late August with San Diego in need of fresher relief pitchers.
That, clearly, is no longer an issue. With September’s expanded rosters, Wingenter’s promotion gives the Padres a 13-man bullpen and a 19-man pitching staff. Suddenly, the club’s newest challenge is finding enough work for its relievers.
"It's going to be impossible to keep guys in their normal rhythm, where they're throwing every three or four days, or whatever they've done in the Minor Leagues," Green said. "You just can't make that happen."
In 47 appearances this season, Wingenter owns a 5.05 ERA, but his peripheral numbers say he's been a better pitcher than that would indicate. He's recorded 65 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings with a 3.69 FIP.