PEORIA, Ariz. -- In between his two strikeouts, Luis Patiño looked like a 20-year-old prospect facing big league hitters for the first time.
His command was erratic, and he allowed three runs on three hits in the Padres' 9-7 loss to the Royals on Wednesday afternoon. Two of those hits resulted from some shoddy defense. One was a savvy piece of hitting from Salvador Perez. But all in all, it wasn't the cleanest of debuts.
But those two strikeouts -- one to start the outing and one to finish it -- gave the Padres an awful lot to dream on. Patiño, their No. 3 prospect in the MLB Pipeline rankings, owns a blazing high-90s fastball with ride, and he used it to blow away Brett Phillips and Travis Jones.
"It was a good experience, a good moment," Patiño said. "This was my first one, and I enjoyed it a lot. Now I'll keep working for the next one."
Patiño's slider wasn't quite as sharp as his fastball, and he didn't get as many chases as he would have liked -- with any of his pitches. Perhaps that's part of the learning curve.
"It's different pitching here in Spring Training to big league guys than pitching in Double-A or [Class A Advanced]," Patiño said. "You need to throw more strikes, throw more over the plate. I'm learning. For the next one, I want to be better."
Between Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and Double-A Amarillo, Patiño posted a 2.57 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 94 2/3 innings last season. He's an extreme long shot to make the rotation. But the Padres have left the door open for Patiño to contribute in the big leagues this season if he continues to develop.
With that in mind, San Diego has slow-played Patiño and fellow top prospect MacKenzie Gore this spring. It's their first time in big league camp, and the club would like to build both of them for the long haul. Patiño seems to understand that.
"It's three runs, but you know, it's my first outing in Spring Training in the big leagues,” he said. “I felt great. I'll keep working for the next one and enjoy the moment.”
Yates debuts in style
Since he joined the Padres three years ago, Kirby Yates has established himself as, arguably, the best closer in baseball. He looked the part on Wednesday.
Making his Cactus League debut, Yates faced three Royals hitters in the second inning, and he struck all three out. It was classic Yates, who punched out hitters at a 42 percent clip last season and whose 14 strikeouts per nine innings is the best mark in franchise history.
Like everyone else who works with Yates, new manager Jayce Tingler has come away impressed. Yates was an undrafted journeyman who struggled to establish himself. Then he arrived in San Diego, where he overhauled his work ethic and pitch mix.
"To have the success he's had over the past couple years -- what's more impressive and intriguing is it's not like he was a superstar and the top closer in the game," Tingler said. "This guy's bounced around. He's been punched in the face, he's dusted himself off, gotten up and just continues to get better. I like that story. It's part of who he is. It's part of his makeup. Everything that he brings, he adds value, especially when he's sharing with younger players."
Outfielder Josh Naylor is day to day with tightness in his neck, an injury he sustained over the weekend while making a throw. Naylor was initially in the lineup Wednesday against the Royals, but he was scratched as the Padres exercised a bit of caution, Tingler said.
"Everything was looking good yesterday, so we had him in there today," Tingler said. "Then this morning, it kind of stiffened up. He wanted to go, and we just thought it was best to give it another day or two."
Gore, MLB Pipeline's top-rated pitching prospect, will make his long-awaited spring debut in the late innings Thursday against the Mariners at Peoria Stadium. Right-hander Dinelson Lamet is slated to take the ball first at 12:10 p.m. PT, with relievers Emilio Pagán and Andres Munoz also set to throw.