Luis Patiño is a homebody.
His best days are spent around his college professor parents, Carlos Patiño Jimenez and Zulma Arzuza Radain, in Barranquilla, Colombia, helping out around the house and staying busy. The trio chats about current events. They spend their nights discussing what tomorrow is going to bring.
He's introspective. This is who Patiño is and who he has always been. So, it’s not lost on the Padres' No. 3 prospect that the best year of his professional career came during a global pandemic. But the way he sees it, 2020 gave him an opportunity to prove himself as a big league pitcher and it was his duty to take advantage of it.
“2020 is a weird year, but for me, I was able to [make my MLB debut], and I learned a lot,” Patiño, 21, said. “I know what teams expect in MLB and I know more about MLB hitters. I know what I need to work on right now and I know what I need to work on for next year.”
Five years ago, the thought of pitching in the big leagues was just a fantasy for Patiño . He was an undersized pitcher with decent -- not great -- velocity, but he had moxie, intelligence and potential. The Padres saw him for the first time at an international prospect showcase organized by Major League Baseball in February 2016 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He later signed with San Diego for $130,000 on July 2, 2016, as part of a large class of international prospects that also featured heralded prospects like Adrian Morejon.
But Patiño wouldn’t stay under the radar for very long. He began his pro career in the Dominican Summer League in 2017 and made his big league debut three years later. In between, MLB's No. 23 overall prospect showed the type of fastball command and versatility that clubs covet.
Patiño went 1-0 with 21 strikeouts and a 5.19 ERA in 11 games with the Padres, a span of 17 1/3 innings in 2020. He pitched against the Cardinals in the National League Wild Card Series and the Dodgers during the National League Division Series.
He’ll compete for a spot on the Major League roster in 2021. Whether that spot is in the bullpen or in the starting rotation, where he has spent the bulk of his young career, is to be determined.
“I think [his performance] is going to ultimately tell us,” Padres senior director of player development Sam Geaney said. “I think our comfort and bringing him up and kind of introducing him in a variety of roles can speak to his versatility, his athleticism and his makeup.
"Everything he showed us this year in 2020, both at the alternate site, and at the Major League level, is that is a guy who has a chance to be a Major League starting pitcher going forward.”
For his part, Patiño just wants to be in the big leagues.
“I don’t feel like I have just one role because I can start and I can pitch as a reliever,” he said. “I’m working out like a starter right now because I want to be ready, but I never forget that I can throw like a reliever, too. Really, I’m working on both. I’m going to be ready for what they want.”
When Patiño is not hanging out with his family, he’s training. His days start at 5:30 a.m. and he’s working out by 6. He’s says he’s currently focused on strengthening his back, shoulders, elbow and core, and he’ll start throwing soon. He takes long bike rides when he can. He runs alone at a nearby stadium.
Then it’s back home.
“When I came into Spring Training in 2020, I had a goal to learn from pitchers with more experience than me,” he said. “I have the same goals for 2021. I just want to stay healthy, enjoy the moments and play hard every time.”