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Urías homers, gives Padres something to ponder

Richards allows one hit in 3 1/3 innings in third start of comeback
@AJCassavell
September 28, 2019

PHOENIX -- If only the Padres could be certain they’d get this version of Luis Urías for, say, 150 games next season. It would sure make things easier on the front office this winter. Urías went 3-for-4 Saturday night in a 6-5 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field. He

PHOENIX -- If only the Padres could be certain they’d get this version of Luis Urías for, say, 150 games next season. It would sure make things easier on the front office this winter.

Urías went 3-for-4 Saturday night in a 6-5 loss to the D-backs at Chase Field. He was patient at the plate, crisp on defense, and he even added a bit of thump -- a 433-foot blast in the top of the fourth inning.

“Love where he's at right now,” said interim manager Rod Barajas. “We'll see if he can stick on this and continue this into next year.”

Box score

Next year -- that’s where things get tricky. Ultimately, the Padres don’t expect much power from their 22-year-old middle infielder. But top-notch defense and plate discipline were supposed to be Urías’ calling cards. Until recently, that wasn’t the case.

Urías spent most of the first half in the Minors before a mid-July promotion. He didn’t assert himself as a regular starter until mid-August, and even then, he struggled. He’s hitting just .226 with a .662 OPS this season.

Then again, Urías is a rookie, and it was always fair to expect some growing pains. As things stand, he’s still the most likely option to become the Padres’ second baseman of the future. There’s some optimism within the organization that Urías might bounce back next year with a season of experience under his belt.

“I'm really grateful for the opportunity,” Urías said. “I got a lot of games. It's sad [Fernando Tatis Jr.] got hurt, but that's what gave me the opportunity to play more often, and I learned.”

The Padres have one game left this season. Then the time for Urias’ learning and development is over. They want to build a playoff-caliber offense this winter. No matter how good Urías’ defense is, they can’t afford to stick a hitter with an 83 wRC+ at second base regularly.

That leads us to one of the most important questions facing the Padres this offseason: What should they do at second base? If this is the version of Urías’ they’re going to get, there’s an easy answer: nothing.

But the Padres haven’t seen this version of Urías enough in 2019. It’s possible they shop him this offseason. It’s possible they look to bring in some competition. Nothing is off the table in their search for offense at second base.

Still, Urías’ strong finish has been encouraging. He’s hitting .312/.376/.442 in September, and after Saturday’s game, Urías was asked the most important lesson he’s learned this year.

“The mental side,” he said. “You don't have time to be negative in this game. You've always got to be positive. I think I wasted too much time at the beginning because I was fighting with myself.”

With time ticking down on the 2019 season, that no longer seems to be the case. This is precisely the version of Urías that Barajas grew accustomed to as his manager at Triple-A El Paso last season.

Urías singled on the first pitch he saw Saturday night. Then, in the fourth, he pulverized a hanging slider from Robbie Ray into the left-field seats. Two innings later, Urías shot a fastball up the middle for an RBI single.

“When he stays on the baseball, doesn't try to do too much, he hits rockets to right-center field,” Barajas said. “Then if he gets a hanging breaking ball, he's able to stay on it and hit it into the seats -- like he did today.”

Richards makes final start

Garrett Richards' abbreviated first year with the Padres came to an end on Saturday night. No matter the results, it was an extremely successful 2019 season -- because Richards is healthy and primed for a normal offseason and a full workload in ’20.

“I made it through it, and I feel good,” Richards said. “I’m starting to do some things I was doing before I got hurt. These were great starts to build off of moving into the offseason. I checked off a lot of things, mentally.”

The veteran right-hander returned from Tommy John surgery earlier this month, and Saturday marked his third and final start. On a strict pitch count once again, Richards allowed one run over 3 1/3 innings while striking out four. He allowed just one hit -- a long Christian Walker home run -- but he walked four.

Clearly, Richards still has a few kinks to work out. He allowed eight runs over 8 2/3 innings in those three starts, and his command was erratic. But Richards still has his high-octane fastball and two sharp breaking pitches. The Padres expect big things from him in 2020.

“There’s a lot of work to be done,” Richards said. “But I’m happy with where I’m at, as far as the whole picture goes.”

Big bats come up big

For just the second time this season -- and the first time since April 6 -- both Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer went deep in the same game for the Padres.

Machado put San Diego on top with a two-run shot off Ray in the top of the third. It was his 32nd homer of the season, putting him one behind Hunter Renfroe for the team lead. Then in the seventh, Hosmer gave the Padres some insurance with a solo shot to right, making it 5-1.

That wasn’t enough. Rookie right-hander David Bednar coughed up five runs in the bottom of the frame, including a go-ahead grand slam from Walker.

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