DENVER -- No Padre was steadier than Manuel Margot in 2017. Not once did the speedy center fielder fall into a prolonged slump, and he was consistent enough to earn a sixth-place finish in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting.Margot's sophomore campaign has been precisely the opposite. He
DENVER -- No Padre was steadier than Manuel Margot in 2017. Not once did the speedy center fielder fall into a prolonged slump, and he was consistent enough to earn a sixth-place finish in National League Rookie of the Year Award voting.
Margot's sophomore campaign has been precisely the opposite. He started in a dreadful rut and owned a .204/.261./.309 slash line through May. Then he got red-hot, boosting his average by 40 points and his OPS by 100 points before the All-Star break.
Now, Margot finds himself back in a funk. Some of the same early-season tendencies have resurfaced in August. It's been more than a month since he last recorded a walk, and he's rolling into far too many weak groundouts.
"This season has been a lot of ups and plenty of downs," Margot said through a team interpreter. "It's a big learning year for me in terms of my career. I need to continue to put that work in. ... I need to finish the year strong."
Ultimately, the 2018 season could be a crucial one in Margot's development. He's still only 23 years old, and he underwent a major swing overhaul this season.
The Padres are confident that Margot's swing changes will pay significant long-term dividends. They seemed to help him immensely during his torrid June. But it was never going to be that easy.
"As time has passed, those changes he's made, he's held some of them, and some of them he's gone back to the way he'd been before," said Padres manager Andy Green. "It's not the easiest thing in the world to hold a change like that through a Major League Baseball season."
"Having done something my entire life, my entire career, of course I'm still learning, still trying to adapt," Margot said.
It probably doesn't help that Margot is still receiving treatment for a balky left wrist. He injured that wrist immediately after the All-Star break while diving for fly ball in Philadelphia. Margot was never placed on the disabled list, and both he and Green downplayed any lingering effects. But it's worth noting the decline in Margot's offensive output since.
The Padres still envision Margot as their center fielder of the future. His defense has been rock-solid this season, and his speed remains a weapon (though he hasn't yet evolved into an effective base stealer).
At the plate, the Padres have made it clear they're looking for big strides in year three. And they'd like to see it start with a strong finish in year two.
"His peaks were higher this year," Green said. "His valleys have been lower. But we're excited about where his peaks have been, and we believe in the future he's going to be a fixture for us, and a guy that does a lot of really good things on the field consistently."
• Left-hander Eric Lauer will make a second rehab start for Triple-A El Paso on Friday as he works his way back from a left forearm strain. Lauer pitched three scoreless innings on Saturday, and he's expected to work either four frames or 65 pitches in Tacoma. If all goes well, Lauer -- who has been out since July 30 -- could be activated next week.
• Hunter Renfroe and Christian Villanueva were in the starting lineup Tuesday after both were banged up over the weekend against Arizona. Villanueva was hit twice on the left foot and sustained serious swelling, which kept him on the bench on Saturday and Sunday. Renfroe, meanwhile, was struck squarely in the right forearm with a fastball on Sunday, but X-rays came back negative.
• Jose Pirela has seen a sharp decline in playing time during the second half. Cory Spangenberg has taken over as the regular starter at second base, and Villanueva has logged time there as well. It's doubtful Pirela moves back to the outfield, too, with Renfroe, Franmil Reyes and Travis Jankowski demanding at-bats. There's no longer an obvious roster spot for Pirela who owns a .647 OPS this season with just three homers in 415 plate appearances.
"It's hard to find him a spot where he gets on the field consistently right now," said Green, who nonetheless left the door open for Pirela to bounce back.
"He hits a lot of ground balls, and he's always hit a lot of ground balls," Green said. "I think, long-term, if he could get the ball in the air, drive the ball to the gaps, there'd be a greater measure of consistency. … It would not shock me at all if Jose Pirela managed to work his way back into an everyday role for years to come with us, because I think he's got it inside of him. I don't doubt the person. I don't doubt the effort."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.