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Strahm preparing to compete for rotation job

December 5, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- Matt Strahm doesn't know if he's going to open the 2019 season as a starter or a reliever. He's quick to say that he's happy to do both.But this much is clear: Mentally, he's spending the offseason as a starter.Strahm used the first part of the offseason

SAN DIEGO -- Matt Strahm doesn't know if he's going to open the 2019 season as a starter or a reliever. He's quick to say that he's happy to do both.
But this much is clear: Mentally, he's spending the offseason as a starter.
Strahm used the first part of the offseason adding bulk, so he can enter camp prepared for the grind of the rotation. He's added roughly 15 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame, putting him around 200.
A year ago, the Padres took things slowly with the left-hander, as he recovered from July 2017 knee surgery. That's ancient history to Strahm -- who took part in the team's holiday giving tour, which stopped at the Armed Services YMCA on Wednesday.
"It was a different mentality last year coming into spring, my knee not ready," Strahm said. "I didn't have an offseason of lifting. It was more about recovery. It was almost more of a 'survive' mentality. To be able to get to the full offseason, it's going to be huge for me."
The Padres view Strahm as a potential ace up their sleeve. He was excellent last season, posting a 2.05 ERA in 61 1/3 innings with 69 strikeouts and 39 hits.
Those numbers must be taken with a grain of salt. Strahm was used almost exclusively out of the 'pen, and the Padres were very careful with the way they handled him. He appeared only twice in back-to-back games.
The kid gloves are off in 2019. If Strahm can prove himself physically capable of starting, he'll almost certainly get the chance. He's set to compete with about a dozen pitchers for five rotation spots.
"If I prepare for 200 innings, 70 innings will be nothing," Strahm said. "If I prepare for that 200-inning threshold, I'll show up to camp ready for whatever [manager] Andy [Green] and everyone sees fit for me to do to help this team win -- whether that's starting or relieving."
Renfroe addresses trade speculation
It's unlikely that all six Padres outfielders return next season, and recent trade speculation has centered around three right-handed-hitting corner options -- William Myers, Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes.
Renfroe, who was on hand Wednesday, isn't paying the rumors any mind.
"There's no other way to go about it: You just plan on doing what you have to do to get ready, and if it happens, they call you and let you know," Renfroe said. "I've never been through that, so I can't tell you about it. But I know you just put your head forward and keep going."
Renfroe is coming off an encouraging 2018 season in which he posted an .805 OPS and led the team with 26 homers. Most notably, he refined his two-strike approach and cut down on his strikeout rate.
With five years of team control remaining, Renfroe could be an extremely valuable trade chip in a deal for a big-name starter. But he could just as easily factor squarely into the Padres' future outfield plans.
"I found some stuff that works," Renfroe said of his 2018 campaign. "The plan is just to keep going with that, build on what I've learned and what I've started doing and try to perfect it."
Allen eyes spring competition
Deep down, Austin Allen probably knew the phone call was coming. But when player development's Ben Sestanovich called with the news that Allen had been added to the 40-man roster, it was still cause for celebration.
"It was a great moment," Allen said. "I called my parents right after, let them know. Everybody was extremely happy."
There wasn't any doubt, of course. Allen, the team's No. 25 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, needed to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft.
He enters camp as presumably the third catching option, behind Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia. But the Padres have been adamant that Allen will get a chance to compete for a roster spot this spring.
"It's going to benefit me, Austin and Francisco, having that competition," Allen said. "It's going to be friendly competition, but it's only going to make us better in the long run."
Allen, 24, batted .290/.351/.506 with Double-A San Antonio last season. His offense has always been a strength, but there's one specific area of focus for him behind the plate this offseason.
"I blocked well this year, I threw very well, and I'll keep improving in those areas," Allen said. "But I'm putting all my chips in on receiving, trying to become the best receiver I possibly can."

Padres give back
Strahm, Renfroe and Allen were among seven Padres on hand for Wednesday's charity event. They took families on a shopping spree as part of the military toy program known as Operation Holiday Joy.
It's one of more than a dozen daily events the Padres take part in this month throughout the region.
"This city supports us tremendously, and any chance we have to give back to them, we jump on it, especially for these active military families," Strahm said. "It's just a great opportunity to show them the support they show us all year." 

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