Padres taking it slow with Strahm's knee

February 25th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's entirely possible that Padres left-hander builds up his ailing right knee enough in time to crack the team's Opening Day roster. That's been Strahm's goal since he underwent surgery to repair his right patellar tendon in October.

Just don't view Strahm’s recovery as a race against the clock, manager Jayce Tingler said. The Padres are going to give Strahm all the time he needs to make a full recovery -- and if that means that he opens the season on the injured list, so be it.

"I know that he has his eyes set on Opening Day," Tingler said. "As motivated as he is to get ready for Opening Day, he also has the maturity to understand that we only get one clean runway at this. So being able to have a good takeoff, the most important thing is going to be that he gets back to 100%, and that he can pitch at 100% and keep that going."

The 29-year-old left-hander figures to play an important role in the Padres' bullpen this season. He posted a 2.61 ERA in 19 appearances last season. Remove his brief tenure as a starter in 2019, and Strahm owns a 2.66 ERA in 85 relief outings since he arrived in San Diego in '17.

Even in a deep Padres bullpen, Strahm projects as an immensely valuable arm in 2021 -- especially considering his ability to throw multiple innings and his history of success against both lefties and righties.

That's precisely why the Padres might slow-play him. He's simply too useful in the scope of a 162-game season.

"He pitched at 60, 70, 80 and 90% for the majority of last year, and he did great," Tingler said. "Nobody likes being in pain. It's just not fun."

In a 60-game sprint to the postseason, Strahm pitched through that pain last season -- minus a 10-day stint on the IL in mid-September. He underwent surgery in October, shortly after the Padres were eliminated from the playoffs.

This spring, the Padres are -- understandably -- taking things slower. Tingler said Strahm has been making steady progress, but that progress has been beset by a few "half-steps back."

Considering the depth of San Diego's bullpen competition, that could make it unlikely that Strahm cracks the Opening Day roster. Take Strahm out of the equation, and the Padres still feel as though they have nearly a dozen bullpen arms competing for the final three or four places in the ‘pen.

Musgrove, Paddack impress
The Padres were busier Wednesday – by far – than they've been any other day this spring in terms of live hitter vs. pitcher matchups. The main event came on field two, where the trio of , and faced and .

Musgrove was the most impressive among that group. He didn't allow a hit in five plate appearances, striking out three and showcasing his two excellent breaking pitches -- a curveball and a slider.

"His breaking ball, he can really control where he wants it," Hosmer said afterward. "He throws a couple different types of it, too, which is obviously hard as a hitter. Once you see a guy's breaking ball once or twice, you have a good idea how much it breaks and where you want it to start. It felt like he threw me three or four different ones today that started in different places, moved different ways."

Paddack was next, and he began his simulated outing by walking Machado before settling in nicely. The right-hander got swings-and-misses with his changeup, and he mixed in a couple breaking balls (which Padres hitters laid off).

Paddack completed four plate appearances before he hit his pitch count in the middle of the fifth. Those Padres hitters combined to go 0-for-3 or 1-for-3 against him (depending on whether a hypothetical infielder would've gotten to Hosmer's sharp ground ball up the middle).

Worth noting
• Hosmer authored the line of the day on Wednesday. When he was asked about adjustments he might make from his stellar 2020 season, he pointed to staying healthy as an important one:

"Definitely not going to bunt again this year," quipped Hosmer, who missed three weeks in September last season because he broke a finger during an ill-advised two-strike bunt attempt.

• The Padres remain optimistic they'll have in camp by the weekend, after he deals with a "visa situation" that has delayed his arrival.

• Tingler noted that , the team's No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 8 overall, will see time at second base and shortstop this spring. It seems unlikely he'd get a look in center field -- a position he's yet to play in pro ball, but where some people feel he might be best suited on this Padres roster. Said Tingler: "Right now, to start, it'll be shortstop, second base, and we'll go from there."