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Inbox: What's fallout of Clevinger's surgery?

@AJCassavell
November 23, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- Before you dig into that turkey, here's a Thanksgiving-themed Padres Inbox to stuff your face with. (As expected, plenty of questions about the starting rotation.) Do you see the Padres being more aggressive with Clevinger out? -- PadreFanaticSD General manager A.J. Preller says they won't be. I'm

SAN DIEGO -- Before you dig into that turkey, here's a Thanksgiving-themed Padres Inbox to stuff your face with. (As expected, plenty of questions about the starting rotation.)

Do you see the Padres being more aggressive with Clevinger out?
-- PadreFanaticSD

General manager A.J. Preller says they won't be. I'm not sure I believe him.

To be more specific, Preller was asked whether Mike Clevinger's Tommy John surgery would impact the team's agenda this offseason. His response:

"It doesn't change it a ton. … We've been looking at it like: You never have enough starting pitching because of injuries and because of situations like this."

How will Padres replace Clevinger in '21? | Offseason checklist: Padres' needs and moves

While it's probably true that the Padres were looking at starting pitching no matter what, it's also true that Clevinger's absence makes that need more urgent. Plus, it's worth noting that Clevinger likely would've received somewhere from $5 million to $7 million in salary arbitration. The Padres, instead, inked him to an extension and will pay him only $2 million in 2021.

That savings won’t put them at the forefront of the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes. But it's money they might be able to put toward a veteran stopgap starter on a one-year deal.

What is the MacKenzie Gore progress update and the near-future plans for Luis Patiño and Ryan Weathers?
-- Tim S., San Diego

"A guy like Mike Clevinger goes down with an injury -- that you're banking on for 30 starts -- it gives more opportunity," Preller said last week.

Yes, that means MacKenzie Gore, Luis Patiño and Ryan Weathers will be serious rotation candidates in Spring Training. I'd throw Adrian Morejon into that mix, too.

Regarding Gore, it was a head-turner that he never received a callup, especially considering Patiño and Weathers -- younger and lower-ranked prospects -- did. I'm not sure there's anything to read into that other than Patiño and Weathers were pitching better.

3 Padres' projections align with all-time stars

Gore struggled with his command at Summer Camp and at the alternate training site, though team officials noted that he made strides late in the season and was a candidate for the postseason roster spot that ultimately went to Weathers. The Padres remain high on Gore, and, for the most part, they aren't too concerned that a 21-year-old struggled a bit in the strangest year imaginable.

That said, they could really use a breakthrough from Gore in 2021. Sounds like he'll get the chance.

Are the Padres working on making mechanical adjustments with Chris Paddack to get his fastball command back to 2019 levels, as well as the ride in the zone we saw in ’19?
-- Sergio Q.

The Padres have a useful template for fixing Chris Paddack. A year ago, they looked at Dinelson Lamet's fastball and saw a pitch that was all too hittable. So they worked with him extensively in the winter, making the pitch play better in the zone and increasing its velocity.

In 2019, opponents slugged .608 against Lamet's fastball. In '20, that number dipped to .410. He let his elite slider do the rest, and Lamet became a certifiable Cy Young Award candidate.

With Paddack, the Padres already have a baseline of an excellent fastball. In 2019, opponents slugged .391 against it (compared with an unruly .658 mark this year).

Whatever the reason -- and there are plenty of theories -- the metrics on Paddack's fastball were poor in 2020. His spin rate dropped, and, as you noted, his "ride" was worse, too. The pitch carried two inches above league average in '19 but was 0.6 inches below in '20, according to Statcast.

Paddack's changeup was as good as it's ever been in 2020. Fix the fastball, and you've fixed Chris Paddack. Easier said than done. But that is clearly a focal point of the Padres' offseason.

Is Lamet healthy?
-- Darick M.

Preller says he is, but this question is obviously a relevant one because Preller said Clevinger was healthy a month ago, too. The difference: Lamet's arm has responded to treatment. Clevinger's never did. Lamet is set to begin his normal throwing program in December.

But if you're holding your breath until Lamet takes the ball for Opening Day 2021, you're not the only one. Internally, the Padres are, too.

Clevinger's absence makes Lamet that much more important to the Padres' chances in 2021. Even though he reportedly has responded well to platelet-rich-plasma therapy, it's difficult to know for certain that he's healthy until he takes the mound in a game setting.

How would you compare various Padres players and coaches to traditional Thanksgiving dishes and why? I'll help you get started: Manager Jayce Tingler is the gravy. His influence on everyone makes each member better.
-- Roy, Mira Mesa

Fernando Tatis Jr. is the turkey. He's the main event. He's why you show up. Manny Machado is the stuffing, every bit as good as the turkey, maybe not as flashy.

Wil Myers is a sweet-potato casserole. It varies year to year, depending on who's making it. But when you get it right -- like Myers did in 2020 -- it's an All-Star-caliber dish.

Lamet can be mac and cheese, because he's really dang good and yet doesn't get the respect he deserves for his role.

Let's make Paddack a green-bean casserole, and the fried onions are his fastball. The dish is only as good as the fried onions you're topping it with.

Trent Grisham is mashed potatoes. Strong in every facet. Not a superstar. Eric Hosmer is cornbread. Jake Cronenworth is cranberry sauce. Austin Nola is a dinner roll. And the bullpen can go down as an assortment of desserts.

Anyone else hungry?

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