PEORIA, Ariz. -- It’s Wil Myers’ seventh Spring Training in Peoria. This one, says the longest-tenured Padre, wasn't like the rest of them.
"The big thing coming into this year is that we already have that winning culture," Myers said. "It's definitely different. ... It's not ‘hopeful’ this year. It's more a matter of fact that we are good."
Different, indeed. The Padres are coming off their first trip to the postseason in 14 years. They reinforced their roster with a handful of major acquisitions during the offseason, then capped their winter by agreeing to a record-setting 14-year contract with their superstar shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr.
With less than a week until the start of arguably the most anticipated season in franchise history, here's a recap of Padres Spring Training:
Lamet developed into a certifiable ace in 2020, posting a 2.09 ERA and finishing fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting. But his season was cut short due to a murky elbow injury. Lamet received a platelet-rich plasma injection in October and said doctors told him that he'd avoided Tommy John surgery by shutting down when he did last September.
The Padres entered camp optimistic but uncertain about Lamet's health. They wouldn't know for sure, they said, until Lamet began facing opposing hitters in game action.
So far, so good. Lamet will not be fully built up in time to make the Opening Day roster, but the Padres are just fine with that. Coming off a shortened season and an elbow injury, Lamet was never going to pitch 250 innings this season. They'd rather have him at full strength in October than April anyway.
The Padres have been beset by a slew of (what they hope are) minor injuries -- and one major injury: Left-hander José Castillo will miss the entirety of the 2021 season following Tommy John surgery.
Castillo isn't the only member of the Padres bullpen who won't be available for Opening Day. Matt Strahm (right knee patellar tendon surgery), Austin Adams (right elbow) and Javy Guerra (right UCL sprain) can all be ruled out. Drew Pomeranz (right forearm) and Pierce Johnson (groin strain) should return in time, but they're up against the clock.
On offense, Tatis Jr. (left shoulder discomfort), Trent Grisham (hamstring strain) and Austin Nola (left middle finger fracture) all suffered injury scares. But Tatis returned to the lineup this week with a bang, while Nola and Grisham are still question marks for Opening Day but shouldn't miss much time beyond that.
Marcano, the team's No. 6 prospect, is a bit closer to the big leagues, and he's proving that when he arrives, he should be an incredibly useful piece. Marcano doesn't have much power. But he has hit the ball hard all spring -- against legit big league caliber opposition. On top of that, the Padres feel Marcano is athletic enough to handle seven different positions. It wouldn’t be unfair to comp him to a young Jurickson Profar or Marwin Gonzalez.
As for Abrams, his spring bears a stark resemblance to Tatis Jr.'s 2018 camp -- two elite shortstop prospects proving they belong, facing big league competition for the first time. They're different players -- Tatis has more power, Abrams is more contact-oriented. But Abrams has fit right in with little issue. MLB Pipeline's No. 8 overall prospect has been excellent at the plate, on the bases and with his glove.
There are four or five Tatis moments that could qualify -- but by now we've learned to expect those. When Tatis tags and scores on an infield popup? He's done that before. When he hammers a mammoth grand slam and flips his bat? Done that, too.
Let's go with Abrams instead. With the bases loaded in the eighth inning of a game against the Brewers at Maryvale, Abrams launched an opposite-field grand slam.
Slam Diego, it seems, keeps getting younger and younger.
In case you missed it
Playing catch-up? Here are a few Padres stories worth reading from the Spring:
• Two years ago, Tatis was just a prospect looking to break through. Then, one play sparked a wild chain of events -- an impromptu meeting in the general manager's office, an early callup for Tatis and an instant love affair between San Diego and its 20-year-old shortstop.
• Yonder Alonso and Machado were once just workout buddies. Now, they represent distinct eras of Padres baseball. Upon Alonso's retirement, a reflection on how it’s all woven together -- the Yonder era and the Manny era; Yonder and Manny, brothers-in-baseball.
• Could Abrams really be the next Tatis? That might be asking a bit much. But Tatis' 2018 spring and Abrams' '21 camp are eerily similar.
• No doubt, Yu Darvish is one of the sport's most unique pitchers. The Padres love it, and don't plan to change a thing. They're letting Darvish be Darvish.
• The Padres started their spring with a bang, introducing Tatis as their $340 million man in a press conference on the morning of the first full-squad workout. A look back at the path that led the Friars and Tatis to a record-setting extension.