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Friars' relievers welcome increased workload

Reyes called to big leagues; Avila sent down after solid MLB debut
@AJCassavell
April 12, 2019

PHOENIX -- The Padres have won all types of close games this season, which means the back end of their bullpen has been overworked a bit through the season's first two weeks. Not that they’re complaining about it. "Good problem to have," said setup man Craig Stammen. "It's more \work],"

PHOENIX -- The Padres have won all types of close games this season, which means the back end of their bullpen has been overworked a bit through the season's first two weeks.

Not that they’re complaining about it.

"Good problem to have," said setup man Craig Stammen.

"It's more [work]," said closer Kirby Yates. "But if we keep this up all year, it's going to be awesome."

Indeed, the Padres have asked a lot of their bullpen this season -- particularly Yates and Stammen, who each have appeared in eight games, tied for the National League lead entering Friday. San Diego has nine wins this season, and eight have ended with a save.

"That's what we wanted," Stammen said. "We want to be winning games; we want to be pitching more often. It's going to be a heavy workload, and we're excited for it. That's what we prepared all offseason for."

Stammen and Yates have generally been pretty durable throughout their careers. But there's obviously a limit to their usage.

Take Thursday's 7-6 thriller at Arizona, for example. Manager Andy Green used Adam Warren for the eighth and Trey Wingenter for the ninth. Stammen faced just two batters, in the seventh inning, and Yates was unavailable entirely.

"You can't pitch in 100 games," said Wingenter, who notched his first career save. "We plan on winning a lot of games, and Kirby and Craig can't get 90 saves, 90 holds. Somebody's got to step up on days they're down, so we can still win a close game."

If the Padres keep winning close games, it will present a very different challenge than the one Green has grown accustomed to in San Diego. He generally has put his relievers in positions to succeed, as their numbers indicate. But on a 66-win team like last year's, it's not all that difficult to know when to use your big guns and when to rest them.

This year, Stammen said, there have been more conversations with the coaching staff about workload. Plus, the Padres feature the youngest starting rotation in the Majors. Chris Paddack and Matt Strahm will have their workloads monitored closely this year. That means a greater burden on the ’pen, which has pitched more innings than every National League team but the Dodgers this year.

In that regard, the Padres expect to shuttle relievers between the Minors and the Majors often. Phil Maton and Robbie Erlin have been optioned already. On Friday, the Padres promoted right-hander Gerardo Reyes. It's the result of a deep group of relievers, most of whom can be optioned to the Minor Leagues.

"It was designed that way by [general manager] A.J. [Preller] and a group that knows what they're doing," Green said. "We knew coming into the season that ... it's not seven or eight guys in the bullpen. By the time it's said and done, it's going to be 15. There's going to be some rotating in and out of the optionable guys. There's no other way to do it right now.

"Those guys are a big part of this team. It takes an organization to go do something special. It's a lot more than 25 guys."

Noteworthy
• To clear room for Reyes, the Padres optioned righty Pedro Avila to Double-A Amarillo. In his big league debut on Thursday, Avila allowed one run over 5 1/3 innings. But the Padres had always planned to use him for only one start, so they could give Paddack and Strahm an extra day of rest.

"We got what we needed out of Pedro yesterday," Green said. "That's always a horrible conversation. You know you're calling a guy up for a spot start, but there's always that hope in a young kid that he gets to stay once he's here and he pitches very well. You hate sending him down for that, but we really needed to freshen up the bullpen."

• Second-base prospect Luis Urías has struggled since his promotion earlier this week. He enters play Friday 1-for-11 with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. His first hit came Thursday night in the form of an opposite-field double.

"He's a young guy finding his footing in the big leagues right now," Green said. "He's shown flashes of stuff that we really, really like. ... He swings at strikes, puts the ball in play and defends the field. That's been his recipe for his entire Minor League career."

Urias was back in the Padres' lineup Friday, batting eighth. Among Urias, Ian Kinsler and Greg Garcia, Padres second basemen have combined to hit .152 this season, the lowest mark in the NL.

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