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Padres reshape bullpen with Munoz, Strahm

@AJCassavell
July 12, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- After a taxing first half, the Padres' bullpen needed a boost. It arrived Friday in the form of two very intriguing roster decisions. San Diego promoted flame-throwing right-hander Andres Munoz and then announced that lefty Matt Strahm, who had spent the entire season in the rotation, will

SAN DIEGO -- After a taxing first half, the Padres' bullpen needed a boost. It arrived Friday in the form of two very intriguing roster decisions.

San Diego promoted flame-throwing right-hander Andres Munoz and then announced that lefty Matt Strahm, who had spent the entire season in the rotation, will be joining Munoz in the bullpen. The Padres hope the two moves turn the roster’s biggest first-half weakness into a second-half strength.

Munoz, San Diego's No. 18 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and one of the sport's most interesting young relievers, had his contract selected from Double-A Amarillo on Friday afternoon. Sporting a high-90s fastball that occasionally touches triple digits, the 20-year-old arrived in time for the Padres’ second-half opener against Atlanta on Friday night.

“It was a lot of emotions, nerves, excitement -- a little bit of everything,” said Munoz, who fielded an early morning phone call from farm director Sam Geaney, who delivered the news.

In 35 Minor League appearances between Amarillo and Triple-A El Paso this season, Munoz posted a 3.03 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings. He has struggled with control in the past, and he has issued 18 walks this season. But Munoz has allowed fewer walks per game since mid-May.

“I feel like I've got it,” Munoz said. “That doesn't mean it's completely there. But I do feel like I've got some better command with my fastball and with my slider, which is what I was asked to work on to make it up here.”

Some in the Padres' organization believe Munoz has the stuff of a future closer, as long as he can keep his walks down. For now, it's unclear how he'll be used, though he's likely destined to fill a middle-innings void.

Strahm, on the other hand, has a clearly defined role in a Padres bullpen desperate for a shutdown lefty. In 41 appearances last year as a reliever and an opener, Strahm posted a 2.05 ERA, and his fastball velocity played up several ticks.

During the offseason, the spindly left-hander bulked up significantly in order to handle a starter’s workload. He opened the season strong, with a 3.21 ERA through 10 starts. But in his last five outings, he posted a 10.65 mark while allowing 11 home runs. With the return of Dinelson Lamet and the promotion of Logan Allen, there was little room for Strahm in the starting five.

Manager Andy Green was quick to point out that it’s possible Strahm returns to the rotation later this season. But for now, the Padres feel as though they’ve improved their bullpen significantly.

“Shoring up the bullpen is a big deal for us, finding those bridge pieces that work consistently to [Craig] Stammen and [Kirby] Yates,” Green said. “The more options we have, the more leverage relievers we have, the better off we’re going to be.”

San Diego has found a groove at the back end of its bullpen, where Yates has developed into one of the sport's top closers. Stammen, Trey Wingenter and Luis Perdomo have all done positive things as setup men.

But the Padres have struggled mightily in the middle innings. Their bullpen depth has suffered from a handful of injuries and last season's trade that sent Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to the Indians. In the first half, San Diego relievers posted a 4.81 ERA, which qualifies as the second-highest single-season mark in franchise history.

All along, however, the Friars insisted they had enough pieces to construct a lockdown bullpen in San Diego. That’s where Munoz and Strahm come in.

Noteworthy

• The Padres dealt Triple-A right-hander Phil Maton to Cleveland on Friday in exchange for international bonus pool money. The move cleared space for Munoz to be added to the 40-man roster. In 21 appearances for San Diego this season, Maton had a 7.77 ERA.

• Right-hander Cal Quantrill will start the series finale Sunday, Green said. That means right-hander Chris Paddack will start one of the Padres’ three games in Miami next week and, for the first time, will face the team that traded him. Then, Paddack is lined up to face the Mets in New York, where he’ll continue his feud with rookie slugger Pete Alonso.

• Catcher Austin Allen was recalled from El Paso, as fellow backstop Austin Hedges was placed on the bereavement list. Lefty Eric Lauer also was placed on the bereavement list, which opened an 25-man roster spot for Munoz.

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