Padres in no hurry with key injured players

Friars won't rush Trent Grisham, Austin Nola and Dinelson Lamet

March 28th, 2021

If, indeed, the Padres were to open the season without three players they deem crucial to their success in 2021, they insist it's nowhere near as catastrophic as it sounds.

In fact, the team is quite pleased with the progress of this spring, as he works his way back from last September’s elbow injury. And while they'd love to have center fielder and catcher in their Opening Day lineup, if they're both fully healthy and contributing by mid-April, that's OK, too.

"From my lens, selfishly, of course you want them all there," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "But also looking big-picture-wise, the last thing we want to do is have someone start the season at 70-75 percent and not be able to perform. It's important that we see it big-picture-wise."

Lamet is a lock to open the season on the injured list. Both Grisham (hamstring strain) and Nola (fractured left middle finger) are candidates to join him there. Tingler noted that it's doubtful either of those two would make another Cactus League appearance before the Padres break camp on Monday.

Over the next three days, the Padres will assess their status and adjust accordingly. Here's a look at where all three players stand -- and the Padres' plan to replace them:


What's his status?
Of the three, Grisham is the most ready for the regular season, and he's, arguably, the biggest question mark for the Opening Day roster. He has received live at-bats in back-field games and is running at close to 100% after straining his left hamstring on March 11.

Still, as Tingler noted, the Padres are going to exercise caution with their injured players, especially early in the season. Grisham is an on-base weapon and an elite defender in center field. The Padres can't afford for his injury to linger. If he begins his season on April 11 instead of April 1, so be it.

What's the plan?
The Padres entered camp without a true backup center fielder. As such, they've spent the past three weeks auditioning various players there. seems like the likeliest option. He would slide from left field to center in Grisham's absence, with the starting left-field job perhaps falling to .

As for Grisham's place on the roster, an exciting new candidate has emerged as a potential replacement. , the team's No. 6 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, has raked all spring, posting a .417/.500/.667 slash line across 24 games entering play Sunday. He's a versatile weapon who can play all over the infield and both corner outfield spots.

At the start of camp, Marcano was viewed as a long shot, while and were competing for a bench place. Mateo has almost certainly won his spot already. But if Grisham were to miss time, it suddenly feels like a race between O'Grady and Marcano for one place.


What's his status?
Nola, who fractured his left middle finger two weeks ago, is behind Grisham. He's fully comfortable receiving pitches -- an important hurdle considering the fracture occurred on his catching hand. But gripping the bat has been Nola's biggest challenge.

Nola has taken reps with soft toss and off a tee. But he's yet to go through a full batting practice, and he hasn't faced live pitching, either.

What's the plan?
Nola's injury replacement is the most straightforward of the bunch. If he's not available on Opening Day, slides into a regular role, and , the Padres' No. 3 prospect, makes the roster as a backup catcher (and a solid right-handed hitter off the bench).

Things might get interesting is when Nola returns. He'd slot right back into the starting role. But the Padres are enamored with Campusano's bat, and it's worth wondering whether they'd try to find a way to keep a third catcher.

What's his status?
Lamet will make one more Cactus League start, facing the Rockies on Monday. It's possible he will pitch multiple innings in a game setting for the first time since he exited his final start of the 2019 season.

Lamet's absence from the Opening Day roster is the least surprising of the three. The Padres had always planned to lighten his workload this season. They haven't shared the specifics of that plan, but it became apparent from the start of camp that he wouldn't be on the same progression as the rest of the rotation.

What's the plan?
The Padres let , and vie for Lamet's open rotation spot. Based on their spring performance, it looks like Morejon won that role. He has posted a 3.21 ERA in five outings this spring. Morejon won't chew up innings like Lamet. But if he can be an electric left-handed weapon for, say, five innings, then the Padres will carry a nine-man bullpen to pick up the slack.

Of course, with Morejon out of that bullpen picture, it leaves the Padres in need of a left-hander, particularly one capable of throwing multiple innings. Weathers, the organization's No. 5 prospect, seems like the likeliest candidate to slide into that spot.