LOS ANGELES -- How's this for irony? Christian Bethancourt -- a lifelong catcher who spent Spring Training transitioning into a bullpen role -- found himself in a home-plate collision with his very first pitch of the 2017 season.The Bethancourt experiment got off to a bit of an ugly start during
LOS ANGELES -- How's this for irony? Christian Bethancourt -- a lifelong catcher who spent Spring Training transitioning into a bullpen role -- found himself in a home-plate collision with his very first pitch of the 2017 season.
The Bethancourt experiment got off to a bit of an ugly start during Monday's 14-3 loss at Dodger Stadium. The Padres right-hander bounced his first pitch to the backstop, and Dodgers leadoff man Alvin Toles slid directly into his knee on the ensuing play at the plate.
After a few tense minutes, Bethancourt composed himself and returned to the mound, where he would pitch 1 1/3 innings. He threw one more wild pitch in the fourth, before surrendering a three-run homer to Corey Seager in the fifth.
"He was amped up," said Padres manager Andy Green. "We've got guys in roles they've never been on a Major League field. ... I thought Christian, after the first couple wild pitches, settled in a little bit. Then, I thought he settled in a little bit too much on the Seager home run."
It's an experimental season in several ways for the Padres, who boast the second youngest roster in the Majors. Those experiments were on full display Monday.
The Friars are carrying three Rule 5 Draft picks, and all three -- Miguel Diaz, Allen Cordoba and Luis Torrens -- debuted. Diaz had only set foot in a Major League stadium once before (in Milwaukee when he was recovering from an injury). But he was arguably the most impressive Padre, tossing 1 1/3 perfect frames. He punctuated his outing with a nasty two-seamer to Joc Pederson for his first career strikeout.
"I've never really seen anything like that," Diaz said of the atmosphere. "It was crazy to look around a little bit. But after that, it was just normal."
Said Green: "From the first day we saw him throw a baseball, we knew the scouts did a good job grabbing him. We're very excited about his future."
Speaking of the future, Green also opted to bat a pair of rookies in the leadoff and cleanup spots Monday. Top prospect Manuel Margot doubled home a run in the eighth. Hunter Renfroe went 0-for-4.
"It is what it is: We've got a lot of inexperience, we're young, we don't have a huge payroll," said William Myers, the face of the Padres after receiving a six-year extension during the offseason. "This is a year for the future. This is a year where guys like Renfroe and [Austin] Hedges and Margot get that experience for when we turn the corner. ... It's going to be a year where we learn from the mistakes we make and get better for the future."
There were mistakes aplenty in San Diego's 11-run loss. Myers was quick to note there will be more. But he chalked them up as part of a steep learning curve for a young roster.
Count Bethancourt among the young and inexperienced. Sure, he's in his fifth big league season. But he threw just 16 2/3 innings -- between Panama and Spring Training -- in preparation for his role as a Major League reliever.
"I wasn't nervous or anything," said Bethancourt, who sustained a few cuts around his knee but nothing more. "I was just trying to throw strikes. Things didn't go well."
As for the collision, a fellow backstop could relate.
"He got treated like he was still a catcher," quipped Hedges.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.