Will Gore remain in Show? Padres face decision

May 10th, 2022

SAN DIEGO -- Decisions, decisions. The Padres suddenly have two big ones to make in the coming days. The roster status of their two primetime rookies hangs in the balance.

MacKenzie Gore is off to a fast start. C.J. Abrams is off to a slow start. But it’s a handful of external factors that will prompt discussions as to whether the Padres proceed with Gore and Abrams on their big league roster.

Gore pitched five innings of three-run ball in a 6-0 loss to the Cubs on Monday night, the Padres’ latest listless offensive display. With Blake Snell on a path to return from the injured list, potentially as soon as next week, the Padres need to decide what’s next for Gore.

Abrams, meanwhile, did not play on Monday -- and that’s sort of the problem. He’s not getting the regular reps he would be getting in the Minors. Prior to Monday’s game, the club claimed infielder Sergio Alcántara off waivers from the D-backs, casting some doubt into Abrams’ role on the roster.

With both, the Padres have a number of factors to weigh -- the success of the big league club being most important, but also the need to keep two of their best young talents on an upward trajectory. Here’s a quick look at what lies ahead:

The Gore decision
Lest we forget, Gore’s big league callup came as the result of injuries to Snell and Mike Clevinger. The Padres probably didn’t anticipate keeping Gore on board when the rest of their rotation was healthy. But Gore kept earning the right to stay.

Five starts into his big league career, Gore owns a 2.42 ERA. Even in an up-and-down outing on Monday night, Gore showed flashes of the brilliance that once made him the sport’s top pitching prospect. The struggles Gore had endured over the past two years? A thing of the past.

And yet, what other choices do the Padres have? They’re already using a six-man rotation, which is not the preference of manager Bob Melvin, who noted over the weekend, “It’s almost like at this point we have to.”

Snell is slated to make what could be his final rehab start on Tuesday. Clevinger, Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea and Joe Musgrove aren’t going anywhere. And Nick Martinez, a candidate to shift into a long-relief role, has been sharp, too.

“I will tell you, over the course of the entire season, having too much starting pitching is going to be a luxury, not a problem,” Melvin said on Saturday.

Maybe so. But those are semantics. Problem or not, the Padres need to decide what to do next with their top pitching prospect.

“I guess that’s a possibility that I don’t, but if I get the ball again, I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to give us a chance to win,” Gore said.

Five starts into his career, he’s done exactly that every time out.

The Abrams decision
Like Gore’s promotion, the Padres’ decision to call up Abrams was borne of necessity. In the wake of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s injury, they needed help at shortstop. Abrams was excellent during Spring Training and clearly won the last available infield job.

Unlike Gore, however, Abrams hasn’t seized the opportunity. He’s authored some memorable moments, to be sure, and his speed and defense have mostly come as advertised. But at the plate, Abrams is slashing just .182/.270/.273.

More notably, Abrams’ playing time has dried up, with Ha-Seong Kim having seized the everyday role at shortstop. Melvin lauded Abrams for his work behind the scenes and his team-first mentality. But the Padres’ skipper clearly doesn’t buy into the notion of development for development’s sake at the big league level.

“Once you get to the big leagues, you have to earn [at-bats],” Melvin said. “He understands that. He’s been great about it. But you get to the big leagues, you don’t just run a guy out there because he needs at-bats. You run him out there when you feel it’s the right time to run him out.

“He’s been on board with everything. He’s played second, he’s played a game in right. He’s just trying to help the team win every day. If it’s coming off the bench or being on the bench some days, he’s fine with it.”

The addition of Alcántara, however, changes the calculus of the Padres’ bench. Abrams is no longer the only backup middle infielder. Until Monday, the Padres needed Abrams on their roster. Now it’s a choice.

So … are the Padres better served with Abrams on their bench? Or getting regular at-bats at Triple-A? With Luke Voit and Wil Myers nearing a return from the IL, it probably won’t be very long until we find out.