Padres in good position with Despaigne in the wings
With Kennedy's status in doubt, club has ready-to-go rotation option
Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.
The Spring Training-long competition between Brandon Morrow and Odrisamer Despaigne for the No. 5 spot in the rotation is about to pay dividends -- if Ian Kennedy is forced (as expected) to go on the disabled list Friday with the strained left hamstring he suffered Thursday.
Despaigne, who set a Padres record with 4 2/3 perfect innings out of the bullpen in relief of Kennedy on Thursday, will slide into Kennedy's slot in the rotation if Kennedy does go on the disabled list.
San Diego manager Bud Black delayed the final decision on choosing the fifth starter until the eve of the season. Both Morrow and Despaigne worked every fifth day with one exception -- when Morrow skipped a scheduled appearance due to a blister on the ring finger of his throwing hand.
The extended piggy-back allowed both Morrow and Despaigne to lengthen their innings.
When needed to go longer Thursday, Despaigne threw 54 pitches and retired all 14 Giants he faced. He did throw ball four to Nori Aoki upon entering the game, but that walk was charged to Kennedy.
The 4 2/3 perfect innings credited to Despaigne was the longest perfect relief appearance in Padres history and the third longest in the Major Leagues since the 2000 season. The longest previous perfect relief appearance by a Padre was the 4 1/3 perfect innings Jason Middlebrook pitched on May 11, 2002, at Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Despaigne continued his mastery of the Giants. He picked up his first Major League win against the Giants last June 23 at San Francisco with seven scoreless innings. In 24 2/3 innings against the Giants, Despaigne is 2-0 and has allowed one run for a 0.36 ERA.
Said Black of the rotation: "If Ian doesn't make that start [Tuesday against Arizona at Petco Park], Despaigne does."
If Kennedy goes on the disabled list, the most likely prospects to take his place are Triple-A relievers Kevin Quackenbush or Brandon Maurer.
From the scorebook
• High marks to shortstop Clint Barmes for accepting full responsibility for the botched play in short left in the 12th inning Thursday that resulted in the 1-0, home-opener loss to the Giants at Petco Park. Barmes dropped Brandon Crawford's high short fly in front of left fielder Justin Upton while going back into short left.
Said Barmes after the game: "That's on me. I knew Justin was playing deep on no-doubles [defense]. I felt I should have easily caught it. I drifted with the ball rather than getting to the spot. That was not the way I was expecting it to go."
• Kennedy didn't miss a start in four of his last five seasons and never experienced a hamstring problem before Thursday. Although he came out of the game while pitching to Aoki in the third, he actually suffered the strain on the last pitch he threw in the second -- a third strike to Joaquin Arias that resulted in a double play when catcher Derek Norris threw out Casey McGehee trying to steal third.
"I felt something grab," said Kennedy, who signaled for Black and trainer Todd Hutchison while pitching to Aoki in the third.
"When Ian called me out, I was ready to go out and get him," said Black. "Ian is a pitcher who uses his legs a great deal."
• Thursday's 12-inning loss to the Giants was the longest loss in Padres history in which they did not allow an earned run. It was the 30th time in club history -- and the first time since Sept. 22, 2013, against the Dodgers -- that San Diego lost a game without allowing an earned run.
• Norris has thrown out four would-be basestealers in the season's first four games. He caught a career-high eight runners all of last season with the A's.