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Lucchesi shakes off tough first in solid debut

Padres' No. 9 prospect holds Brewers to 3 runs in 4 2/3 innings
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- During the offseason, as the Padres' front office mulled whether to sign a veteran starter like Jhoulys Chacin, they did so with one eye squarely on the future. Chacin was plenty effective for San Diego in 2017. But the Padres, with a host of young arms in their system, figured it best to give their youngsters a clearer path to the Major Leagues.

Perhaps fittingly then, Chacin started for Milwaukee as lefty prospect Joey Lucchesi got his first big league start in an 8-6 Padres loss Friday night. Lucchesi, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Padres' No. 9 prospect, wasn't particularly sharp, but the 24-year-old put a rough opening frame behind him en route to 4 2/3 innings of three-run ball.

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SAN DIEGO -- During the offseason, as the Padres' front office mulled whether to sign a veteran starter like Jhoulys Chacin, they did so with one eye squarely on the future. Chacin was plenty effective for San Diego in 2017. But the Padres, with a host of young arms in their system, figured it best to give their youngsters a clearer path to the Major Leagues.

Perhaps fittingly then, Chacin started for Milwaukee as lefty prospect Joey Lucchesi got his first big league start in an 8-6 Padres loss Friday night. Lucchesi, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Padres' No. 9 prospect, wasn't particularly sharp, but the 24-year-old put a rough opening frame behind him en route to 4 2/3 innings of three-run ball.

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"It was kind of surreal," Lucchesi said. "It was pretty cool to be out there, living my dream I've had since I was a boy."

A week ago, it appeared Lucchesi might have to wait a bit for that dream. He was optioned to the Minor Leagues on Saturday, only for Dinelson Lamet to sustain an elbow injury the next day. After a dominant spring in which he posted a 1.54 ERA, Lucchesi had earned the right to take Lamet's place.

A fourth-round pick out of Southeast Missouri State, Lucchesi is the first pitcher from the 2016 Draft class to arrive in the big leagues. In two seasons in the Minors, he notched a 1.99 ERA and 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings.

He didn't miss quite so many bats in his big league debut. Lucchesi made Ryan Braun his first strikeout victim with a high fastball in the third inning, but he wouldn't record another K on the night.

Still, Lucchesi gave the Padres everything they could've asked for on Friday night in his big league debut.

"It wasn't his sharpest," said Padres manager Andy Green. "But as the game went on, he settled in pretty nicely."

Lucchesi allowed three hits -- and four batted balls with exit velocities of 100 mph or faster -- in the first inning. But after allowing two runs in the frame, he found a groove and would exit the game with a 4-3 lead.

Half an inning prior to his departure, Lucchesi dropped a bunt and beat out a double play when Travis Shaw's throw kicked up the first-base line. Unsure whether to break for second, Lucchesi completed an awkward circle on the dirt behind first base, before retreating back to the bag. Suffice it to say, he looked a bit more comfortable on the mound -- where he threw 55 of his 75 pitches for strikes.

The Padres have made it clear Lucchesi's place in the rotation isn't a short-term fix. He'll have a spot as long as he pitches well enough to keep it.

"Now that I got it out of the way," Lucchesi said of his big league debut, "I feel like I can build off of that and just be myself."

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

San Diego Padres