MESA, Ariz. -- Officially, Matt Strahm became a Padre last July. Unofficially, he finally became a Padre in Mesa on Saturday afternoon, when he took the mound for the first time with his new club.The free-and-easy left-hander was a critical piece in a Deadline deal in which the Padres sent
MESA, Ariz. -- Officially, Matt Strahm became a Padre last July. Unofficially, he finally became a Padre in Mesa on Saturday afternoon, when he took the mound for the first time with his new club.
The free-and-easy left-hander was a critical piece in a Deadline deal in which the Padres sent Trevor Cahill, Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer to Kansas City. But Strahm, coming off surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon, did not pitch for San Diego in 2017.
Strahm worked the third inning of Saturday's Cactus League tilt against Oakland, and he allowed a leadoff homer to Bruce Maxwell before retiring the next three hitters in order. The 26-year-old lefty threw fastballs and sliders exclusively, keeping his changeup and curve in the bank.
"I felt really good," an ebullient Strahm said afterward. "And Maxwell did a good job of welcoming me, I guess."
Strahm arrived in camp having fully recovered from his surgery, but the Padres have proceeded with caution nonetheless. They believe strongly in Strahm's lively pitch mix and are mulling whether to use him as a starter or reliever.
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On multiple occasions this spring, Strahm has reiterated that he's fine with both. In his postgame interview Saturday, the subject was broached yet again. On three separate occasions, Strahm said, "It doesn't matter to me," and those words appeared genuine.
"Whatever [manager] Andy [Green] asks, that's what's next," Strahm said. "Again, it doesn't matter to me. I like them both. There are two different sides to it. I like the every fifth day, but I also like the adrenaline rush the bullpen brings."
Even Green isn't entirely certain which way the club might lean.
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"His stuff is electric," the Padres skipper said. "You can see it playing really well in the back of a bullpen. But his mix is such that he can start. A lot is going to be predicated on his health, how his knee feels, what kind of strain does [starting] put on his body?"
With only one inning on Saturday, Strahm's progression is slightly behind the rest of San Diego's rotation candidates. Should the Padres opt to use him as a starter, Strahm would likely need an additional outing or two in the Minors to be fully stretched out for the regular season.
If Strahm were to open the year in the 'pen, however, he'd almost certainly be ready for Opening Day. In parts of two seasons with the Royals, Strahm made only three starts, posting a 3.81 ERA in 45 appearances overall. He made 30 Minor League starts in 84 appearances.
"Growing up I was always a starter," Strahm said. "Then when I got drafted, I didn't like it in the bullpen right away, but I got acclimated, and now I like it a lot. Starting my whole life, [relieving] was something new. Any time something is new, you've got to adjust to it. Now, it doesn't matter to me."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.