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Pitching prospects to get taste of bigs in camp

Young arms have chance to shine amid rotation battle
MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- Padres pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Wednesday, and approximately 10 of those hurlers will do so with a legitimate chance at a spot in the starting rotation.

Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi and Jacob Nix -- four pitchers who started last season at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and progressed to Double-A San Antonio -- are not among that group. They're all destined to start the 2018 season back in the Minors, but not before a spring audition.

SAN DIEGO -- Padres pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Wednesday, and approximately 10 of those hurlers will do so with a legitimate chance at a spot in the starting rotation.

Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi and Jacob Nix -- four pitchers who started last season at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore and progressed to Double-A San Antonio -- are not among that group. They're all destined to start the 2018 season back in the Minors, but not before a spring audition.

Video: Top Prospects: Cal Quantrill, RHP, Padres

"Those guys are beating on the door to get into our starting rotation," Padres skipper Andy Green said. "They're not at the front of the line for this season. But they're going to be names you expect to see a lot of."

Together, Quantrill, Lauer, Lucchesi and Nix make up four of the club's top 14 prospects. Quantrill is ranked highest, at No. 40 on the Top 100 according to MLB Pipeline. Lucchesi is probably furthest along, having posted a 2.20 ERA between two levels last season. But all four will get a chance to make their mark against big league hitters this month.

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Of course, their opportunity might be brief. The Padres have a rotation battle to settle, and there are only so many innings to go around.

The quartet will get a chance to shine early in camp, when the Major League group is building arm strength. The club's first full-squad workout is slated for Feb. 19, and the Cactus League slate opens four days later with a tilt against Seattle.

"It's a chance for them to get acclimated to the big league level, show what they can do," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said last month. "Some of those guys in that group have shown they're advanced for Minor League pitchers. We want to challenge them to show that they're Major League pitchers."

Evidently, they aren't too far off. Padres decision makers have hinted that any of the four could be called up during the season's second half, if their Minor League success continues.

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In some ways, the Padres planned their future around the arrival of their top pitching prospects. This offseason, they opted not to bring back Jhoulys Chacin, who was eyeing a multiyear deal. The three free-agent starters they signed all inked Minor League or one-year deals.

To their credit, the Padres youngsters don't view the expectations as a burden.

"We're all aware of it," Quantrill said recently from Padres FanFest at Petco Park. "We know there's a lot of, not pressure, but excitement about what's coming. But I don't think any of us take it as, 'We need to be this. We need to be that.' We're having fun and we're playing baseball.

"I think we all know what we're capable of doing, and we all want to be here doing it. We don't mind hearing it, and we like trying to fulfill those goals everybody seems to be setting."

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

San Diego Padres