Suarez, Lamet could provide clarity at back end of bullpen

March 21st, 2022

PHOENIX -- The Padres appear to have a pretty good handle on the composition of their bullpen, but roles remain fluid.

Right-hander Robert Suarez, who had 42 saves at a 1.16 ERA for Hanshin of the Japan Central League last season, is the presumed leading candidate for the closer's role after signing a two-year, $11 million contract in December, but nothing is set.

Suarez is a severe ground-ball thrower. He did not give up a homer in 62 1/3 innings last season while striking out 58 and walking eight.

“You look at his ground-ball rate, you kind of look where he pitches [in the strike zone],” Padres manager Bob Melvin said on Sunday. “He throws a lot of strikes. We have to see where we think that fits as well.”

Melvin has spoken to Dinelson Lamet about a role at the back end of the bullpen.

“We’re willing to look at anything, so I did want to mention that to him,” Melvin said. “And he got a little grin on his face.

“Once we get into games, we’ll get a little more clarity. But with a short spring, we are always trying to keep our options open to think about each and every day where we are.”

Familiarity breeds content
Melvin and new third-base coach Matt Williams were teammates in San Francisco from 1987-88 and have remained close. That history made Williams a go-to hire.

“He is a perfect fit for us, and certainly for me, because I need some people that I have a history with, too,” Melvin said.

Williams was Melvin’s third-base coach with Oakland from 2018-19 and then spent the past two seasons as manager of the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. He managed the Washington Nationals from 2014-15.

“It’s great to have a resource like him,” said Melvin, the bench coach in Arizona when Williams and the Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series. “He’s just a great baseball coach. He’s done it all in the game, and his résumé speaks before he walks out on the field. The respect he gets from players, there is nothing like it.”

CJ Abrams homered for the second straight game, hitting a 3-2 pitch the opposite way to left field as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of the Padres’ 6-3 loss to the Brewers.

“A little bit wind, but you sit around for eight innings and put a swing on like that and get a deep at-bat,” Melvin said. “It’s impressive.”

Jackson Merrill, the Padres’ first-round pick in the 2021 Draft, was 1-for-2 with a line-drive single to left field after entering the game at shortstop in the last of the sixth inning.

“He has an advanced approach for a young age,” Melvin said. “Seems to be developed beyond his years.” Merrill will turn 19 on April 19.

Jake Cronenworth, who has been slowed by a groin injury, took batting practice Sunday and is expected to play his first game Tuesday.

Luke Voit, acquired from the Yankees on Friday, arrived in Arizona late Sunday and could get in the game Monday.