Padres facing upcoming roster riddles

April 6th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Here's a problem the Padres hope they have soon enough: Too many big league-caliber players.

For now, they'll cross their fingers. But so far, after a spring full of bumps and bruises, the injury news from the team's alternate training site in Peoria, Ariz., has been overwhelmingly positive.

Four Padres in particular could return shortly -- which could portend some maneuvering on the 26-man roster.

"Hopefully," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler, "we've got some really hard decisions to be made."

Here's a look at the injury status of those four key players -- and how the Padres could shake things up when they return:

The situation: Grisham, who sustained a left hamstring strain in mid-March, is almost certainly destined to return this weekend when the Padres head to Texas to begin their first road trip. He's been receiving regular at-bats at the alternate site and has reported no issues. Said Tingler: "As long as we don't take any steps back or have anything fluky, we feel pretty confident he's going to be back with us shortly."

How they make room: This one seems fairly straightforward. Tucupita Marcano earned his way onto the big league roster with an excellent Spring Training. But when Grisham returns, he’s likeliest to give way. Jorge Mateo is already proving himself an indispensable piece, and Ha-Seong Kim is off to a nice start.

The situation: Johnson (right groin strain) and Adams (right elbow strain) are eligible to come off the injured list ahead of the Padres' weekend series in Texas. The two righty relievers have pitched in games at the alternate site and are both candidates to return this weekend. That said, the Padres aren't going to rush them, considering that both Johnson and Adams received minimal work during camp.

"Those guys didn't get a lot of Spring Training innings," Tingler said. "We don't [want] to send somebody back before they're ready -- either health or to their standards of being able to get Major League hitters out."

How they make room: Nabil Crismatt and Taylor Williams were the last two relievers on the Opening Day roster. They've been sharp in the early stages of the season. Crismatt is likelier to give way first, because he has Minor League options, and Williams doesn't. If both Johnson and Adams are ready to return -- well, that's the "hard decision" Tingler spoke of. Considering the revolving door that is bullpen health, the Padres will happily cross that bridge when they get there.

The situation: Nola (fractured left middle finger) is slightly behind the other three. He's working out with the team in San Diego, but when the Padres head to Texas, it's entirely possible that Nola diverts to Peoria, where he'll get into game action for the first time. That could put him on track for a mid-to-late April return.

How they make room: Here's where things get very interesting. It'd be easy to guess that rookie catcher Luis Campusano will give way when Nola returns. But the Padres love Campusano's bat and think it would be extremely useful off the bench. Tingler has said it's a distinct possibility that the Padres carry three catchers. So how else do they make room? Mateo is out of options, and San Diego seems determined to give Kim legit opportunity. There's no obvious answer -- but these are the riddles good teams must solve.

Worth noting

• Dinelson Lamet threw three innings and 36 pitches in a game at the team's alternate site on Saturday -- the first time he's pitched into a third inning and the first time he's eclipsed 30 pitches in any of his outings this year. Lamet is building up slowly this season after the UCL strain that forced him to miss the postseason last October. His current trajectory makes an early-May return possible.

• The Padres and Cubs swung a minor trade on Monday, with San Diego landing right-hander James Norwood from Chicago. Norwood, 27, has a 4.50 ERA across 22 big league innings and was sent to the alternate site. The Padres sent righty Dauris Valdez -- who has tantalizing velocity but has struggled to throw strikes -- to the Cubs in return.

• To clear space for Norwood on the team's 40-man roster, the Padres placed right-hander Javy Guerra on the 60-day injured list. Guerra sustained a UCL sprain during Spring Training, and there is not yet a timetable for him to resume throwing.