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Padres drop opener in Lockett's MLB debut

June 2, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- At some point, the Padres needed to take a look at Walker Lockett. The 24-year-old right-hander was added to the 40-man roster in November 2016. Back then, it seemed like only a matter of time before his big league debut.It took longer than expected. Lockett's 2017 back

SAN DIEGO -- At some point, the Padres needed to take a look at Walker Lockett. The 24-year-old right-hander was added to the 40-man roster in November 2016. Back then, it seemed like only a matter of time before his big league debut.
It took longer than expected. Lockett's 2017 back injury and his ensuing struggles at Triple-A made sure of that. But the fourth-rounder from the 2012 Draft finally arrived at Petco Park on Friday evening.
Lockett wasn't hit particularly hard, but he allowed nine baserunners and was removed after 3 2/3 innings in a 7-2 loss to Cincinnati. The Padres' offense offered little in the way of support, mustering only two ninth-inning runs on a Freddy Galvis triple.

"He wasn't hammered around the ballpark today, by any stretch," said Padres manager Andy Green. "You give five free passes in four innings, it's tough to win."
Chalk it up to jitters, Green said. Lockett hadn't walked five in a start since an Arizona Rookie League game in August 2015. On Friday, he threw only 45 of his 81 pitches for strikes.
"He's not that type of pitcher," Green said. "He's been a command-oriented pitcher for a long time now, and he's done a good job. Sometimes you get up here, and the emotions run hot."
It wasn't all bad for Lockett. Through three innings, he allowed one run and one hit, while using his trademark sinker to record eight of his nine outs via the ground ball.
"A lot of ground balls, let my defense play behind me, mix my pitches well -- that's my game," Lockett said. "I wasn't able to do it very effectively tonight. I'm looking forward to the next one."
About that "next one."
Lockett's so-so debut leaves San Diego with something of a conundrum. Joey Lucchesi is on the shelf for at least another week with a right hip strain. He could face hitters at the team's complex in Arizona on Monday.
The Padres don't yet have a starter for Wednesday's game against Atlanta, and it's unclear whether Lockett did enough to earn a second appearance.
"We'll sit down, and we'll talk through it," Green said. "There were some positives there for sure. ... It has a lot to do with the next few days, too, how our bullpen fares and if we need to get an arm up here."
Long relievers Robbie Erlin and Bryan Mitchell weren't particularly sharp either on Friday night. Should the Padres need 'pen reinforcements this weekend, Lockett could make way.
That decision is out of his hands. But clearly Lockett is eager to put a shaky debut behind him.
"I'm definitely hopeful, and think it'd go better," he said. "I got the nerves out of the way."
Leadoff walker: The first sign of trouble for Lockett came in the top of the third inning when he surrendered a leadoff walk to Billy Hamilton. The Reds speedster promptly swiped second, and he came around to score after a pair of ground-ball outs. Lockett hadn't allowed a ball out of the infield in the frame, but the Padres trailed, 1-0.
Said Green of Lockett: "He competed well early. The walk to Hamilton sent his day in the wrong direction."

Who's on second?: Lockett looked relatively sharp until the fourth when Jose Peraza hit a liner into the left-center-field gap, scoring two runs. The Padres defense did Lockett no favors either. Peraza strayed well past second base and found himself in a rundown. But no one covered second, and the Reds shortstop managed to scamper back to the bag. Peraza scored on Tucker Barnhart's two-out single, ending Lockett's night.

Much has been made about Hunter Renfroe's inability to hit right-handed pitching. He owns a career 1.027 OPS against lefties, but that mark is 338 points lower against right-handers.
Since his return from the disabled list earlier this week, Renfroe has reversed that trend. He singled in the second and doubled in the ninth on Friday night. In 10 plate appearances this week against right-handers, Renfroe is 6-for-8 with two doubles and two walks.
"He's done a nice job," Green said. "There's a compete factor to the at-bats that we love. … They've been high quality at-bats, and we'll continue to get him some opportunity."
"You have to take a second to take it all in, just enjoy the moment. … Unforgettable experience." -- Lockett, on his debut
The Padres need rookie left-hander Eric Lauer to find some consistency. He's been sharp at times, but he's followed those starts with poor showings, including his 2 1/3 innings against the Marlins on Monday. Lauer faces the Reds on Saturday night with first pitch slated for 5:40 p.m. PT. Cincinnati counters with right-hander Matt Harvey.

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