SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are temporarily employing a six-man rotation. They have three other starting options on the mend from various injuries, and they lost two more to waiver claims last week.The major rotation turnover in San Diego provided an opportunity for Walker Lockett. But that opportunity may be
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are temporarily employing a six-man rotation. They have three other starting options on the mend from various injuries, and they lost two more to waiver claims last week.
The major rotation turnover in San Diego provided an opportunity for Walker Lockett. But that opportunity may be fleeting.
Lockett was hit hard again Saturday night in a 5-1 loss to Philadelphia at Petco Park, raising his ERA to 9.60 in four big league appearances. The 24-year-old right-hander allowed five runs over 4 1/3 innings, including homers from Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez.
"It'll come," Lockett said. "Just stick to my guns, keep working, keep battling. I know I can compete here."
Lockett was no match for Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola, who labored, but grinded his way to six scoreless frames. Hunter Renfroe remained red hot, going 2-for-3 with a walk, and Cory Spangenberg had three hits. But San Diego's offense was lifeless otherwise.
The Phillies, meanwhile, came out swinging. Nick Williams opened the scoring with an RBI triple in the first, and Asdrubal Cabrera doubled two batters later to make it 2-0. Franco went deep in the fourth, and Hernandez did the same in the fifth. Both homers came on 2-0 fastballs from Lockett.
"When he was ahead in the count, he won the at-bat," manager Andy Green said. "When he was behind in the count, they won. … If he picks up that lesson, then he's going to take some big steps forward."
In the short term, Lockett will probably get at least one more opportunity. But it's unlikely the Padres will carry their six-man rotation through their off-day on Aug. 20, putting his starting spot squarely in jeopardy.
In the long term, the Padres will use the remainder of their season to evaluate their roster options for the future. They've got some important decisions on the horizon, with a handful of prospects who must be added to the 40-man roster during the offseason.
If Lockett's going to earn his place, the time to do so is now.
"There are guys that are going to continue to get opportunity almost on a no-matter-what basis right now," Green said. "And there are guys that are like him that are: 'You get what you earn.'
"That's just the nature of opportunity. Some guys' windows pop open for a long time. Some guys, it pops open for a short time, and you've got to throw the thing open. He falls into that camp."
The Padres have raved about Robert Stock's slider, and rightfully so. It's given him an out pitch to complement his fastball. But make no mistake: Stock is a fastball guy. And that's never been more apparent.
Stock averaged 98.3 mph on his heater against the Phillies. He hit 100 mph twice, including a 100.3 inning-ending offering to Odubel Herrera in the fifth. Herrera bounced harmlessly to second base. It was the hardest pitch thrown by a Padres pitcher since Jose Dominguez hit 100.8 mph in 2016.
Stock was excellent in relief of Lockett, working 2 2/3 scoreless innings while striking out four. He lowered his ERA to 3.12 and has excelled in a multi-inning role. Stock has allowed just one run over 13 2/3 innings in his last seven appearances.
"As a reliever, you only get to spend five minutes on the field if you have a good one inning," Stock said. "It's just more fun to play for longer."
Much has been made about whether Padres catcher Austin Hedges would offer enough offensively to back up his elite defensive game. But after his 2-for-4 night, Hedges has recorded 200 plate appearances this season. And he's been more than adequate at the dish.
Hedges is batting .261/.315/.457. He owns a 107 wRC+ -- which essentially means he's been 7 percent better than a league-average hitter this year. Among the 31 catchers with 200 plate appearances this season, Hedges ranks 12th. (Not to mention his defense, which remains rock solid.)
HE SAID IT
"I've never shaken off Hedges. I just throw whatever he says. We threw all sliders to [Rhys] Hoskins. That would never occur to me. … He does all his homework and is back there feeling hitters' swings all games. I'm in the bullpen eating seeds 500 feet away." -- Stock
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Padres came an inch from mounting a serious threat in the ninth inning. Travis Jankowski bounced a chopper toward Hernandez, who bobbled the ball as he attempted to throw to second base. Instead, he turned and threw out Jankowski at first -- by the tiniest of margins. The Padres challenged, but the call was confirmed.
Left-hander Joey Lucchesi (5-6, 3.70 ERA) has been relatively sharp since the All-Star break, but he still hasn't completed six innings since he returned from a right hip strain in mid-June. He gets the ball for the finale on Sunday with first pitch slated for 12:40 p.m. PT. The Phillies counter with right-hander Jacob Arrieta (9-6, 3.11 ERA).
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.