Darvish, Musgrove come with scheduling wrinkles

Spring planning for co-aces complicated by Classic, toe injury

March 14th, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres, it seemed, had quite an Opening Day decision on their hands.

Give the ball to the man they extended for five years and $100 million last summer. Or give the ball to the man they extended for six years, $108 million in January. One ace or another. or .

As these things often do in Spring Training, that question worked itself out -- and not in the way the Padres would have liked. Musgrove fractured his left big toe when he dropped a kettlebell on it in the team's weight room.

That seemingly leaves Darvish to take the ball for his third consecutive Opening Day start, with pitching the team's second game.

Padres manager Bob Melvin did not confirm so much, as Darvish is still pitching for Team Japan at the World Baseball Classic, and his schedule has not been finalized. Darvish presumably would start either Thursday, the team's quarterfinal game against Italy. Or he'd start March 20, a blockbuster semifinal, potentially against the United States or the Dominican Republic, if Japan were to advance.

Either way, Darvish's schedule presents challenges for the Padres. The right-hander has yet to report to camp this spring, with the team instead allowing him to train with Team Japan ahead of the tournament. As such, Darvish, one of the staff's slower workers, has yet to pitch in a game with a pitch timer.

"I know that from the minute we heard about these rules, he was on a mission," Melvin said. "In all his bullpens, he had pitch clocks. He was on a mission to take care of this before [the World Baseball Classic]. But, obviously, he's not here for a while and hasn't had to go through it yet."

There's also the not-so-small matter of Darvish adapting to the new pitcher-run PitchCom device. Darvish boasts an array of what he says are 11 distinctly different pitches. The Padres expect Darvish to make one spring start -- but even that's not a guarantee, depending on how deep Japan advances and which game or games Darvish pitches in.

Then again, as Melvin was quick to note, this is Yu Darvish, one of the game's most cerebral and adaptable players.

"It's not going to be right away," Melvin said. "It might be a transition for him. But I think if there's anybody that'll be a quicker study with it and embrace it, it would be him."

As for Musgrove …
He’s out of the running for an Opening Day start, and Melvin said he's still a "long shot" for the Opening Day roster. But Musgrove is well ahead of schedule.

On Monday, Musgrove threw his second bullpen session in his recovery from that fractured left big toe. Next, the right-hander is slated to fly back to San Diego, where he’ll have a series of tests to ensure his biomechanics are stable.

The Padres need to confirm that Musgrove isn’t compensating in any way for that toe injury. During the offseason (as well as at the start of camp) they have their pitchers throw amid a series of machines and video cameras, so they can get a reference point, should anything change. If any part of Musgrove’s body is moving in an altered way, they’ll know.

“I don’t know what’s next for him,” Melvin said. “But it looks like we’re on a pretty good path.”

Musgrove is hopeful he’ll be able to avoid a stint on the injured list. If he were to begin the season there, the Padres could backdate that stint to March 27, meaning he wouldn’t be eligible to pitch until April 11 (against the Mets in New York).

Spots still up for grabs
If a shorter-than-expected absence for Musgrove leads to a five-man rotation, it wouldn’t change much in the race for Opening Day roster spots.

Whether that group of fringe starters is competing to be a No. 6 starter or a long reliever, they're still competing for a big league job.

That competition saw one of its uglier days during the Padres’ 11-9 loss to the Giants on Monday afternoon. allowed three runs over four innings before yielded five runs in three innings. Honeywell struck out seven and Teheran six.

"He just had a tough one today," Melvin said of Teheran. "Velo was down a little bit, breaking ball wasn't as sharp, fastball didn't have the type of life it did. … You're going to have some tough ones. We'll see how he responds. ... Honeywell, same thing a little bit."