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Paddack continues strong spring with sharp start

Hedges homers twice; Kinsler scratched with jammed finger
@AJCassavell
March 14, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- This spring, Chris Paddack is facing big league hitters for the first time in his life. It's worth remembering that fact. Because it sure doesn't look like it. With another dominant performance in Wednesday night's 9-3 win over the Angels, Paddack moved into the Spring Training strikeouts

TEMPE, Ariz. -- This spring, Chris Paddack is facing big league hitters for the first time in his life. It's worth remembering that fact. Because it sure doesn't look like it.

With another dominant performance in Wednesday night's 9-3 win over the Angels, Paddack moved into the Spring Training strikeouts lead with 20 over 12 2/3 innings. In the process, he further cemented his case to make San Diego's rotation -- if not an Opening Day start.

The 23-year-old right-hander faced an Angels lineup loaded with big league hitters. He allowed one run over four innings while striking out six, bringing his Cactus League ERA to 2.13 ERA and his strikeout rate to 37 percent.

Paddack is making it look easy. He insists it's not. But if there's one thing he's learned this spring?

"That I belong," said Paddack, MLB Pipeline's No. 34 overall prospect. "That's what I've been telling myself since the first day of camp."

Paddack allowed a run in the first inning when Mike Trout's bloop fell behind first baseman Eric Hosmer for a double. Trout scored on Jonathan Lucroy's infield hit two batters later.

Paddack bounced back, getting Taylor Ward to swing through a 1-2 curveball to end the first. It was arguably the most promising development of the night. Paddack already has an excellent fastball, an elite changeup and pinpoint command. But most evaluators believe he'll need to hone a third pitch to ensure sustained success.

"I told myself going into the offseason that for me to be able to break with this team and for me to compete at the big league level, I need a third pitch," Paddack said.

Paddack mixed his curveball often, as he cruised through the next three innings. After striking out two in the first, he whiffed two more in the second, and he needed only nine pitches -- all strikes -- to get through the third.

As things stand, Paddack remains in line for an Opening Day start if he were to continue to get the ball every fifth day. He'd become the first pitcher since 1943 to make his debut in his team's first game of the season. The Padres haven’t yet tipped their hand.

Paddack has always been highly touted, but even he admits he's surprised that his stuff has played so well against big leaguers.

"I would say [I'm surprised], but I just continue to tell myself that I'm the best pitcher in the world," Paddack said. "Once you tell yourself you don't belong or that, 'Oh, it's Mike Trout hitting,' that's when you're going to get beat."

Hedges heats up

Austin Hedges, the Padres' presumed starter at catcher, homered twice, bringing his spring total to three. Both times, Hedges turned on two-strike fastballs and sent them out to left-center field.

Generally speaking, Hedges isn't known for his power. He's an elite defensive catcher with a reputation for his work with pitchers. But Hedges has plenty of pop, and that certainly won't hurt in his quest to preserve his starting role.

Catching prospect Francisco Mejia has been the Padres' best hitter this spring. He went 2-for-3 to boost his OPS to 1.314. Still, Hedges' experience gives him a strong hold on the starting job. If his bat stays hot into the regular season, it could stay that way.

Covering the bases

First: The Padres had both of their split-squad games canceled Tuesday, throwing a wrench into their pitching plans. Jacob Nix threw one inning in Peoria before the game was called. He took cover in a nearby batting cage, where he pitched a sim game up to 64 pitches. Nick Margevicius, meanwhile, warmed up for his start in Goodyear, but didn't throw a pitch. He was down on Wednesday, but will likely pitch in a backfield game sometime over the next few days.

Second: Second baseman Ian Kinsler was a late scratch from Wednesday's game with a jammed finger. He's considered day to day.

Third: Wednesday marked the first Cactus League road game for Manny Machado, who went 1-for-4 with a single. He was greeted with scattered boos.

Home: On a very windy night in Tempe, Wil Myers made two impressive running catches in center. The Padres are experimenting with Myers as a center fielder in an effort to cram the potent bats of Myers, Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes into the lineup.

Up next

Robbie Erlin has been competing for a starting job all spring without having actually started a game. He's made two relief appearances and started a backfield game, but Erlin's first Cactus League start will be Thursday against the Dodgers at 6:40 p.m. PT at Peoria Stadium.

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