Paddack, sharp in final start, cracks rotation

March 26th, 2019

SEATTLE -- As Chris Paddack reached his 49th pitch of what was scheduled to be a 75-pitch outing Monday against the Mariners, he became somewhat bewildered as Padres manager Andy Green emerged from the dugout.

Green gathered the Padres infield around Paddack. Instead of dissecting batter Mitch Haniger, the skipper asked Eric Hosmer if he had plans on Sunday.

“Playing behind this guy,” the first baseman recounted after San Diego’s 8-0 win at T-Mobile Park.

Paddack, the Padres’ No. 5 prospect and No. 34 overall by MLB Pipeline, will indeed break camp with the club and start the four-game series finale against the Giants at Petco Park. He received the news after striking out four of the 10 Mariners he faced over 2 2/3 innings in which he exhibited why he’s big league ready: His fastball topped out at 95.8 mph, he dropped his developing curveball for strikes and he still maneuvered through the Mariners when his changeup -- widely regarded as a true plus pitch -- was off.

“I told him, ‘Congratulations for making the club, because you earned it,’” Green said, “because he really did. He did it the way you want to see everybody do it.”

The cerebral, routine-oriented Paddack is recognized by teammates for stoicism, so when he left the mound Monday smiling, it was a break from his game-day character.

 “After I crossed that line, I got pretty emotional looking into the dugout seeing my teammates, in a good way,” Paddack said. “Tears of joy. Tears of hard work. Just kind of reflected on everything that happened. … If you were in the hallway, you probably heard me screaming.”

If there’s one glaring uncertainty for a Padres club that hopes to take a competitive leap in 2019, it’s the starting rotation. While management splurged over the offseason with the signing of Manny Machado to a record contract, it didn’t make any significant acquisition to its starting five. The Padres instead will rely on their pitching-heavy pipeline, where seven of the club’s top 10 prospects in the No. 1-ranked farm system are hurlers.

Among them, Paddack has been perhaps the most impressive all spring, giving up just three earned runs in 15 1/3 innings (1.76 ERA) over five starts. However, his regular-season contributions will be curbed, though the club hasn’t explicitly outlined how. Paddack, an eighth-round pick in 2015, threw a career-high 90 innings last year to a 2.10 ERA between Class A Advanced and Double-A.

“We won’t put a hard cap on anything from an innings [point], but we’ll continue to talk to him throughout the year and make sure we put him in a good position to succeed,” Green said.

Paddack is pitching Sunday instead of Saturday, when he would be lined up on regular rest, to give him an extra day. Green didn’t say who will start Saturday, though Logan Allen, who gave up six earned runs Sunday before being pulled in the first inning of a 24-6 loss to the Cubs, is a consideration.

Margot homers twice

Days after it become clearer that he would remain a fixture in center field, homered twice against the Mariners, taking Mike Leake yard in the fourth on a four-seamer and Hunter Strickland deep in the seventh on a slider, for distances of 352 and 383 feet, respectively. 

Margot’s role become more uncertain after Wil Myers started seeing time in center this spring. But with Myers’ struggles there, he will likely see more time at his natural position in left. That opens more playing time for Margot, who is hitting .315 this spring. The 24-year-old Margot, is a career .254/.300/.397 hitter over parts of three seasons.

“He had a really good spring,” Green said. “He had probably an offensive lull there for a little bit, but he’s really come in strong down the stretch of spring. He’s put in some extra time, some extra work, and he’s always willing to do that. He’s found a nice little groove right here going into the season.”

Diaz throws at 150 feet

Miguel Diaz progressed to throwing at 150 feet before the Padres departed their Spring Training facility in Peoria, Ariz., Green said. Tthe right-hander continues to recover from arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in February. Typically, the next step after throwing at that distance would be pitching off a mound, though Green said that the club didn’t have a specific date lined up yet for Diaz to do so. Initial recovery prognosis suggested six to eight weeks.

“He’s feeling strong,” Green said. “… At some point in time, he'll be a real option for us out of the 'pen.”

Diaz entered camp fighting for a spot in the Padres’ bullpen, which proved to be the club’s best unit in 2018, with a 3.53 ERA, third-best in the National League. He sustained the injury during a bullpen session before Cactus League play began. In his 18 2/3 innings of big league work last year, Diaz showed promise by striking out 30.

Up next

Matt Strahm will continue his transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation as he makes his third and final spring start at 1:10 p.m. PT Tuesday against the Mariners and left-hander Wade LeBlanc at T-Mobile Park. Strahm, who has made five appearances altogether and was in the bullpen last year primarily to limit his workload as he returned from left knee surgery, has pitched to a 2.65 ERA in 17 innings this spring while striking out 19.