Abrams, Campusano mash 1st spring HRs

March 20th, 2022

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The extended absence of Fernando Tatis Jr. is certain to mean more playing time for top Padres prospect CJ Abrams this spring, and no one could accuse Abrams of backing away from the opportunity.

He has his sights set high -- Major League high.

“I’ve been putting in a lot of work,” said Abrams, who gained five pounds in the offseason. “I feel I’m ready.”

Abrams had two hits, including his first homer, in the Padres' 5-4 loss to the Cubs at Sloan Park on Saturday, and his two-run shot into the lawn seating beyond the right-center-field fence at Sloan Park did not surprise his manager.

“In Oakland last year, he hit a home run against us to [the opposite] field on a cold day,” manager Bob Melvin said.

Ha-Seong Kim, who started at shortstop while Abrams led off and played second base, is considered the likely fill-in for Tatis when the regular season opens.

But stranger things have happened for a franchise that is not shy about using its young talent.

“Tatis is an exciting player. Hope for a speedy recovery,” Abrams said.

“I’m just ready for wherever I’m needed.”

Abrams also lined a single to center field in the third inning before being called out at second base on an attempted stolen base, though both Abrams and Melvin thought the speedster might have been safe.

“It’s nice to be able to get him some reps here and see what he can do," Melvin said. "He does a little bit of everything is what he does.”

Abrams has only 348 plate appearances in two Minor League seasons after being the sixth player taken in the 2019 MLB Draft, and he missed the final three months of the 2021 season because of leg and knee injuries.

“Hard time but I got through it," Abrams said. “All back healthy. Ready to go.

“You just have to stay focused. Stay in the present moment. Whatever happens, happens.”

Campusano goes deep
Luis Campusano
, one of four catchers competing for a roster spot, also homered for the Padres.

“It looked like it was a double, and the next thing you know it is a home run,” Melvin said of Campusano’s line drive to left field that kept carrying.

“These are some of our top prospects. It is time for them to shine right now.”

The addition of Luke Voit seems to muddy Campusano’s path, inasmuch as there could be fewer DH at-bats to go around.

Campusano will catch right-hander Nick Martínez in a Minor League game Sunday.

The numbers game
Major league teams have not been told how many players will be on season-opening rosters, but Melvin said he believes it should be north of 26.

“I don’t know how you can have this short of a spring with starters maybe getting three starts and not have more than 26 players,” Melvin said.

Melvin said he believed 28 would be a good number to start with before eventually dropping to 26.

Kim's spring debut
Kim singled, walked and committed an error on a tough chance while starting at shortstop in his first spring game. 

He was held out of Friday’s opener with a minor hamstring issue, and he left for a pinch-runner after his line single to left field in the fifth inning as a precautionary measure.

Kim knocked down a sharp one-hopper to his right by Willson Contreras in the third inning, and after picking up the ball made an off-balance throw that was wide of first and was ruled a throwing error.

“Everything he showed last year, he’s a good defender,” Melvin said.

Paddack, Weathers on Sunday
Chris Paddack and Ryan Weathers, candidates for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, are scheduled to make their first spring appearances Sunday against Milwaukee.

Because of the condensed spring, each outing brings with it a magnified sense of importance.

“Usually early in spring, you give guys a couple of outings before you are really evaluating it,” Melvin said.

“At this point, not only [games], we are looking at bullpens and simulated games to try to get a little quicker handle on it. It is not going to be easy, especially with a new team. But that’s what we are forced to do.”

Starting pitchers usually have five or six appearances in Spring Training, building up their pitch count over the course of five weeks or so. With the regular season beginning April 7, the time-squeeze prevents that.

Paddack is expected to start and go two innings, with Weathers piggy-backing behind him for another two innings.

“It’s healthy that you have competition for the fifth spot,” Melvin said.

High-leverage relievers Craig Stammen and Austin Adams also are scheduled to make their first appearances Sunday.

Knehr uses full repertoire
Reiss Knehr struck out three around allowing a homer and a walk in two innings Saturday, and he showed the Cubs a little bit of everything in his 35 pitches.

Knehr’s strikeouts came on a fastball, a changeup and a slider. He is working on a curveball to use as a slower fourth option but has yet to bring it into a game.

“It’s in the works right now,” Knehr said. “I like the repertoire we have now. Just have to change eye levels.”

Knehr, 25, was 1-2 with a 4.97 ERA in 12 games (five starts) in three separate stints with the Padres last season.

“I was grateful for my experience last year and learned a lot,” he said. “I’m ready to bring that into this year.”

Extra bases
• DH/1B Luke Voit is expected to arrive in Arizona on Sunday and could play his first game Monday, Melvin said. Voit hit 54 homers with the Yankees from 2019-21.