Lamet: 'Feel like I'm 100 percent myself'

Darvish catcher situation; Spring Training tickets availability

February 19th, 2021

It's easy to view 's late-September injury through the prism of a missed opportunity. The Padres had the second-best record in the National League and they felt poised for a deep postseason run. Then, in the final week of the season, they lost their best starting pitcher.

That's not the way Lamet is choosing to view it.

Sure, he wishes he could've pitched in the postseason. It's been his goal as long as he can remember. But Lamet is also confident that he simply did what was necessary to ensure his long-term health.

"My arm, honestly, told me to stop," said Lamet, speaking to the media for the first time since he exited his final regular-season start on Sept. 25. "That's what dictated that decision at that time, and I think I did it just in time so I was able to avoid something more serious."

The precise nature of Lamet's injury remains mostly a mystery. Initially, the club announced a biceps injury, but he underwent the same type of platelet-rich plasma injection that's typically used to combat elbow trouble. On Friday, Lamet acknowledged that doctors told him he might have torn a ligament and required Tommy John surgery had he kept pitching.

"My arm told me I needed to stop, needed to shut down before anything got worse,” Lamet said. “That was the diagnosis. Hearing from doctors, it was: If you keep trying to push through something when your arm is telling you to stop, you could end up doing damage to your ligament.”

It was a brutal blow at the time. Lamet was coming off a season with a 2.09 ERA -- which qualifies as the best in team history -- and he was making a case for the NL Cy Young Award. (He would ultimately finish fourth in voting.) But if Lamet's early shutdown in 2020 means he's healthy in '21 and beyond, it will be well worth it to the Padres.

Still, team officials realize they aren't quite through the woods yet. Lamet has yet to truly ramp up his throwing program. Specifically, he's yet to fully begin ripping off his slider -- his best pitch, but also the pitch that puts the most strain on his arm.

Until Lamet gets into game action and unleashes that slider -- without question, one of the best in the sport -- there will be quite a few people at the Peoria Sports Complex who are holding their breath.

Of course, one person won’t be. There's probably not a single person more confident regarding the health status of Lamet than Lamet himself.

"I'm coming off that rest period, I did everything I needed to do, I feel well-prepared," said Lamet, who threw a bullpen session on Friday. “I feel like I'm 100 percent myself."

Personal catcher for Darvish?
The Padres are open to the possibility of using new catcher Victor Caratini as Yu Darvish's personal catcher -- as was the case for the duo in Chicago with the Cubs last season.

But this spring, the Friars are going to prepare to have all three of their catching options -- Caratini, Austin Nola and Luis Campusano -- ready to catch Darvish, if need be.

"I don't know if that's something we will do," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "Obviously, they've got history, and Darvish and [Caratini] have a very good relationship connection. ... Both guys, or three guys, will end up catching Darvish. Right now, Caratini’s taken him in his first bullpen, and they’ve done a lot of work together.

"We'll see what happens over time. We're open to all the guys catching [Darvish]. It's important that all our catchers know all our pitchers. You never know what's going to happen."

The Padres' catching situation is worth keeping an eye on in camp. Nola is the projected starter, but it's unclear how much playing time Caratini might receive in a backup role. Considering both Nola and Caratini also have the versatility to play the infield, it's fair to wonder if the Padres would keep a third catcher in Campusano.

But that's a decision for next month. In the meantime, Caratini caught Darvish's first formal spring bullpen session on Friday, then raved about his longtime teammate afterward.

"It really is a good relationship," Caratini said. "We've played a number of years together. We've been able to develop a strong friendship, and he's a tremendous pitcher."

Spring Training tickets availability
The Padres announced plans to sell tickets for Spring Training home games at the Peoria Sports Complex.

In accordance with COVID-19 protocols at the local, state and MLB levels, Peoria Stadium will opeate at 16 percent capacity, meaning 1,960 fans will be allowed in the ballpark. Tickets will be available for purchase in pods of two, four and six.

Padres season-ticket members have presale access at 9 a.m. PT on Tuesday. Single-game tickets will then go on sale to the general public the following day at 8 a.m. PT.