PEORIA, Ariz. -- Dinelson Lamet never got his chance to be an ace.
Following a strong rookie season in 2017, Lamet was preparing for precisely that opportunity the following Spring Training before he left his final spring start with forearm tightness. A few weeks later, Lamet underwent Tommy John surgery, and he wouldn't pitch for another 15 months.
Lamet might never get his chance to be the staff ace in San Diego. That's just fine with him. It's merely a testament to the group of starters the Padres are building around Lamet, who is now the longest-tenured member of the San Diego rotation.
Chris Paddack and Garrett Richards join Lamet as front-line weapons this year. Top prospects MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño should arrive soon, as well. Zach Davies, Joey Lucchesi and Cal Quantrill round out the rotation options.
"This is a really good group," Lamet said through a team interpreter. "We have better talent, and there's a lot of potential. We just have to push each other."
Lamet threw 20 pitches in a live batting practice session on Thursday, using only his fastball and slider. That's a bit of a misnomer, though. Lamet's slider doubles as two separate pitches depending on how he throws it. One version is loopier and curve-ish. The other is high-velocity and bites hard.
If Lamet hadn't already proven that he was back last season, there's little doubt now. The right-hander is an early pick to break out in 2020, after he returned and posted a 34 percent strikeout rate in 14 starts last year. Lamet started slowly, but he recorded a 3.60 ERA over the final two months, racking up single-game strikeout totals of 14, 12, 10 and 10 over his last nine outings.
"Everything was good about it," Lamet said of his return. "A lot of that was just getting through the season and finishing that last outing strong. I felt good, and my arm felt good. That led me into this season, knowing I'm in a good spot."
The Padres clearly agree. They've been cautious with a few of their younger pitchers who have returned from Tommy John surgery. But Lamet is 27, and he reached 150 innings in each of the two seasons prior to his surgery. He's going to be turned loose again in '20.
"We'll see how Spring Training plays out," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said. "But honestly, with Lamet, we're going to let him go out there and pitch. He's pitched 150 innings multiple times. So far, he looks very healthy.
"In the second half of last year, it was important that he was able to get back on the mound and take the ball every five or six days. I think we expect him to pitch every five days for us and give us a lot of innings as a guy in the front part of our rotation."
Preller downplays Myers speculation
Once again, Wil Myers spent the offseason as the subject of trade rumors. Most notably: Myers was slated to be an integral part of the deal that would've sent Mookie Betts to San Diego before Boston chose the Dodgers' offer instead.
The Betts saga is over, but the Myers rumors have yet to die down. On Thursday, Preller was asked about the possibility of a separate deal involving Myers.
"I don't think we ever comment on any player trades in terms of what's out there," Preller said. "For us, it's the start of Spring Training. At this time of year, there's not really a lot of activity. We've come into camp excited about the group we have, looking forward to the year.
"We'll use Spring Training to evaluate our group. Conversations in terms of our roster usually actually pick up as we get closer to the end of Spring Training."
Schumaker discusses role
The Padres overhauled their coaching staff during the offseason, hiring Jayce Tingler as manager and surrounding him with a deep and experienced group that includes infield coach Bobby Dickerson and pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
The Friars also promoted Skip Schumaker from first-base coach to the role of associate manager, where he will essentially split bench coach duties with Dickerson. On Thursday, Schumaker met with media and gave his take on his new role.
"Honestly, my goal is to cover Jayce's blind spots," Schumaker said. "As a coach, you're just trying to help out as much as you can. There's no real set role. I'm just doing whatever I can in every facet of the game. Whatever Jayce needs, I'll be there to help him out."
Schumaker went on to note that, thus far, Tingler "doesn't have too many" blind spots.
"His relationship skills are off the charts," Schumaker added. "I think guys are buying in right away. He was a grinder as a player and a grinder as a coach and now a manager. We're really lucky to have him."