Notes: Lamet slow but steady in elbow rehab

Morejon continues roster push; Espinoza returns

March 19th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With two weeks left until Opening Day, has yet to appear in a Cactus League game. So if you're doing the math, yes, it's a near certainty that Lamet will not break camp on the big league roster.

Nonetheless, Lamet continues to slowly check every box in his recovery from the elbow injury that forced him to miss the postseason last year. On Thursday afternoon, he took one of his most meaningful steps yet.

For the first time this spring, Lamet pitched multiple innings in a simulated game. He threw 29 pitches and faced seven hitters -- allowing either two or three of those hitters to reach base. (There was some debate about whether Jurickson Profar's blooper to shallow left would've fallen in for a single.)

“First time in competition that he’s gone up-down,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “He maintained his velocity and his stuff with all his pitches -- wasn’t quite as sharp with his command. But still, the stuff was there. That was really encouraging.”

When Lamet finished his outing by retiring Profar (again?), the two traded good-natured barbs. Profar contended he'd gotten a hit in his first at-bat of the inning. Lamet disagreed. They left the field laughing -- a sight for sore eyes among Padres fans.

Externally, Lamet's slow progression has caused plenty of worry. But internally, the team says it's gone about as smoothly as possible. The reason for the disconnect is simple: the Padres have been purposefully vague in discussing the plan for Lamet's buildup. His next outing might come in the Cactus League, or it might come in a more formal game setting on a back field.

This much is clear: Lamet was never going to throw 250 innings this season, and the Padres have designs on playing deep into October. They're going to limit his workload somehow. Evidently that entails a slow Spring Training and, most likely, an early stint on the injured list as he builds his way back.

Morejon solidifies roster spot

Why rush Lamet back anyway? The Padres, it seems, have a very capable 22-year-old left-hander who can fill out the rotation anyway.

Adrian Morejon was sharp again on Thursday in the Padres' 4-2 loss to the A's at Peoria Stadium. He pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and two runs -- both in the fourth inning.

That fourth inning is notable, because Morejon hadn't pitched past three in a game since April 2019 at Double-A Amarillo. He's served almost exclusively as a reliever or opener since his callup in '19. But the Padres are stretching him back into a starting capacity this spring.

With Lamet on the mend, Morejon is the clear favorite for the No. 5 starter role. Fellow young left-handers Ryan Weathers and MacKenzie Gore are also in the mix.

Pomeranz scare
Padres left-hander hasn't seen game action since March 9, and it came to light Wednesday that the left-hander had been experiencing left forearm tightness.

Pomeranz was evaluated further, and tests revealed no structural damage, according to a source. The team is optimistic he will return to the mound at some point in the next week.

It's merely the latest injury scare in a spring full of them for the Padres' bullpen. José Castillo will miss the season following Tommy John surgery. Matt Strahm (right patellar tendon surgery) and Javy Guerra (UCL sprain) are already out past Opening Day. Right-handers Pierce Johnson (groin strain) and Taylor Williams (left shoulder soreness) are dealing with ailments as well.

Weathers gets the Dodgers ... again
The Padres have seen enough to know that Yu Darvish is ready. The veteran right-hander has been lights-out in his two starts, and at 34, he knows how to get himself prepared for a season. There was no need for Darvish to face the Dodgers on Saturday, his scheduled start day. He'll pitch four innings in a back-field game instead.

"Darvish has looked as sharp, as crisp as everything we've wanted," manager Jayce Tingler said. "We feel really good about where he's at right now, and we've got some other guys competing for some other roles."

One of those "other guys" competing for a role is Weathers, who gets the ball in Darvish’s place. Weathers sits squarely on the roster bubble, and his outing Saturday could prove decisive in his quest for a job as swing-man.

Fittingly, the start comes against the rival Dodgers. Weathers made his big league debut against Los Angeles last postseason, working 1 1/3 scoreless innings, including a strikeout of Cody Bellinger.

Espinoza returns
After four seasons on the sideline, Anderson Espinoza -- once the Padres’ top-ranked prospect -- returned to game action for the first time since undergoing two Tommy John surgeries and recoveries.

Ranked No. 12 on MLB Pipeline's top 30 Padres prospects list, Espinoza worked a scoreless seventh inning on eight pitches, allowing one hit.

“I think about all the work that he’s done and all the training staff and the pitching coaches that have been through this long journey,” Tingler said. “To see him get through his inning, I thought it was a great first step and something to build on.”

Nola on the mend
Austin Nola's status for Opening Day remains in question, but the early signs in his recovery from a fractured left middle finger are encouraging.

Nola is still at least a few days away from being cleared to begin regular workouts. But he's reported no ill-effects from receiving baseballs -- a hugely encouraging sign considering the injury is to his catching hand. Instead, Tingler said Nola's biggest challenge would be swinging the bat.

The Padres aren't going to take any risks with Nola -- not when they have Victor Caratini and prospect Luis Campusano available as temporary replacements.