Inbox: What's the impact of Lamet's delay?

March 17th, 2021

PEORIA, Ariz. -- It's crunch time in the Padres' Opening Day roster race. With two weeks left until those decisions are made, here's a look at some of your most pressing questions.

What is the timetable on Lamet? We were told all offseason he was fine.
-- Tom
I'm not sure "fine" is the right way to characterize what the Padres said about starting pitcher during the winter. "Uncertain, with a tinge of optimism" seems more like it. Lamet and the Padres were hopeful he would recover from the late-season elbow injury that forced him to miss the playoffs. But they wouldn't know for sure until he began ramping up for 2021. So far, so good. But the same question marks persist.

So let's say you're the Padres. You've built a roster you feel is capable of winning a World Series. But one of your best pitchers is coming off an elbow injury and hasn't eclipsed 100 innings in a season since 2017.

That's not the kind of guy you're going to ask to make 33 starts, then another six in the postseason, anyway. So you devise a different plan involving a lightened workload.

Publicly, the Padres haven't said much about that plan. But clearly it entails a very slow buildup for Lamet this spring. If he misses a few weeks in April, that's fine. Lamet was never going to throw 250 innings this year, anyway.

Do you think either of the performing youngsters, Abrams or Marcano, could surprise and end up on the Opening Day roster?
-- Dorian, San Diego
It would almost certainly take multiple injuries for or to win a roster spot -- which is to say, no, I don't think they'll be surprise inclusions for Opening Day. That shouldn't minimize what they've accomplished this spring.

Marcano has proven himself capable of quality at-bats against Major League-caliber pitching. The Padres also have begun moving him around the field, and he has thrived at multiple positions, which bodes well for the future. If Marcano is going to be a major contributor in San Diego, it almost certainly would be in a -esque utility role.

As for Abrams, everyone wants to compare him with -- and that's fine. He's a dazzling shortstop prospect and an elite athlete. But I wouldn't equate this spring with the 2019 camp in which Tatis forced his way onto the roster. Instead, I've been equating it with Tatis' showing in '18, when he proved he could hang but ultimately had a few things to hone in the Minors before he was ready for a breakthrough.

Are there concerns with a lack of relievers who can throw more than one inning? Matt Strahm is hurt, Adrian Morejon is likely in the rotation. Who's going to be the guy who can go two or three innings if a starter gets lit up?
-- Alex B.
Absolutely, this is a concern. In my latest roster projection, I had the Padres carrying nine relievers -- all of whom you might consider one-inning options. In this scenario, it's who would be relied upon for multiple innings, when necessary.

If Lamet were available, would be a perfect fit for that swingman role instead. As such, it's still possible that either or wins that final rotation spot, allowing Morejon to serve in a long-relief capacity.

Neither Weathers nor Gore has seized the opportunity this spring. There's still time for one of them to do so. But it's looking increasingly likely that the Padres will enter the season without fully addressing their overabundance of one-inning arms. (It helps that they've got an excellent collection of starters and a versatile bench that should allow them to carry nine relievers instead of eight.)

Any chance Ha-Seong Kim starts in the Minors to settle in a bit more? Brian O'Grady and Jorge Mateo looked pretty good on Monday, in terms of covering spots 25 and 26.
-- @PadresPhx
After a decent start, Ha-Seong Kim hasn’t done much at the plate recently. But the Padres aren’t reading too deeply into those small-sample struggles, and Kim remains very much a part of their Opening Day plans.

First of all, it's worth asking how much Kim would benefit from spending April at the alternate training site. When the Padres inked Kim to a four-year contract during the offseason, they envisioned him contributing immediately as a versatile utility piece. His Cactus League performance hasn’t changed that.

Once the season starts, Kim will need to hit to cement his continued place on the roster. But the Padres -- citing his feel for hitting and his quick hands -- staunchly believe that he will. That should leave O'Grady and Mateo fighting it out for one bench spot.