SAN DIEGO -- The Padres' rotation of the future still has all five of its places available. Four starts into his big league career, Joey Lucchesi is making a rather impressive case for one of those spots.
The rookie left-hander struck out nine Giants over six innings in Sunday afternoon's 10-1 Padres victory, holding San Francisco to one run and lowering his ERA to 1.66. The Padres' No. 9 prospect has been excellent since his arrival, and he allowed five hits without surrendering a walk Sunday afternoon.
Lucchesi likely wouldn't even be in San Diego if not for Dinelson Lamet's elbow injury during the Padres' final Cactus League game last month. In Lamet's place, Lucchesi has struck out 25 hitters in 21 2/3 innings, and his WHIP sits at 0.97.
"I want to stay here," Lucchesi said. "I love it here, and I'm trying to do my best to stay."
With his effort Sunday, Lucchesi became the first Padres pitcher to post a sub-2 ERA over his first four starts since Odrisamer Despaigne in 2014. He did so by showcasing one of the quirkiest pitches in the game. Lucchesi calls it a "churve."
Lucchesi holds the pitch back in his palm like a changeup, but he adds a bit of spin to it like a curveball. With the Padres ahead, 2-1, in the fourth, he struck out the side, using the "churve" to finish at-bats against Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt. It was an especially satisfying performance for Lucchesi, who grew up an A's fan in Newark, Calif.
"I never really liked the Giants, was never a fan," Lucchesi said. "I grew up 30 minutes from San Francisco, so striking out the hometown team feels pretty good."
A fourth-round pick out of Southeast Missouri State, Lucchesi was the first member of the Padres' 2016 Draft class to arrive in the Majors. He's been a strikeout artist at every level and now owns 229 professional K's in 202 2/3 innings.
"Talking to our Minor League [staff], they knew he was going to come quick," Green said. "They knew he was going to come probably quicker than the rest. He's proving why right now. He throws strikes. He's got offspeed when he needs it. He can punch guys out. That's a great recipe. There's a lot of deception there."
The Padres' farm system is loaded with pitching prospects -- namely MacKenzie Gore, Cal Quantrill, Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez, all of whom sit among MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects. But at the Major League level, the Padres don't have any solidified long-term options. For the young pitchers on staff like Lucchesi, Luis Perdomo and Bryan Mitchell, this season serves as a test run for the future. Lucchesi, thus far, has aced it.
"He's done everything he possibly can," Green said. "Except hit."
At the plate, Lucchesi struck out twice on seven total pitches, including four swinging strikes. Perhaps he knew how the Giants hitters felt Sunday afternoon.