SAN DIEGO -- The red-hot Padres' offense welcomed two key contributors back into the fold on Monday night, and three more may soon be added to that mix.
Before Monday's game against the Rockies, San Diego activated utility men Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo from the injured list after they'd spent seven days there while going through MLB's contact-tracing protocols. Profar returned to the starting lineup and batted sixth against Colorado. Mateo started the game on the bench.
The Padres are still awaiting the returns of Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Fernando Tatis Jr. Hosmer's return could come first. Assuming he passes MLB's contact-tracing protocols, which include multiple negative COVID-19 tests, he would be eligible to return on Wednesday.
The returns of Tatis and Myers will take a bit longer than that, as both tested positive for COVID-19. They must quarantine for at least 10 days and pass through a series of protocols, which also include multiple negative tests and an examination by a doctor.
To clear space on the roster for Profar and Mateo, the Padres sent outfielder Patrick Kivlehan and infielder Ivan Castillo to Triple-A El Paso. Both were part of Sunday night's critical fourth-inning rally, with Kivlehan putting San Diego on top with a sacrifice fly and Castillo following with his first career hit, an RBI single.
It was merely the latest example of the Padres' depth paying huge dividends. After the first San Diego players went on the IL for COVID-19 issues last Tuesday, the Padres won five of six games.
"I just love the way everybody's bringing it and battling each and every day," manager Jayce Tingler said.
Lamet's slow buildup
After right-hander Dinelson Lamet made his surprise bullpen debut on Sunday, Tingler left the status of his next appearance "open-ended," noting that Lamet felt strong and healthy a day later.
The Padres will continue to bring Lamet along slowly, after his 2020 season was cut short due to a right UCL strain. Lamet has yet to pitch more than two innings in any of his four appearances this season. Sunday's outing -- his first out of the bullpen -- was probably his best yet.
"What is the next step? Do we go out of the bullpen again? Do we look at starting Friday, Saturday, Sunday? We'll kind of wait and see,” Tingler said. “We're going to do two things: What's ultimately the best thing for Lamet to keep him healthy and to get him through the year, and No. 2, what's best for our team? We'll weigh those things and go from there."
After Lamet needed 37 pitches Sunday to complete two innings of one-run ball, he retreated to the tunnel adjacent to the Padres' clubhouse and threw a few extra pitches, Tingler said. That’s perhaps evidence that the Padres are still looking to build Lamet toward a starter-type workload.
Lightening Weathers' burden
The fifth spot in the Padres' rotation could become a sort of piggyback tandem between Lamet and left-hander Ryan Weathers. Lamet relieved Weathers on Sunday, after Weathers had relieved one of Lamet's starts earlier this week.
It seems unlikely that the Padres would push Weathers to work six or seven innings on a regular basis, considering he's a 21-year-old rookie who has never thrown more than 100 innings in a season.
"We're going to handle Lamet, what's best for him, completely separately," Tingler said. "With that being said, we also know Ryan Weathers -- we're not going to allow him to throw 200 innings. ... We're going to be as responsible and as disciplined as we can. So it worked out great [Sunday], that those two were able to combine to be able to give us six innings of work."
There could be more where that came from. The lefty Weathers and the righty Lamet are distinctly different pitchers who -- used in tandem -- could create matchup problems for opposing lineups.
Weathers has pitched 26 1/3 innings across nine appearances, four of them starts. He owns a 1.37 ERA.