Notes: Catcher dark horse; Tatis, Naylor updates

March 6th, 2020

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres' catching competition is officially a three-man race. has entered the fray.

The battle for playing time behind the plate had largely been billed as a two-man showdown between and . But the 23-year-old Torrens has turned heads with his performance early in camp, and he might be poised to capitalize on some struggles from San Diego's two presumed backstops.

On Wednesday, manager Jayce Tingler was asked to size up his catching competition, and it was perhaps telling that he listed Torrens first among that group.

"Right now it's Torrens, Mejia and Hedges," Tingler said. "I don't think much has really changed. The tough thing is, with three guys, making sure they're getting their at-bats."

Mejía and Hedges are still clear favorites, and it's highly unlikely that the Padres would carry three catchers on their Opening Day roster. But Torrens is at least making the Padres reconsider things, team evaluators say.

Hedges has started slowly at the plate, though he's shown his usual prowess defensively. Mejía, meanwhile, is off to a more concerning start in the batter's box: 0-for-12 through six games. The Padres are taking those offensive numbers with the usual spring grain of salt, but Mejía’s shaky performance behind the dish has been far more troubling.

Torrens could challenge both for playing time if the Padres were to break convention and carry a third catcher. If not, he could challenge both for a roster spot. In any case, Tingler indicated that when the season begins, he expects a timeshare behind the dish.

"No matter what, we're going to have some type of combination of guys playing," Tingler said. "Look around the game, there's very few guys catching 140-150 games. There's going to be some type of combination. Is that going to be 50-50? Is that going to be 70-30? We'll see where we're at."

Torrens has won a job in spring before, but the circumstances were markedly different. Torrens was a Rule 5 selection in December of 2016 and immediately traded to San Diego, meaning the Padres needed to keep him on their big league roster for an entire season or risk losing him.

In the midst of a rebuild then, the club kept Torrens. And although he struggled mightily that season, the move seems to be paying off.

"It made me want to get back," Torrens said. "That makes a lot of difference. That pushes me a lot to get there again and be the better version of me."

Torrens batted an abysmal .163/.243/.203 in 2017, but he was making the jump from Class A to the big leagues. Those struggles were largely expected. Since then, he has made significant strides defensively and even slashed .300/.373/.500 with Double-A Amarillo last season.

When the Padres kept Torrens in 2017, there were concerns that he'd lose a season's worth of development. Torrens contends that the reverse was true: His development was hastened by the time he spent in the big leagues because he learned what it truly took to be a big leaguer.

"I never stopped," Torrens said. "I'm always continuing to improve myself -- defense, hitting, game calling. That was a great year for me. I learned a lot. I was excited to be there that year. I expect to be there again every year for the next 10 years."

In 2020, he might just get his chance.

• Star shortstop has rejoined the Padres after he was sidelined for several days with the flu. Given the illness and the missed time, however, it's unlikely he returns to game action until early next week.

• Outfielder , who is battling a minor neck strain, participated in the team's full workout Thursday. Barring a setback, he's slated to be in the lineup Friday night.

• Right-hander worked three scoreless frames in Thursday's 3-0 win over the Mariners, striking out five. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that the Mariners loaded their lineup with seven left-handed hitters, and Lamet still baffled them with his slider. Lefties have posted an .817 OPS against Lamet in his career, compared with a .596 mark for righties.

• Right-hander , who missed an outing while sidelined with the flu, returned with two scoreless frames on Thursday. He struck out two and allowed just one walk. Quantrill is on the fringes of both the rotation and bullpen races, and he'll need a strong finish to make up for missed time.

Up next
Right-hander takes the ball Friday night when the Padres host the Rangers at 5:40 p.m. PT at the Peoria Sports Complex. After his exit, the game should serve as something of a bullpen audition with right-handers , Steven Wilson, and all slated to throw, live on Gameday Audio.