Notes: King's Padres debut, Salas, Musgrove

February 27th, 2024

PEORIA, Ariz. -- A day after Juan Soto’s first Yankees home run, the Padres got their first look at one of the headliners in the December trade package they received for Soto.

’s Cactus League debut on Monday afternoon could not have gone much better.

The 28-year-old right-hander pitched two efficient, scoreless frames in San Diego’s 7-4 loss to Cleveland at Peoria Stadium. He allowed just one hit, which he promptly erased with a double play. So effective was King, that when his outing was done, he retreated to the right-field bullpen to throw a few more pitches.

“Really liked King a lot,” Padres manager Mike Shildt said. “I loved his pace, loved his body language, loved his presence. Nothing was rushed, but he was clearly in control, and the stuff was really good.”

King, of course, was one of five players the Padres landed in the December trade that sent Soto to New York. He spent most of his career pitching in relief, but the Yankees moved him into a starting role in the second half of last season.

King thrived, posting a 2.23 ERA in nine starts, and when the Padres acquired him, they made it clear they viewed him as a part of their rotation (even though King’s first spring outing came in relief of ).

Along with Musgrove and Yu Darvish, King is one of three locks for the Padres’ season-opening rotation. He never has thrown more than 105 innings in a big league season, but if all goes according to plan, he should blow well past that limit.

“That was actually one of my first questions I asked [pitching coach] Ruben [Niebla],” King told the Padres’ TV broadcast. “I said I just don’t want an innings count. I don’t want a limit. I don’t want to even think that if I get to a certain amount of innings that that’s too much, and then I think I should feel fatigued when I really don’t.

“And Ruben was like, ‘Are you kidding me? We’re going to let you go. We’re definitely going to monitor it. But you just go.’”

Two hits for Salas
, the Padres’ top prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 8 overall, went 2-for-2 against the Guardians. The left-handed batter smacked a double to the opposite field in the seventh inning. Then he pulled a single to right in the ninth.

Quite a showing for a 17-year-old in his first Major League camp.

“Super impressive, both gaps,” Shildt said. “That’s the sign of a good hitter that can drive the ball the other way. You mentioned his age -- I don’t think of him as 17. He just is a really good player.”

Indeed, the Padres aren’t treating Salas with kid gloves. He has gotten into three of their first five games this spring, and he has been active in all of their back-field work.

“He’s really no different than anybody in the clubhouse,” Shildt said. “… He’s really intentional about how he goes about his business. He’s got a quiet demeanor. But he’s always looking around. He’s absorbing, and he’s listening, and he’s learning. And then you see it being applied -- which is probably the best thing.”

Musgrove struggles again
After failing to record an out Thursday in the spring opener, Musgrove was roughed up again on Monday. He surrendered four runs across 1 2/3 innings against Cleveland, and he still hasn’t tallied a strikeout.

“I’m working on [stuff] right now,” Musgrove said. “Some of it sucks. Some of it’s OK. I feel like I don’t have the level of confidence I have in-season, landing the breaking balls in any count, a little inconsistency. … But that’s part of the progression.”

Clearly, Musgrove wasn’t pleased with his performance. But he also acknowledged the bigger picture. The veteran right-hander is experimenting with a new slider -- a more sweeper-like version of the pitch that he says won’t blend with his curveball. He still isn’t sure whether the pitch will stick.

In the meantime, his fastball velocity sat in the low 90s on Monday. That’s not health-related. It’s where Musgrove says he usually is at this stage of camp -- and, to be fair, he’s struggled before in Spring Training.

“It’s the progression in the spring, and smoothing out the delivery as camp goes,” Musgrove said. “You always hope that by the end of camp, you’re right where you want to be.”

Almost always, Musgrove is.