Shildt leads Padres to bonus spring win

March 28th, 2024

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Filling in for AJ Cassavell on this edition of the Padres Beat newsletter is reporter Shaun O’Neill.

Mike Shildt is 1-1 as the Padres’ manager. But he has another “win” that doesn’t count -- he navigated his club through a treacherous course during Spring Training that included a compressed workout schedule before a transoceanic trip to open the regular season early in the Seoul Series. Then there was the trip home and a couple more exhibition games before ramping up once more for the home opener today against the Giants.

Never mind that he also had the challenge every manager faces in his first year at the helm of a new team -- earning the trust and respect of the players. And there were a few potential baseball detours -- such as getting a star player (Xander Bogaerts) on board to play a new position and getting a raw rookie (Jackson Merrill) ready to jump from Double-A to the Majors while also switching positions, at age 20 no less.

Shildt loved every second of it.

“I’ve had a blast; it’s been great,” Shildt said. “I really enjoy everything about the organization. It always starts with the players. The players have been amazing. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do, taken ownership of what they’re doing … taken accountability and responsibility. The modeling of our core players has been tremendous in how they’ve brought our young players along.”

Today, the Padres returned to the daily rhythm of baseball. There will be ups and downs, challenges unforeseen. Some might see the Padres’ spring schedule as disruptive in terms of preparing for the long haul. But with it in the rearview mirror, Shildt thinks the unusual spring has the Padres as ready as they could be.

“It all starts with us being together,” Shildt said. “Us being together is the No. 1 thing. We’re clearly that.

“If you’re not all of one, working together on the same page, having each other’s proverbial backs, it’s a real uphill battle. We’ve got everybody that clearly is pulling for each other, pulling on the same rope and really intentional about us being a team. So we’ve accomplished that, and it will only get stronger.”