PEORIA, Ariz. -- Entering camp, the Padres figured their bullpen might be a strength in 2017. Now -- with strong spring performances from several fringe candidates -- the Friars face some difficult decisions over the next 10 days.
"They're making it really tough," Padres manager Andy Green said of his relief corps. "All those guys are throwing the ball really well. ... It's going to be tough. They are going to be last-minute decisions for those last couple spots."
Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter and Brad Hand have locked up their places. If catcher/pitcher hybrid Christian Bethancourt makes the roster, he would do so as the eighth reliever (and wouldn't take anyone's place).
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That leaves the following pitchers fighting for four remaining spots:
3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 4 K
Diaz is probably the safest bet on this list, mainly because of his Rule 5 status. But he's also backed up his claim this week since returning from a blister issue by tossing three scoreless, hitless frames. The Padres are treating Diaz much in the same way they treated fellow Rule 5er Luis Perdomo last year. He'll be a reliever in the short-term, and, they hope, a rotation fixture in the long-term. In that sense, it's worth pointing out that Diaz is miles ahead of where Perdomo was at this point last year.
Trevor Cahill or Jarred Cosart
Cahill: 4.40 ERA, 14 1/3 IP, 9 H, 7 BB, 13 K
Cosart: 4.05 ERA, 6 2/3 IP, 8 H, BB, 4 K
The Padres have three starters competing for two spots at the backend of the rotation. If Perdomo is left out, he'd head to Triple-A El Paso. But if either Cahill or Cosart miss, they'll remain with the big league club in a bullpen role. That should be easier for Cahill, who had a 2.61 ERA in two seasons of relief work with the Cubs. Cosart, meanwhile, has pitched out of the bullpen only once in his career, but is out of options.
1.04 ERA, 8 2/3 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 11 K
The veteran right-hander merely wanted a chance to earn his keep after two injury-plagued seasons. The Padres offered Stammen just that, and he's been brilliant this spring. Over his seven-year career, Stammen boasts a 3.02 relief ERA, so clearly he's got the track record.
3.38 ERA, 8 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 12 K
Before he allowed two homers this week, Torres had been nearly perfect this spring. Despite his struggles of late, Torres could be a valuable third left-hander out of the 'pen with serious strikeout potential against hitters from both sides.
If Capps is healthy, he's in the Padres' bullpen, no questions asked. But the flame-throwing right-hander is coming off Tommy John surgery, and his Opening Day status remains in question. Green said this week that if Capps doesn't appear in a Cactus League game, he probably wouldn't break camp with the club. He's running out of time.
0.00 ERA, 8 IP, 2 H, 3 BB, 10 K
No reliever has been more impressive this month than Maton, who entered camp as a roster longshot. The Padres think very highly of Maton and his elite fastball. But he's only pitched six career innings above Class A Advanced and is probably destined for further seasoning in Triple-A.
10.80 ERA, 8 1/3 IP, 11 H, 7 BB, 5 K
Quackenbush is one of the most experienced arms in the Padres' bullpen. But he entered camp needing to perform to win a job, and he simply hasn't done so. With an option remaining, Quackenbush could be ticketed for El Paso.
The Padres aren't the only team trimming their pitching staff as the end of Spring Training approaches. Other relief arms will become available over the next week. Remember, Hand -- arguably San Diego's best pitcher last season -- wasn't with the team during camp. He was a waiver claim from Miami who ended up leading the Majors with 82 appearances.