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Padres OFs menacing after they lie in wait

@AJCassavell
April 13, 2019

PHOENIX -- Who has been the Padres' most consistently reliable hitter this season? That depends. Which outfielder is coming off the bench in a big spot tonight? The Padres' collective production from their bench this year has been nothing short of astounding. That's a product of the team's deep outfield

PHOENIX -- Who has been the Padres' most consistently reliable hitter this season? That depends. Which outfielder is coming off the bench in a big spot tonight?

The Padres' collective production from their bench this year has been nothing short of astounding. That's a product of the team's deep outfield -- and a quartet of outfielders who have bought fully into a rotation, even if it means diminished playing time for each.

"We're winning games," said Wil Myers, the odd man out of the lineup against Arizona on Saturday night. "It's, ‘What do we have to do to keep winning?’ It's not about who's playing when. Every day, a situation's going to come up where we have a chance, whether it's pinch-hitting or starting or whatever it is. We've just bought into whatever we've got to do to win."

"We embrace that role," said Hunter Renfroe Hunter Renfroe. "We all love to be in those situations. It's just a deal where, whoever's there, go do your best, go help us."

Their actions speak as loudly as their words. Padres outfielders have come off the bench this season to hit an absurd .360/.429/.880 with four homers. Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Franmil Reyes all hit go-ahead home runs off the bench in the first eight games of this road trip. Myers hit a dramatic, two-run blast in a comeback attempt at Petco Park earlier this month.

Through 16 games, the playing-time split has been fairly even among those four. Myers has started 12 times, Reyes and Margot 11 and Renfroe 10. (Franchy Cordero also received four starts, but he's on the injured list with a right-elbow strain.)

"We've been very intentional in making sure guys aren't out for more than a couple days in a row and keeping guys in the mix," Green said. "We'll find ways to get them in the game on days that they don't start and find ways to utilize their skill set. ... At the end of the year, they're all going to be really fresh."

Green doesn't have a road map for his decision-making. All four outfielders are right-handed hitters. With the lefty-hitting Cordero and Travis Jankowski on the injured list, there's no obvious platoon advantage.

Through 16 games, the playing-time split has been fairly even among those four. Myers has started 12 times, Reyes and Margot 11 and Renfroe 10. (Franchy Cordero also received four starts, but he's on the injured list with a right-elbow strain.)

"We've been very intentional in making sure guys aren't out for more than a couple days in a row and keeping guys in the mix," manager Andy Green said. "We'll find ways to get them in the game on days that they don't start and find ways to utilize their skill set. ... At the end of the year, they're all going to be really fresh."

Green doesn't have a road map for his decision-making. All four outfielders are right-handed hitters. With the lefty-hitting Cordero and Travis Jankowski on the injured list, there's no obvious platoon advantage.

Sometimes there's a reason behind a certain alignment. Margot played every inning in San Francisco this week, because he's easily the best defender in the group. But for the most part, Green has ridden the hot hand, while acknowledging the importance of getting each player regular reps.

"If you go three or four days without an at-bat, it's going to be tough to get in a rhythm at the plate against live MLB pitching," Renfroe said. "That's something you can't practice. As long as we're getting at-bats, that's all you can ask for."

They are. In the spring, the Padres' coaching staff stressed the importance of bench contributions. Through 16 games, they've consistently used their outfielders in big spots.

"Getting four at-bats is great," Myers said. "But we also know that one of us is going to have a chance to win a game off the bench. We take that pretty seriously."

The current rotation is almost certainly going to continue, as will the pinch-hit opportunities. The Padres generally have two left-handed bats on their bench. But Greg Garcia is a light-hitting utility infielder, and Francisco Mejia is a switch-hitter who hits much better from the right side. (Plus, he’s the only other catcher.)

That means, with the game on the line in the middle-to-late innings, it will almost always be an outfielder called upon in the highest-leverage situation. Thus far, they’ve thrived in those spots.

It’s clear that success is twofold: 1. The Padres have good hitters on their bench. 2. Those good hitters are fresh, and they know they’ll get a chance to impact the game.

"Not everybody gets to hit in the three-hole and play third base every single day," Green said. "There's one of those guys on the team. For everybody else, there will be days off, moving around in the lineup, trying to find our right fit, our right mix, positioning guys to be successful and rested."

So far, mission accomplished.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.