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With busy stretch ahead, Padres ponder pitching

11 games in 11 days means Paddack's turn could be shifted
@AJCassavell
March 31, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres opened their season with two starting pitchers on innings limits and a third rotation spot for a prospect with just one Double-A start. Needless to say, navigating 162 games with that bunch is going to be tricky. The Padres lined things up traditionally on their

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres opened their season with two starting pitchers on innings limits and a third rotation spot for a prospect with just one Double-A start. Needless to say, navigating 162 games with that bunch is going to be tricky.

The Padres lined things up traditionally on their first homestand, giving starts to all five starters. They'll go back to the top with Eric Lauer when they turn the rotation over on Tuesday.

But when San Diego takes to the road for a 10-game trip, don't expect more of the same. After the Cardinals' home opener Thursday, the Padres have an off-day Friday. On Saturday, they’ll begin a stretch of 11 games in 11 days.

Chris Paddack, who made his big league debut on Sunday, is lined up to start Saturday in the first of those 11 games, meaning he'd be lined up to pitch three times in that span. But his workload is going to be watched more closely than anyone else in the organization this season.

With that in mind, the Padres will shake things up in their rotation at some point in the next two weeks. It remains unclear how they'll do so. But Paddack almost certainly won't make all three of those starts in that 11-day stretch, according to team sources.

It's possible the Padres promote another prospect for a spot start. It’s also possible they continue to monitor the free-agent market. But the likeliest option is a bullpen day at some point after Paddack and Matt Strahm make their second starts of 2019 next weekend in St. Louis. Strahm, who pitched in the bullpen last year, is on an innings limit himself.

Manager Andy Green wouldn't divulge his plans. The Padres never do, beyond their next trip through the rotation. But earlier this month, Green made it clear the Padres won’t necessarily be conventional.

"All options are on the table, from bullpen days to openers to protecting certain starters by pushing guys back and having guys step in front of them in the rotation," Green said. "We'll be creative."

In their bullpen, Adam Warren, Robert Stock and Robbie Erlin are all capable of headlining a bullpen day. Strahm did so on a number of occasions last year when the Padres had a rotation vacancy.

"That's definitely a possibility," Warren said. "We don't have guys that just have to fill one role. You can mix and match throughout. There's a lot of talent in this bullpen, which is fun to watch."

The baseball schedule can be a quirky beast. After they play 11 games in 11 days, the Padres have three off-days in a nine-day span. They might use those off-days to get more rest for Paddack and Strahm. One or both could have a start skipped.

The Padres haven't divulged their long-term plans for either starter. For reference, Paddack threw only 90 innings last season, and Strahm's highest total was 124 1/3 in 2016.

Both bring electric stuff. San Diego will get creative to make sure they get the most out of it.

Garcia elated with first Padres hit

El Cajon native Greg Garcia has been going to games at Petco Park for as long as the ballpark has existed.

"I remember coming to games and watching Khalil Greene," Garcia recalled Sunday. "I vividly remember my dad saying, 'Watch him, watch him, watch him.'"

Saturday night, they were all watching Garcia. And he delivered, lining a pinch-hit double down the right-field line in the seventh inning.

"It felt like getting your first hit again in the big leagues," Garcia said.

Garcia was standing on second base in a one-run game, so he had other things on his mind. But the significance of the moment hit him during his car ride home on Saturday night.

A Padres fan from the start, Garcia had just notched his first hit for his hometown team.

"When I was with the Cardinals, if we didn't win the World Series, I wouldn't have been mad if the Padres won the World Series," Garcia said. "It's my hometown team, man. This city means a lot to me. Born and raised here, I've always been a fan of the Padres. Now to be able to play for them, it's just pretty special."

Tatis' aggression encouraged

Fernando Tatis Jr. notched his first career stolen base on Saturday night. There's going to be more where that came from. Tatis' speed tool is often overlooked, but it's elite nonetheless.

Tatis also forced a rushed throw from shortstop Yangervis Solarte on Saturday which helped him reach in the fifth. If Spring Training is any indication, the 20-year-old shortstop is going to wreak havoc on the bases.

That might come with a cost. Tatis was caught by Madison Bumgarner on Thursday, as he tried to swipe second base. Catcher Buster Posey nearly back-picked Tatis on Saturday.

The Padres can live with that aggression. First base coach Skip Schumaker wants more of it. In fact, he took the blame on Tatis' Thursday pickoff, noting he was the one who made the wrong read. Schumaker called Tatis' baserunning instincts and his ability to retain knowledge "elite."

"I knew he was good," Schumaker said. "He's better than I thought. It's not just the talent and the ability. His mind is already at a very high level."

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