Padres' young rotation geared up for 2020

September 14th, 2019

DENVER -- In more ways than one, the Padres' rotation will look different in 2020.

First and foremost, the personnel seems bound to change, with general manager A.J. Preller expected to add a starter or two to the mix this winter.

But the changes run deeper than that. On a more fundamental level, the Padres will alter the way they rotate their pitchers altogether.

With the youngest rotation in baseball this year, the Padres mapped out their pitching plans with caution. They've given their starters five days of rest practically all season, meaning they've spent more of the year with a six-man rotation rather than five.

That strategy served its purpose. But it doesn't make much sense for 2020.

The Padres' young starters have all reached an innings threshold that lines them up to be unleashed next year. Here are some totals from that group this season entering Friday:

: 150 innings

: 136 2/3

: 135 2/3

: 130 2/3 (including Minors)

All four pitchers have already surpassed their previous highs, and all four will end the year with a workload that lines them up to be unrestricted in 2020.

"All these guys have been stretched this year and pushed," said Padres manager Andy Green. "They've all grown from it."

On Friday, Green also confirmed that Paddack will make another start this season, scheduled for next week in Milwaukee. Paddack has already seen a 50 percent uptick in his innings from last year, leading to some speculation that he might be shut down.

"He's still in line with the targets we've had from the beginning of the year," Green said. "We're still confident he's strong and feels good. We're comfortable getting him back on the mound and pitching in a road environment against a playoff-type club."

Clearly, the Padres think there's immense value in seeing their young starters pitch deep into September -- even if they had to manipulate the rotation to get there.

The young starters agree.

"There's definitely something to be learned from this year," Quantrill said. "As the season's gone deeper, no one feels perfect. Everyone's learning how to play in September for the first time, or at least a lot of us are."

Quantrill, in particular, has experienced a late-season dropoff. He was one of the Padres' most reliable starters in July and August. But he's allowed 24 runs over his last three starts. The 2019 season has served as a learning experience.

"The goal is to pitch deep into October, right?" said Quantrill. "So you sure as [heck] better be able to pitch deep into September. Speaking for myself, I'm still figuring it out. I want to not just be feeling OK. I want to build a consistency and a workload, so that when you're in your 29th start, you're ready to go dominate for another six or seven."

So what happens next year? Well, publicly the Padres aren't committing to their rotation plans six months in advance.

But indications are that the club will move back to a more traditional five-man staff. The Padres' goal is to contend for a playoff spot in 2020, and their chances are better if their best pitchers take the mound more frequently.

It'll be an adjustment for a young staff that has grown accustomed to an every-sixth-day progression. But those pitchers seem eager to embrace the change, so long as there's a measure of consistency involved.

"As long as you can have a plan and your body can get used to it, that's the biggest part," Lauer said.

Added Quantrill: "Whatever it is that they choose to do, the only thing I have a strong feeling about is that consistency is always good."

Then again, there's room for compromise. If top prospect MacKenzie Gore cracks the rotation, he'll presumably have his innings monitored. , who returned from Tommy John surgery in July, probably won't be fully unleashed, either.

But the point is: Those limitations won't be the norm.

Right now, the Padres' 2020 rotation race can be summed up thusly: more competition, fewer spots available.