Weathers wins final spot in Padres' rotation

March 29th, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- At long last, the Padres have finalized their season-opening rotation.

The last spot goes to left-hander who is slated to take the ball Monday against Arizona. With Weathers in the mix, here's the rotation plan for the Padres' season-opening homestand:

That's not quite the way the team envisioned it. Darvish was pushed to the back end as a result of his irregular schedule at the World Baseball Classic. (He's tentatively slated to pitch one more back-field game at the team's spring complex.) , meanwhile, will open the season on the injured list, and his absence cleared a spot in the rotation.

That spot now belongs to Weathers, who beat out Jay Groome and Julio Teheran (both of whom will open the season at Triple-A El Paso) and right-hander Brent Honeywell, who will begin the year in the bullpen.

Why Weathers?
Based solely on spring numbers, Groome turned in the best performance. But Weathers, who owns a 5.49 ERA in parts of two big league seasons, impressed this spring with a smoother delivery and a fastball that ticked up into the mid-90s.

"I feel really good," Weathers said. "I think the stuff's playing up a lot better. Everything's moving a lot better. Punchouts are going up, and just by the takes [from hitters], I'm hiding the ball a lot better. So I'm just excited."

Weathers notched a 4.91 spring ERA, striking out 20 in 14 2/3 innings. His spot on the team was secured Monday when the Padres optioned Groome to Triple-A.

"It was a tough decision between he and Groome," said Padres manager Bob Melvin. "But one of them's here now to start, the other one's in Triple-A, getting ready. ... Both of them really did enough to make the team, but we decided on Ryan and I'm proud of the way he handled himself this spring."

What's next?
"The goal," Weathers said, "is to stay here."

That's certainly a realistic goal. But it might be predicated on Musgrove's health. Musgrove will throw a bullpen session on Thursday, prior to the Opening Day festivities. He's slated to return to Arizona for a rehab start on Saturday.

Then? Well, if you're counting days, there's no guarantee that Weathers will get a second start. He'd have to earn it. Musgrove can return as soon as April 11.

When Musgrove returns, Weathers might be headed for the bullpen or Triple-A. Or, if he pitches well enough, he could earn another start or two. The Padres used seven starters at times last season and will play 18 games in 18 days beginning April 6.

Honeywell in the 'pen
Musgrove’s return might eventually force the Padres to choose between Weathers and Honeywell. For now, they’re happy to keep both. Honeywell’s spring line -- a 6.50 ERA in seven appearances -- probably doesn’t do him justice, the team says. He struck out 24 hitters in 18 innings, walking six.

Honeywell was once a top prospect in the Rays system. But he endured numerous setbacks, undergoing four operations on his right arm -- including Tommy John and a surgery to repair a broken bone in his elbow. He’s made three appearances in the big leagues -- all in April 2021.

“There are guys that have been through a little bit more in their careers that are going to be more emotional about it,” Melvin said. “I know he’s absolutely thrilled about being here. He’s put in a lot of hard work and earned his spot.”

Melvin said he expects the 27-year-old right-hander to serve as a long-man out of the 'pen. Honeywell struggled in the A’s system last season but was dominant in winter ball in the Dominican Republic and noted that the Padres have helped harness his upside.

“I could not be happier with the way they’ve invested in me,” Honeywell said.

What's left?
With those pitching decisions, the Padres' 2023 roster seems almost entirely settled. But Melvin noted that one place still must be finalized.

With and likely to fill out the bench, Melvin might've been referring to the final place on the pitching staff. Right-hander  had a locker in the Padres clubhouse on Wednesday. If, indeed, Tapia is the 26th piece, the Padres would need to clear one spot on their 40-man roster to make room for him.

The team has until Thursday morning to finalize its Opening Day roster.