Weathers revisits 'shock, fun' of MLB debut

January 14th, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- Surely, the Padres would like to forget most of their three-game National League Division Series exit at the hands of the Dodgers in October. But managed to provide a highlight worth remembering.

The 20-year-old left-hander -- who had never pitched above Class A -- was thrust into action amid a spate of Padres injuries. Facing arguably the sport's best offense, Weathers stifled the Dodgers for a scoreless 1 1/3 innings in Game 1, fanning Cody Bellinger for his first career punchout.

Weathers – the Padres’ No. 5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline – was the club's representative at MLB's Rookie Program this week. In an interview with MLB Pipeline, he gave the full backstory behind that fateful day, and it's a doozy.

The hulking southpaw recalled arriving at the hotel on the morning of Game 1, prior to the Padres' roster announcement. He’d been a member of the team’s taxi squad for the Wild Card Series against St. Louis. General manager A.J. Preller -- perhaps by coincidence -- arrived at the same time, and the two set about taking their scheduled COVID-19 tests.

"A.J. was in there, so I was just talking to A.J.," Weathers recalled. "He asked me which pile I usually get my COVID test from. I was like, ‘I just grab one, I don't think they really care.’ He told me to grab one out of the big league pile."

Weathers admits that it took him a moment before he truly grasped what Preller was telling him. Sure enough, he'd cracked the NLDS roster -- and he might even be needed to pitch that very night.

"I think I just stopped in my tracks and had no clue what I was getting myself into that night," Weathers said.

He raced to his hotel room where he let out a scream, then called his parents -- who were quickly on their way to Texas. Good thing they made it, too, because Padres starter Mike Clevinger exited early with an elbow injury, and Game 1 became a de facto bullpen day for the Padres. By the third inning, it was Weathers' turn.

"I knew that really we just needed innings -- someone to come in and eat innings," Weathers said. "We didn't really have a rotation with Clev and [Dinelson] Lamet going down. It would've been a different story if we would've had them.

"We just needed more pitching. You know the Dodgers, how good they are. Somebody had to step in and get an inning or two. I was just fortunate enough for my name to be drawn out of the hat."

The humility is appreciated, but, no, Weathers' name wasn't drawn out of any hat. He earned his way to that big league debut. Weathers entered Summer Camp having added several ticks to his fastball, pushing it into the mid-90s. He took a step forward physically, too, and the Padres already loved his mental makeup.

Sure, Weathers hadn't pitched in a game setting since September 2019. But the Padres had seen enough at their alternate training site to make him their callup in a time of need.

“I didn't go into this year expecting -- obviously with everything that happened -- the potential of being in the big leagues,” Weathers said. “But we knew over at that alternate site that any of us, our names could be called at any time to go and throw some innings. Didn't expect it to be in the Division Series. But it happened. Nerves went out when the bullpen gates opened. I just knew I had to go out there and compete and get meaningful outs.

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“Not at all could I have said, in [Class A] Fort Wayne, Indiana, that the next year I would be pitching in the Division Series. It was definitely a little bit of a shock to me. But it was a lot of fun.”

A lot of fun. And with Weathers in the mix for a rotation spot in 2021 and beyond, there’s more fun still to come.