A semblance of real baseball starts Wednesday as the Padres begin their Spring Cactus League schedule against the Mariners in Peoria, Arizona. Manager Andy Green is wasting no time in seeing the battle for the final rotation spot play out, as Robbie Erlin and Luis Perdomo will each pitch at least one inning apiece in that game according to the Padres website.
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Perdomo is the long shot of the bunch, as at just 22 he has never pitched above A ball. That said, as a Rule 5 Draft pick he has to remain on the major league roster all season or he goes back to St. Louis for $25,000. However, he is rated as the team’s number 9 prospect and has been impressive in some early showing for the Padres.
Erlin has been here before, making a significant number of starts for the Padres in 2014 and a couple more impressive ones down the stretch following a mediocre showing at AAA last year. Overall he has a 8-10 record with a 4.60 ERA in 27 games (23 starts) for the Padres.
Another advantage Erlin has is that he is left-handed. Currently the only other left-handed starter battling for the rotation would be Drew Pomeranz who the Padres got from Oakland for Yonder Alonso, though he might be a better fit for the bullpen. However, with both being young, Andy Green might be able to start one for a couple months and then the other for a couple more to rest both of their arms and control their innings limit. That is assuming both perform and no other injuries necessitate a change sooner.
Jesse Hahn was a nice surprise a few years ago who had never pitched above AA and found success with the Padres before being traded to the A’s last winter, so the thought of Perdomo making the jump isn’t so unrealistic. However, the bullpen is getting pretty crowded and several rotation contenders might slot into the bullpen if they can’t make the rotation, which would also force a move for Perdomo.
It will be interesting to see if Perdomo’s Rule 5 status helps or hurts his Spring case. On the one hand, it could hurt him because the Padres don’t really have much invested in him long term. Conversely, if they see a lot of talent they don’t want to lose – they might keep him in the bullpen to keep his spot on the big league club even though he would technically be better served with more minor league seasoning. We’ll start getting a sense for how all of that will work out starting next Wednesday.