Despite the evident young talent on the San Diego Padres roster, the clubs progress has been slowed due to several key injuries.
Already San Diego finds itself in the National League West cellar, a whopping 14 games out of first place. As the losses have mounted, there have been positive signs, like Dinelson Lamet’s first big league start. However, the burgeoning disabled list, especially with the addition of center fielder Manuel Margot, does not bode well.
Before Lamet’s call-up scouts considered his mid-90’s fastball and his slider his best pitches, with his change-up a work in progress. However, he had all three working when he faced the New York Mets Thursday night. He struck out eight batters, and threw 61 of his 91 pitches for strikes.
Lamet told reporters after the game he thought he had an excellent start, a sure sign of the confidence the young Dominican has in himself. The 24-year-old has moved from High-A to the Padres in just three years.
In another sign of progress, Hunter Renfroe has actually walked 14 times, most of those coming lately. A first-round pick in 2013, Renfroe has always had a reputation for mashing the ball but demonstrating poor plate discipline, as evidenced by his .286 OBP. Working on staying in the strike zone in the major leagues is a real challenge, but he did walk twice against Clayton Kershaw (who does not give up many walks) in a game in early May.
Two additions, Chase d’Arnaud and Matt Szczur, have injected signs of life and provided help in the face of the growing disabled list. The Cubs, loaded with talent, had no room for Szczur on their roster. However the Padres welcomed him, and he’s already played all three spots in the outfield.
D’Arnaud, in the meantime, has had a rocky road to the Padres. On April-25 Braves designated him for assignment; the Red Sox claimed him two days later, then waived him April 27 5-17. The Padres claimed him and immediately put him to work. He has experience in both the outfield and infield. D’Arnaud started the rally in the seventh against the Met’s bullpen on Thursday and helped the Padres win two of three from the Mets.
Winning the series against New York started the road trip off well. Plus, long-time Padres’ fans undoubtedly relish a win against Met’s General Manger Sandy Alderson, who had a scorched earth policy as CEO of the team from 2005 to 2009. He trashed then traded Khalil Greene. Worse, he refused to let closer Trevor Hoffman talk to John Moores about the future of the Padres and let him walk. Hoffman, who should have played his entire career with the Padres, ended up a Brewer instead.
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Having lost to the Nationals (the team leading the NL East) Friday night, the Padres face a daunting series of games against the Cubs and Rockies (also leaders of their divisions). And the bad news from the disabled list keeps mounting.
Center fielder Manny Margot officially landed on the disabled list Saturday retroactive to April 25. He has tightness in his calf and is in a walking boot. That makes two walking-boot clad players, as Travis Jankowski has been hobbling around in one since fouling a ball off his foot. Both Margot and Jankowski rely on their legs, and neither will be back soon. Margot had played almost every single game in center field and batted leadoff, leaving huge voids in both categories.
Equally worrisome, Trevor Cahill, 3-2 with a 3.27 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, has been diagnosed with a right shoulder strain. He’s on the disabled list for the second time having missed nine games in April with a lower back strain. This bad news conjures memories of Tyson Ross in 2016. He pitched opening day, giving up seven runs against the Dodgers. Then he landed on the disabled list with a similar diagnosis. Ross hasn’t pitched since.