Padres: Dinelson Lamet is healthy, but isn’t throwing live sliders

It’s day one of camp. But so far, the San Diego Padres seem happy with what they’re seeing from Dinelson Lamet.

The right hander very narrowly missed out on being a Cy Young finalist during last year’s breakout performance. But his accomplishments were a bit lost late in the year when Lamet was sidelined with an injury. If the Padres want to make a run deep into October this time around, they’ll need him at his best – and healthy.

“Right now, we feel really good about where he’s at,” San Diego skipper Jayce Tingler told MLB.com. “He’s going to be throwing his bullpens and building up from there.”

Last year, Lamet made a dozen starts and worked to a 2.09 ERA and 0.855 ERA. His performance marked a major detour from what we’d seen from him in his first two go-rounds at the big league level and now we’ll see if it was the real deal.

Of course, the Padres have more pitching depth than maybe any team in baseball (with the ever-present exception of the Dodgers). But if there’s one goal every organization has going into spring training it’s come out of it in one piece.

For San Diego, Lamet is that question mark.

So, early returns look good. The team is optimistic. But, as is somewhat typical for this point in the spring, he hasn’t started working with his slider. That’s a particularly important pitch for the right-hander – especially if he wants to be successful.

Padres: A new plan changed everything for Dinelson Lamet

Last year totally changed how he attacked hitters. In 2019, he threw his slider just over 12 percent of the time – making it the third most-used pitch in his arsenal. But in 2020, he threw that plan of attack out and started from scratch.

According to Statcast, Lamet threw his slider more than 53 percent of the time last year. He’s a pitcher who lives and dies with the spin not only on his breaking stuff, but also his fastball, which ranked in the top nine percent of the league in spin rate in 2020.

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Seeing him start to work that into his work off the mound with success will definitely be a moment we can all take a bit of a collective breath this spring.