A major storyline to follow not only for Padres fans but MLB fans everywhere this season will be how pitching staffs hold up while readjusting to the grind that comes with 162 games.
Few teams are better positioned to transition back than San Diego, which spent the offseason rebuilding and overhauling the starting rotation. They brought in last year’s NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish and former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, along with Joe Musgrove. They’ll join Chris Paddack and another Cy Young contender from 2020 in Dinelson Lamet.
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But it’ll take more than a five-man rotation to get the job done this time around. Not to mention if you’re looking at this Padres staff on paper, it’s usually ranked second … behind the reigning NL West and World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Where San Diego might be able to separate itself from its division foe is with the other arms that get starts in 2021.
Padres will turn to Adrian Morejon
With that in mind, the team is working on getting left-hander Adrian Morejon stretched out this spring in Arizona. The 21-year-old is yet to taste sustained success at the big league level, but that’s not stopping the Padres from looking to him this year.
"“He’s capable of doing a lot of different roles,” San Diego skipper Jayce Tingler told MLB.com. “But the one thing we know: If he’s prepared to start, he can slide into other roles. If we’re preparing him to be a one-inning, late-inning guy, we really handcuff ourselves, there. So he’s going to get the opportunity to start. That’s where we’re going to go, and we can always adjust off that.”"
Of course, he won’t be the only guy who gets the chance to lengthen this rotation. His fellow southpaw and Padres top prospect MacKenzie Gore will likely return to the bigs at some point this season – and Ryan Weathers could also be a key piece of the puzzle.
For Morejon, it’ll be about finally getting his plus stuff to translate to success, something he’s yet to do. Last year, the lefty struck out more than 31 percent of the batters he faced, relying largely on a slider-fastball combination to keep hitters off-balance.
The problem in 2020? The long ball. His home run rate jumped to 3.26 HR/9 – which all but erased the noted improvement in his walk rate. In short, it’ll be all about limiting the extra-base hits if he wants to be successful this year, regardless of what role the Padres wind up using him in.