The best rotation in baseball is about to get a facelift. Recent reports from MLB.com Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell show it looks like all systems go for right-hander Dinelson Lamet, as an avenue exists for his possible return to the mound this weekend at home in Petco Park against the San Francisco Giants.
Lamet quickly became one of the biggest feel-good stories of the truncated 2020 season when he finished fourth overall in NL Cy Young voting. In 12 starts, Lamet notched a 2.09 ERA with a 2.48 FIP. It led to a 2.5 WAR, tying him for fourth across baseball. A magical season was hampered by a UCL strain which kept Lamet off the postseason roster and caused Lamet to miss the beginning of the 2021 season.
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Lamet did make his 2021 debut a little over a week ago. It was cut short due to right forearm tightness after just two innings. Thankfully, the Padres have been in a position where Lamet’s absence hasn’t made or broke the season to this point.
Of course, the moves of the offseason were the acquisition of Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, respectively. The emergence of Ryan Weathers has been felt throughout, and Joe Musgrove has been the best pitcher in baseball not named Jacob deGrom.
Padres: Can Lamet return to his 2020 form?
The burning question on everyone’s mind is whether Lamet will be able to replicate his 2020 season. Likely, no. However, if Lamet is even two-thirds as strong in his return, he will put together a strong year so long as he can stay healthy.
Padres manager Jayce Tingler gave thoughts on Lamet’s return to the rotation and an update on his health, speaking to Cassavell on Wednesday.
"“He was pretty aggressive with his bullpen today. He was letting it rip, all his pitches. What you want to see is how he looks the next day and the day after and how his arm and everything is responding. He’s looking the part. You never really know until you get out there and you’ve got to do it in game action. But it seems to be pretty encouraging right now.”"
Likely the return to the rotation will be unhurried, and it would be no surprise to see Lamet on a pitch count, assuming Sunday is the day.
Any mild sign of discomfort will move the Padres toward extra caution and, based on how Lamet responds over the next few days, will ultimately determine his likelihood of starting. Moving too quickly will not do anyone any favors. Hopefully, Lamet is ready to rock.