Listening to Padres manager Jayce Tingler, you can’t blame me for thinking Austin Nola will bring some much needed urgency and grittiness to the clubhouse this weekend.
At just 14-12 on the year, San Diego has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. Injuries have been a major issue, especially on the pitching side of things, and Nola was no exception. After suffering a fractured finger back in March, the veteran backstop has yet to appear in a regular season game – but that isn’t likely to remain the case for much longer.
The Padres activated Nola off the IL Wednesday, setting him up for a potential debut this weekend in front of the Friar Faithful at Petco Park against the Giants. He’ll provide a shot in the arm for the team’s catching corps and hopefully, he can help guide this pitching staff through its current rash of injuries.
"“I look forward to getting him behind the plate and getting his game going again,” said Tingler. “But overall, [Nola] is a leader in the room, a guy a lot of the players and staff believe in. It’s going to be really nice having him a part of it going forward.”"
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With Yu Darvish starting the series opener Friday, there’s little doubt Victor Caratini will get the start. After all, he’s been the right-hander’s personal catcher for several years now, dating back to the duo’s time with the Chicago Cubs.
But as Tingler noted. Whether or not he’s in the lineup, Nola brings a lot to this team in the dugout – and when he’s on the field, he’s one of the most underrated backstops in all of baseball.
Padres need Austin Nola back – badly
His .347 OBP the last two years ranks third amongst qualified catchers and his 119 wRC+ ranks fourth. This is a guy who’s more than capable of pulling his weight on a daily basis – and after battling through a serious injury last year in hopes of helping the team, like I said: you hope his determination and grit rub off on this club.
To make room for the catcher, San Diego optioned top prospect Luis Campusano, who really struggled filling in for Nola – on both sides of the ball. He mustered only three base hits in 34 at-bats (.088 AVG) – and a -18 OPS+.
There’s still no doubt: Campusano is the future for the Padres behind the plate. But he’s raw – and his lack of experience in professional baseball was laid bare for all to see over the last few weeks. It’s best for both sides that he heads back down to the minors and continues to develop into what the team believes he’ll be: a long-term asset capable of impacting the game on both sides of the ball.