Opening Day meltdown proves Padres’ bullpen problems are worse than we thought

Thomas Carannante
Apr 7, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Robert Suarez (75) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; San Diego Padres relief pitcher Robert Suarez (75) pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /
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The San Diego Padres‘ trade for Minnesota Twins’ reliever Taylor Rogers was a shrewd one, but never before has a single arm fixed an entire bullpen’s worth of problems.

Though the Pads’ bullpen wasn’t exactly bad in 2021 (3.62 ERA, 1.24 WHIP), the unit walked a ton of batters (263 walks and 50 hit batters in 688.1 innings) and made many outings a lot more painful than they should’ve been.

Throw in the fact Mark Melancon is gone and plenty of roles still need to be filled after guys like Keone Kela, Matt Strahm and Daniel Hudson either dealt with injuries or failed spectacularly last year, and you have what we’d call a predicament.

The arrival of Rogers is great … but the Padres’ Opening Day loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks proved that the left-hander won’t be able to patch things up by himself.

The Padres’ bullpen issues resulted in an Opening Day loss to the D-Backs

San Diego led 2-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Craig Stammen and Robert Suarez, both of whom were tasked with closing the door in the ninth inning, allowed four earned runs on one hit, two walks and a hit batter. Game over. Arizona wins, 4-2 on a walk-off three-run homer by Seth Beer on National Beer Day.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks’ bullpen was able to carry the load for SIX innings after Madison Bumgarner was pulled thanks to a high pitch count (68) through three. San Diego allowed four runs in zero innings, an almost impossible feat.

Who’s the Padres’ guy to handle high-leverage innings outside of Rogers? Suarez is a rookie, he can’t be taking too much of that on his plate. Stammen is now 38 years old and doesn’t possess the “stuff” to blow hitters away. Luis Garcia? He just had his first good season in three years after bouncing around to four teams over that span. Pierce Johnson? Good but … “the guy”? Probably not.

Overall, the Padres’ bullpen needs more experience, overwhelming/overpowering arms, and the mental ability to handle high-leverage situations — most of which is non-existent. While Rogers’ promising All-Star campaign in 2021 will alleviate at least two of those shortcomings once he’s ready to go, there’s still a lot that needs to be done for the Padres to avoid their relievers wasting quality starts, as Yu Darvish fell victim to just that on Thursday night.

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Padres might need to strike a few more trades before the deadline to make the proper adjustments here, because this really doesn’t feel like a knee-jerk reaction based on what we’re seeing on paper.

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