How much will Yuki Matsui’s injury affect Padres’ bullpen hierarchy?

Yuki Matsui's injury makes his quest to win the Padres' closer job a bit more problematic.
Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres / Norm Hall/GettyImages

The San Diego Padres appeared to be set to have a three-headed monster at the back end of their bullpen for the 2024 season. Losing Josh Hader to free agency certainly stung, but the Padres did very well to add some real bullpen depth when they signed Yuki Matsui, Woo-Suk Go and Wandy Peralta to go along with the incumbent Robert Suarez.

The early word from spring training has been that Suarez is currently the favorite to get most of the closing opportunities. While Matsui and Go both have closing experience, Suarez's power pitching profile seems to fit what manager Mike Shildt is looking for in the ninth inning. However, all three seemed to be options at the end of games depending on the situation and there was a chance that Matsui or Go could emerge this spring as the primary closer if Suarez struggled or got hurt.

Unfortunately, Matsui's back issues in wake of his first spring training appearance may have complicated the bullpen competition just a bit.

Padres News: Yuki Matsui's back injury does not appear to be serious

The good news for the Padres and Matsui is that the back spasms he experienced down at camp do not appear to be a long-term problem. While Matsui did have to sit out Sunday, everyone seems to agree that the injury is a minor one and that the team is just being very cautious early in the spring.

For Matsui, losing any amount of time to prove that he should be getting the late innings is somewhat problematic, though. His deal with the Padres contains some healthy incentives if he becomes the team's closer, but he can't convince Shildt or anybody that he deserves the ninth inning if he's sitting around and waiting for his back to calm down.

In the grand scheme of things, very little probably changes. Suarez was already the presumptive favorite for the lion's share of save opportunities, at least early in the season, and Matsui's injury only reinforces that. There's still a chance Matsui or Go make that race interesting, but the Padres are still probably going to want to see if Suarez, who is owed $10 million a year for at least the next two seasons, can win the job whether Matsui is healthy or not.

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