Mike Shildt’s managerial magic, key lineup change lifting Padres early in 2024

Mike Shildt has done all the little things since the start of the season.
San Diego Padres manager Mike Shildt
San Diego Padres manager Mike Shildt / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres made several changes over the offseason. Juan Soto was traded, Blake Snell and Josh Hader left during free agency, and the club ushered in a new era of Padres baseball by hiring Mike Shildt to take over for the departed Bob Melvin.

Shildt got the upper hand on Melvin during the Padres home opener against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday. The Padres new skipper was able to manipulate the bullpen just enough and received clutch hitting from an unexpected source.

Shildt was accosted for what appeared to be a foolish decision to move Jake Cronenworth up to third in the batting order. After all, his stats took a nosedive the past two seasons with the first baseman posting a meager .708 OPS. But Shildt and Cronenworth proved all the doubters wrong once again as the Padres came from behind to defeat the Giants on Thursday.

Mike Shildt’s managerial magic, key lineup change lifting Padres early in 2024

The Padres took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning but newcomer Jhony Brito gave away the lead after fellow reliever Tom Cosgove took care of business in the sixth. But after Brito's blunder cost the Friars the lead, Shildt went to the 'pen once again. Yuki Matsui eliminated the threat, and then Cronenworth brought San Diego all the way back.

A two-run single off the bat of Xander Bogaerts followed by a two-run double from Cronenworth put the Padres on top 6-3. Matsui dispatched the Giants batters in order to end the eighth inning and Robert Suarez recorded his second save of the season despite allowing a ninth inning home run off the bat of Michael Conforto.

Cronenworth endured a difficult offseason. His name appeared in various trade rumors for months, while others referred to his current deal as untradable. The Padres were even said to be pursuing possible upgrades. Names like Joey Votto and Brandon Belt were floated as players San Diego could add to platoon with Cronenworth at first base.

Cronenworth's glove was the talk of the baseball world after the first game of the Seoul Series saw an RBI bust through the laces, but the 30-year-old followed that up with a 4-for-4 performance during the Padres' 15-11 in South Korea. So far, Shildt seems to be pushing all the right buttons, and the Friars are off to a 2-1 start.

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