The discussions are ongoing. Cal Quantrill will start Sunday, allowing the Padres to push the next starts for Chris Paddack and Matt Strahm back one day each. Barring a front-of-the-rotation type addition, Padres manager Andy Green will consider other in-house names throughout the season as the organization, one game at a time, attempts to scrap together more than 1,400 innings from its pitching staff.
It’s a path the Padres, for all intents and purposes, started down last August upon placing two veteran starting pitchers on waivers. The return of one Friday night — Pirates right-hander Jordan Lyles and his 2.09 ERA — is a reminder of what the Padres just might be missing even if they remain steadfast in their commitment to discover all they can about the pitchers emerging from the game’s best farm system.
“We’re growing because of the looks at those young guys,” Green said. “Yeah, you can always throw a new arm in there and have somebody eat innings, but we did that the last number of years. It didn’t get us any closer to relevance. For us now, it’s go ahead young guys, show us what you got.”
They have at times wildly exceeded expectations, like when Paddack backed up his bravado while outdueling Jacob deGrom or when Nick Margevicus, a year removed from opening the season at low Single-A Fort Wayne, began his big league career with three runs allowed over his first 16 innings.
They have also, increasingly more often, left the bullpen covering more than their fair share of games.
The Padres’ 10 quality starts are tied for the third fewest in the majors, the starting staff is averaging fewer than 5 1/3 innings per start (19th in the majors) and they haven’t had a pitcher not named Paddack or Strahm throw a quality start since Margevicus limited the Giants to one run in six innings on April 10.
Green has acknowledged the creativity the team is considering as it devises a plan to maximize both Paddack’s and Strahm’s contributions in their transition to full-fledged starting pitchers. While options run the gamut from cameos from Quantrill and Logan Allen, bullpen games spearheaded by Luis Perdomo and a healthy Miguel Diaz and even, knock on wood, Dinelson Lamet’s second-half return from Tommy John surgery, it can’t be ignored what someone like Lyles could have provided in the middle of the game’s youngest rotation.
Entering Friday, the 28-year-old former first-rounder had completed at least six innings in four of his seven starts, had allowed one run or less in five starts and the Pirates were on the winning side six times.
None of that should be all that surprising in San Diego.
Before he was placed on waivers alongside Tyson Ross last summer, Lyles had struck out 62 batters in 71 1/3 innings (4.29 ERA) split between the rotation and bullpen and flashed moments of excellence as a starting pitcher, as he did while taking a perfect game into the eighth inning last May against the Rockies.
The way Lyles finished the 2018 season with playoff-bound Milwaukee (3.31 ERA) had his phone ringing a bit more than the previous offseason, when essentially only the Padres were interested. San Diego was not among the inquiring parties this winter, not that Lyles was surprised given the reason for his exit the previous August.
“They were at the point of the season where they weren’t going to do anything, postseason wise,” said Lyles, who signed a one-year, $2.05 million deal with the Pirates. “They had a lot of quality arms. They wanted to go in that direction.”
The Padres aren’t looking back, either, even if they aren’t exactly sure how they’ll get from Point A to Point B.
“I think we like how it’s played out so far,” Green said. “There’s been some bumps and some lumps, but you’re naive if you don’t expect those with even the most veteran rotations.”
- RHP Trey Wingenter (shoulder strain) on Thursday threw a second bullpen session since he landed on the injured list and could be activated as soon as Saturday. The alternative is facing live hitters once before rejoining the roster. Wingenter said he has not felt any discomfort in his shoulder since his last appearance on May 3. “It’s eased up,” Wingenter said. “I’ve been lucky that everything has gone pretty smoothly. Hopefully I’m out there as soon as possible.”
- In his only start since he was optioned to Triple-A El Paso on May 8, Quantrill allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk in five innings in a win on Monday. He will be pitching on five days rest when he starts Sunday’s series finale against the Pirates. Paddack and Strahm will start Monday and Tuesday against the Diamondbacks.
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