PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) – Besides figuring out how to fill the glaring hole at third base, San Diego Padres manager Andy Green will have a lot of decisions to make this spring to round out the young, largely inexperienced rotation.
With veterans Clayton Richard, Tyson Ross, Phil Hughes and Jordan Lyles gone, the rotation will be headed by left-handers Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer, both of whom made their big league debut last year. There will be plenty competition for the other spots, and long-suffering fans should see some of the team’s highly touted prospects reach the big leagues this season.
“You can feel it in the rotation and the guys competing for spots,” Green said Wednesday. “It’s real competing and talent with some high-ceiling guys that are coming in. There’s real excitement about those guys coming in. It’s a young group that’s very talented.”
Lucchesi started 26 games last season and led the team in strikeouts by a wide margin with 145 in 130 innings. Lauer started 23 games and pitched 112 innings.
Robbie Erlin, Matt Strahm and Bryan Mitchell all started games last year. Luis Perdomo, Jacob Nix and Brett Kennedy all pitched in six or more games in 2018 and are in the running for the open slots.
Among the prospects who will get a look are Chris Paddack, who’s on the 40-man roster, and non-roster invitees Logan Allen and Cal Quantrill.
The Padres finished in the bottom third in MLB last year in team wins, saves, ERA and quality starts.?
With All-Star closer Brad Hand traded to Cleveland at the deadline in a deal that brought top catching prospect Francisco Mejia, Craig Stammen, Robert Stock, Jose Castillo and Kirby Yates are among those who will get more prominent roles in the bullpen.
The biggest position need is at third base, with no clear-cut favorite for the job. There’s still a chance general manager A.J. Preller will add a free agent veteran there.
The position player who likely will draw the most interest this spring is shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. , the No. 2 prospect overall in baseball.
He broke his left thumb sliding headfirst while with Double-A San Antonio in July but recovered and saw significant time with the Estrellas Orientales in the Dominican Winter League.
The message from the organization to the 20-year-old Tatis is simple: Be yourself and play the game with energy and passion.
“I don’t think we are coming in with some agenda to change anything about him,” Green said. “Every minor league coach has thought very highly of him, of what he’s done on the field. At the end of every camp, there is a surprise. He’s got every opportunity to force our hand with the way he plays.”
Notes: Left-hander Brad Wieck was diagnosed with testicular cancer during the offseason and recently underwent surgery. He will spend the majority of spring training recovering. … Right-hander Dinelson Lamet, whose elbow injury at the end of spring training last year opened the door for Lucchesi, could return from Tommy John surgery by midsummer, Green said. … Ian Kinsler, signed to a two-year contract after helping the Boston Red Sox win the World Series, will get a look at third base but the bulk of his time will be at second base, the manager said. … The Padres open their spring schedule Feb. 23 against the Seattle Mariners, with whom they share the Peoria Sports Complex.