Craig Stammen is Forcing Himself into Padres Bullpen

Credit: USA Today Sports

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Credit: USA Today Sports

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece detailing the San Diego Padres’ potential opening day bullpen.

You can check that out here. Since then, the roster has seen several changes and admittedly, some of my predictions have proved to be slightly off.

Craig Stammen is one player in particular that I may have underestimated. He has been exceptionally good over the last few weeks in spring training and it’s starting to look like he has a real shot at making the roster.

Here’s why:

In recent days cuts have been made and a handful of pitchers have found themselves down in minors camp. These moves have altered the landscape of the staff and have created opportunities for a few long shot candidates to step in.

Cesar Vargas was one of the first to get cut. Though he has shown some promise and seems to have a bright future with the club, he is young and the team has recognized that he needs more time to develop in triple-A. This is especially true after he missed much of the 2016 season to injury. He just needs more innings. This move was not too much of a surprise but the mere fact that his name is crossed off the list has given contenders a little more breathing room in both the rotation and in the bullpen.

Paul Clemens was cut just a few days ago. It was really uncertain where he would wind up at the start of the season. He hadn’t been impressive enough to warrant a rotation spot, even with the current pool of candidates. His spot in the bullpen, had he earned it, would likely have been as a long reliever. Here’s the thing; there are guys more effective than him, like Trevor Cahill, Christian Friedrich, and Jarred Cosart, who are also in the mix for that bullpen spot. In the end, the team seems to have made the right decision in sending Clemens down. He’s out of options so this could be his farewell with the organization.

Luis Perdomo is still in the midst of battle to make the roster. Is he capable of making the team and sustaining himself at the Major League level? Sure, I believe so. I also think that he should start the season in El Paso for a few reasons. First, I think it would be useful to save a year of his service time. I believe in Perdomo. I think he could be something special and I want to see him play with the Padres as long as possible (or at least be of maximum value on the trade market). He should only be down in Triple-A for about a month, and during this rebuilding season it seems worth it for the team to take a pragmatic approach. Also, similar to Vargas, I think Perdomo will only benefit from having a little more time in the minors to develop and perfect his pitches. I could be wrong but I think he will be sent down.

Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Quackenbush was the one that I think I overestimated the most. I was fairly certain that he would make the opening day roster. As of right now he is sitting at an 0-2 record with a 12.27 ERA and a 2.32 WHIP in 7.1 innings in Cactus League. He’s still hanging in there and hasn’t yet been cut but it’s looking like maybe he will be. He’s not out of options yet, so for the Quack fans out there, sending him down won’t likely be the last we see of him. It’s also another reason that it would make sense. What makes this possibility even likelier is that Craig Stammen, who, like Quackenbush, is a RHP in the bullpen, is having a very successful spring training.

For parts of seven seasons, from 2009-2015, Stammen was one of the most reliable pitchers in the Washington Nationals’ bullpen. In 229 games and 490.2 innings pitched, he amassed a record of 26-24 with a 3.91 ERA (3.20 as a reliever), 1.310 WHIP, 370 strikeouts, and a 3.7 WAR. He also had a 6.8 SO9 rate and a 2.7 BB9 rate during that stretch. Early in 2015 he tore his flexor tendon, which required surgery, sidelining him for the remainder of the season. He joined the Cleveland Indians as a non-roster invitee to spring training in 2016 but couldn’t manage to break Triple-A on the season with the Tribe.

On December 24, 2016, Stammen signed a minor league contract with the Padres. He initially reported to the team’s minor league spring training camp but has quickly worked his way into seeing regular time on the mound with the big league club. His current 2017 Cactus League numbers place him at a 1-0 record with a 1.17 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, with nine strikeouts in 7.2 innings. Some of his most recent outings have been especially strong. On Saturday, March 18, against the Oakland A’s, he pitched an inning of scoreless relief which included three strikeouts. On Tuesday, March 21, against the San Fransisco Giants, he pitched an inning of scoreless relief which also included a strikeout. These are just snapshots of what has been altogether a great body of work on the spring for Stammen.

Aside from the numbers, Stammen has many intangibles to offer the club. His veteran presence would be a welcomed value to a very young ball club. He has a track record of consistency and success with a winning team from his time with the Nationals. If his spring showing is any indicator, his health appears to at a peak. He could be yet another great middle-reliever to hold up the pitching staff and a great right-handed compliment to lefties Ryan Buchter and Brad Hand. I can see Stammen slotting into a 7th or 8th inning role. The possibilities are there. I truly think that the Padres 2017 bullpen is going to be fun to watch and I hope to see Craig Stammen right there in the middle of it.

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