Jay Groome stepping up for Padres this spring

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Credit: USA Today Sports

Last year, the San Diego Padres began the season with six potential starting pitchers. Manager Bob Melvin had the luxury of juggling the six between starting and relieving. The front office planned the same strategy for 2023. However, Joe Musgrove’s mishap with a kettlebell threatens the plan.

Without Musgrove, the Padres have penciled in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Michael Wacha, and Nick Martinez as starters. However, the team also has several candidates in camp to add to the depth, including Ryan Weathers, Reiss Knehr, Brent Honeywell, Julio Teheran, and Jay Groome. The 6-foot-6, 262-pound Groome is an intriguing candidate to fill the void.

Acquired in the Eric Hosmer trade to the Boston Red Sox on August 2 of last year, Groome had been on the Padres’ radar in the past. In 2016, the team considered drafting him. Instead, the Boston Red Sox picked him in the first round with the 12th overall pick.

“I was a little nervous at first because I didn’t really know who it was (that had traded for him),” Groome said when he learned that the only organization he’d ever known had traded him. “And then, when they told me, I was a little relieved because I knew they wanted to draft me, too. So it was nice just knowing they felt the same way still, all this time later.”

When Groome started his career in the Red Sox system, he could rev up to 97 mph. But Tommy John surgery in 2018 for left flexor strain changed his approach. Then the 2020 pandemic season slowed his progress.

Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, in 2021 he moved up to triple-A for the first time. In Groome’s latest stop, in El Paso, he had a record of 3-2, 3. ERA 3.16, and WHIP 1.326. Overall last year, he had his most productive year, pitching 144 innings in a total of 27 starts.

“I’m not the same pitcher,” Groome recently told reporters. “I’m better. Toward the end of 2021, going into 2022, I felt like I had a good feel of what all my pitches do. I kind of put (away) the old me of trying to just blow everyone’s doors off, because I started lasting longer in games.”

The Padres will play 24 games in 25 days, which will put a burden on the pitching staff. Manager Bob Melvin has definitely taken note of Grooms’s promise and emphasized his efficiency and deception as well as his use of his fastball, cutter, changeup.

The Athletic ranked Groome 10th in the Padres minor league system behind pitchers Dylan Lesko (who is recovering from an elbow injury and won’t be available until this summer), Robby Snelling, Adam Mazur, Victor Lizarraga, Jairo Iriarte, and Henry Williams.

However, Groome’s experience in the minors and his ability to eat innings make him a viable candidate for the upcoming season. According to Mlb.com, Groome will arrive in 2023, with the rest of the top pitchers in 2025 or 2026 (Snelling 19, ETA 2026, Mazur 21, 2025, Victor Lizarraga, 19, 2025, Iriatre 21. 2025 Williams 21, 2026

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At 24, Jay Groome has opened a lot of eyes (and minds). “There’s a lot to like about him,” manager Bob Melvin said last week. “He’s on a mission to open some eyes here. The more you see him, the more you like him.”

The Padres’ growing confidence in him has provided an extra push.

“It’s like, ‘All right, well, they’re still high on me, so go over there and show them what you got and prove to them that you can be what I guess Boston didn’t think I was going to be.”

Jay Groome’s winding road to the big leagues has been long and torturous. But he might finally make it this year.

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