Jayce Tingler stresses importance of healthy Padres rotation in 2021

Padres Jayce Tingler

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Padres manager Jayce Tingler indicated that the team’s bullpen may have never recovered from the Cardinals series.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Padres suffered two significant blows that derailed their postseason dreams. Backing up a bit, Mike Clevinger was the team’s trade deadline splash. On September 13, the former Cleveland Indian tossed 7.0 innings, fanning seven batters while allowing only two hits and a walk. The Padres were firing on all cylinders, heading full steam toward the playoffs.

But Clevinger followed that brilliant start with a one-inning, two-strikeout performance. One inning starts were nothing new for San Diego in the shortened season, but Clevinger’s early exit was unplanned. An MRI later revealed the 29-year-old suffered an elbow sprain.

And just two days later, Dinelson Lamet left after 3.2 innings with similar symptoms as Clevinger. Lamet was arguably the Padres’ best starter during the regular season, posting a 2.09 ERA in 12 starts while striking out 93 batters in 69.0 innings. He was tabbed as a dark horse for the Cy Young Award, and the 28-year-old delivered on the hype.

With less than a week before the team’s first postseason appearance since 2006, the Padres learned they would be hosting the St. Louis Cardinals. However, when they released the Wild Card roster, Lamet and Clevinger were nowhere to be found.

Padres starters combined for just 4.1 innings in the three-game series of the Wild Card round. In the decisive Game 3, San Diego deployed a bullpen game, delivering a scoreless effort from nine relievers. The Padres had knocked off the Cardinals, and next on the docket was the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. It was evident that the Padres pitching was exhausted from an “all hands on deck” effort against the Cardinals, as the Friars were swept in three games.

Manager Jayce Tingler joined the Ben and Woods program on 97.3 The Fan on Thursday morning. He essentially stated that the bullpen used all their bullets in the Wild Card Round.

General Manager A.J. Preller stated in his year-end press conference that the team would look to add depth in the rotation. And while both Clevinger and Lamet are expected to be healthy for Spring Training, there is always the chance that something goes unexpected.

Lamet already underwent Tommy John surgery in 2018. He worked his way back, making 14 starts in 2019, and he was brilliant in the shortened 2020 season. Clevinger is under contract for two more seasons. The Padres will need both players to be at full strength for a 162-game slate and potentially more.

Garrett Richards is the only member of the Padres’ rotation who will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Did he do enough to earn himself a sizeable contract with another team? The Padres might be interested in retaining the 32-year-old, but perhaps on no more than a one-year deal. With guys like MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino projected to enter the rotation soon, the Padres have to be careful not to block anyone.

Of course, Gore’s trajectory took a hit with no minor league season, while Patino was exclusively used from the bullpen this year. Either way, the Padres are likely to check in with Richards and other players on the free-agent market. The expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement at the end of the 2021 season could end up playing favorably to teams looking to sign players to one-year contracts.

But if the Padres learned anything from the 2020 season, you can never have too much pitching.

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