Matt Strahm could act as big deadline boost for Padres

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres’ bullpen is overworked, and it is starting to show. Matt Strahm will arrive soon, and he will be a welcome addition. 

The Padres lead all of baseball in innings pitched by relievers with 416 1/3, almost five clear of the next-closest team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Friars manager Jayce Tingler has the unenviable job of balancing starting pitcher stamina and not overtaxing his bullpen. At times, the starting rotation has let him down. Underperformance, injuries, and inconsistencies forced Tingler to go to the bullpen before he or fans want time and time again.

After a stellar start, the bullpen now shows signs of wear and tear. Since July 1, San Diego’s bullpen owns the third-most innings in baseball while posting a -0.3 fWAR, 25th in the majors. The troops are weary, and the bullpen badly needs reinforcements. Yes, A.J. Preller is looking for additions outside the organization and will likely make a move or two to boost the pitching staff, but there is one boost San Diego can get from within.

One player inside the organization that looms as a faux-deadline addition is Matt Strahm.

The left-handed pitcher is slowly working his way back from injury after going on the 60-day injured list in mid-April due to patellar tendon surgery on his right knee. It has been a slow, grueling process for the North Dakota native. Now, it was reported ahead of the start of the series with the Marlins that Strahm is set to begin a rehab stint in El Paso.

He will likely pitch in several games for the Chihuahuas before the Padres consider calling him up to the big leagues as he has not pitched since Game 3 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, 289 days ago. He will need to build up his arm strength and adjust back to game action. A return before the first of August would be surprising.

When he finally puts the brown and gold threads back on, he will be a most welcome sight for his taxed comrades. The best part is the Friars do not have to give up any players to acquire Strahm’s southpaw skills.

Another bonus is that he has zero innings thus far in 2021, so he should be fresh. For context, Tim Hill, the most used lefty arm out of Tingler’s bullpen, is at 37 1/3 innings through 47 games.

For those that need a refresher, Strahm was extremely effective during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Over 19 games and 20 2/3 innings, he posted a 2.61 ERA and 161 ERA+, which was second only to Drew Pomeranz among relievers in San Diego last year. He was in the 85th percentile for average exit velocity allowed and 92nd percentile for walk rate in 2020.

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His most effective pitch is a sinker, which yielded his a .080 batting average against last year.

He will be an added boost against tough left-handed batters. Against lefties, he allowed a meager .116 batting average and .411 OPS a season ago.

Even with Strahm’s return, Preller should not stop there. This staff needs multiple additions from different avenues. However, with an overused bullpen in desperate need of some aid, Strahm will be one of the knights in shining armor whenever he makes his official return.

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