Padres: Chris Paddack after first spring start ‘my fastball is back’

Padres Chris Paddack

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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Padres Chris Paddack
Credit: USA Today

Chris Paddack made his first start of the spring on Monday, striking out three in two innings. He spoke with the Padres media following the game.

Nobody will say Chris Paddack had a down year more than Chris Paddack himself. The Padres hurler is hard on himself when it comes to expectations, which can be a blessing and a curse. After a promising rookie campaign, the 25-year-old posted a rough 4.73 ERA in 12 starts while falling to the back end of the Padres rotation.

As pitchers and catchers made their way to Peoria Sports Complex, Paddack indicated he spent the offseason reviewing film, breaking down analytics, and truly having a sense of where he needs to improve to have a strong 2021. On Monday, the Austin, Texas native made his first start of spring training, an afternoon game against the Chicago Cubs.

Paddack faced seven batters over two innings, fanning three while walking just one and not allowing any hits.

“It’s good,” Paddack said of the spring exhibitions in general. “Spring Training is used for us to prepare and work on a couple of things to get ready for the season. That’s why I think it’s more important for pitchers than it is position players, you know, building up innings, getting the mind in the right place. It’s always good to get that first one under your belt and have a little bit of success. It just builds confidence going into start number two.”

While the Padres didn’t score any runs for Paddack nor any other pitcher following him, these games are meant to shake the rust off from the offseason and work on a few things before games count in the standings.

Paddack’s fastball was night and day’s difference in 2020, seeing more side-to-side rather than up-and-down action. For some players, that’s alright, but for Chris Paddack, he’s best when his fastball sees positive vertical motion. And in start number one on the spring, he attempted to regain form of his primary pitch while also gaining confidence in his curveball.

“Absolutely, especially at the bottom of the zone,” Paddack said of his fastball’s success on Monday. “I thought we were able to establish early in those two innings of work tonight. I was very pleased being able to execute, to get ahead in the count. You know, 0-1, it’s going to be a big factor to use that fastball at the bottom of the zone to play off my changeup.

“I was actually really pleased with both curveballs I threw today…My biggest focus on that pitch is confidence. I’ve been saying that the past couple of years whenever we’ve been trying to develop that pitch. Overall, it’s in a really good place, and I think, for me personally, now that my fastball is back, being able to control it at the bottom of the zone as well as getting swings-and-misses at the top of the zone, it just builds confidence all around out there, and it’s going to help my other pitches.”

Paddack really didn’t have a whole lot of success with any catcher behind the plate last season. His best efforts came with Austin Hedges behind the dish, but even then, Paddack posted a 5.15 ERA across seven starts.

On Monday, he threw to a new target in Victor Caratini, who is Yu Darvish‘s personal catcher. Similar to how other batteries like a Jon LesterDavid Ross combination have found success, Darvish regained Cy Young form with Caratini over the last year and a half.

“He’s done an awesome job,” Paddack said of Caratini thus far. “We’ve been on the same page. He’s very smart behind the plate. Obviously, it builds confidence whenever the first team I face is the Cubs, you know, his former team. We knew we were going to be on the same page. I knew that he knew those guys, so I just went out there and trusted him.”

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