With Mike Clevinger and Blake Snell set to return to the Padres shortly, what will the franchise do regarding the starting pitching depth?
To enjoy success in Major League Baseball, an organization must possess depth.
Presently, the San Diego Padres have an exciting amount of starting pitchers on their roster. Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Sean Manaea, Nick Martinez, and MacKenzie Gore make up the present rotation. But two veteran pitchers are set to return shortly as Blake Snell and Mike Clevinger are both pitching in the minor leagues on rehab assignments.
Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, and Joe Musgrove are locked to remain in the rotation. That big three is not going anywhere baring injuries. That leaves Nick Martinez and Gore as potential victims of a numbers crunch. Martinez was signed this past winter out of Japan, where he showed improved command and stuff pitching overseas. The early returns are positive for Martinez, who flashes a lot of ability with multiple pitches.
The long-anticipated arrival of MacKenzie Gore is coming with very positive returns. The fastball velocity is sitting in the 95-97 mph range, and the lefty is showcasing an assortment of breaking pitches. His composure on the mound is impressive as Gore truly looks ready to dominate. Ruben Niebla is getting the most out of the Padres’ top-ranked prospect, and the team would be wise to allow Gore to further develop with his pitching coach in San Diego.
So, what will the Padres do to make room for Clevinger and Snell?
Let’s explore some thoughts.
Nick Martinez is showing value but will most certainly end up in the bullpen.
This seems inevitable. He is a veteran pitcher, and the transition will be easy for him. The Padres could use Martinez as a long reliever. His stuff plays well out of the pen as he shows different looks with his mix of pitches. This may not be ideal for Martinez, but in the immediate future, this looks to be the move for San Diego. In a 162-game season, you must realize that he will likely get more opportunities to start this 2022 season.
MacKenzie Gore is proving he belongs. Do the Padres dare send him down?
There is no doubt that Gore is ready for major league service time. The composure on the mound and his mechanics are presently on par. The southpaw has taken his lumps in the minors, and there is really not much else for him to learn at that level.
The struggles are coming for Gore. Don’t be fooled. The league will adjust, and he will get knocked around. But how will he respond? The Padres will likely let the lefty stick in the majors. He will probably be allowed to start ball games instead of being subjected to a relief role. But what does that mean for the rest of the staff?
Is it time to go with a six-man rotation or use “piggybacks” in the starting staff?
Gore, Clevinger, Snell, and 35-year-old Yu Darvish may get the most out of pitching every sixth day. As a young pitcher, Gore will have some innings pitched limitation, and Clevinger, fresh off his second Tommy John surgery, will also be eased back into the swing of things. Neither pitcher will go more than 150-170 innings this season, and that seems like it would be pushing it.
Snell and Darvish may become “fresher with an extra day’s rest. There is no doubt about that. Joe Musgrove and Sean Manaea will hate this six-man rotation idea as both men are pending free agents and bulldogs on the mound. If you asked both hurlers, they would prefer to pitch every fifth day regardless of days off or anything. They are both old-school souls of the game.
Using two starting pitchers to throw one game is another possibility. This ‘piggyback” idea is interesting; how about the idea of Gore and Clevinger both going four innings, with a closer potentially closing the game? The duo has opposing styles, and the Padres could take advantage of a lefty/righty combination. Opposing teams would have issues setting their lineup against Gore, knowing that Mike Clevinger is waiting in the wings to come into the game.
The Padres will need to get creative to divvy up the playing time to all these pitchers. Depth is a wonderful thing, but eventually, all these pitchers will likely get antsy if they are not allowed to pitch as they prefer. The Padres have big decisions to make in the coming weeks as all these men become healthy. We will see what they do.