The Diamond- Lake Elsinore, California
In early July, the San Diego Padres sent three minor league pitchers to Cleveland, Ohio to participate in the 2019 MLB Futures game — lefties MacKenzie Gore and Adrian Morejon, and right-hander Luis Patino.
The three prospects, who are ranked no. 3, no. 87, and no. 33 in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects list respectively, represent a significant portion of the core of young pitching the Padres are counting on to make in impact in the majors in years to come.
After participating in the midsummer showcase, Gore and Morejon were promoted — Gore to Double-A Amarillo, and Morejon to the major leagues.
Patino, however, remained in Single-A Lake Elsinore and watched his former (and likely future) teammates move on to the next level. The 19-year-old Columbian’s extended stay in Lake Elsinore, though, probably had more to do with his age and inexperience than his results on the mound. “He knows that he’s close (to getting promoted),” Lake Elsinore Storm pitching coach Pete Zamora said after a particularly dominant start from Patino in mid-July. “He has a little bit left to do here, and he knows that.”
Patino, who is the youngest of the three Padres prospects to appear in the Futures Game this season, made quick work of what little was left for him to prove at the Single-A level after his appearance in the midsummer showcase. Drawing motivation from the successes of his fellow Padres farmhands, he posted a minuscule 1.50 ERA in 25 innings pitched after the All-Star Break, improving upon what was already shaping up to be a masterful season overall.
“It’s more motivation for me because my teammate MacKenzie (Gore) was here earlier in the season, and now he’s in Double-A,” Patino said. “That was motivation for me to keep working hard and get promoted too. So I’ve been working hard every day to improve my stuff and my command, so when the Padres give me the opportunity to go to Double-A, I can do the best like him. I’m so proud for him and (Adrian) Morejon, who’s now in the big leagues.”
Minutes after discussing how hard he had been working for a shot at the next level, Patino got that opportunity. In the midst of the Storm’s Wednesday night contest against San Jose, what had been alluded to for weeks became official: Patino had been promoted and was headed to Double-A Amarillo.
While the timing of his promotion came perhaps unexpectedly to Padres fans, all signs statistically speaking pointed to a move upwards for the young right-hander. In a career-high 87 innings pitched with Lake Elsinore this season, he posted a 2.69 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP, with his starts trending towards dominance and longevity as the season progressed. Before Wednesday night’s game, the reigning Cal League Pitcher of the Week discussed the progression of his third professional season thus far.
“I think I’ve learned a lot this season,” Patino said. “I learned about who the difficult hitters are at this level and at the levels going up. In the first month of the season, I felt a little bit weird because I didn’t know what was going on with my command and my pitches. But I worked every single day to improve with my command, my pitches, and my delivery, and it’s on right now. I feel pretty good.”
Quick to credit Zamora with helping him make the adjustments necessary to succeed this season, Patino identified one major improvement mentally that has helped him elevate his game this year: an increased sense of confidence.“I have more confidence with my pitches,” Patino said. “I’m not ‘throwing,’ I’m pitching. I have more confidence on the mound; I’m always competing with all hitters. I never over-think, I have confidence with my plan and always do my best on the mound.”
Zamora weighed in on Patino’s mental game.
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“He’s made some tremendous strides from the beginning of the year,” Zamora said. “He’s showing a little bit more savvy than a 19-year-old should be able to do. We’ve talked a lot about just pitching, not necessarily mechanics or anything like that. He’s really bought in.” Before he departed Lake Elsinore for the Texas Panhandle, Patino expressed both a sense of appreciation for the time he spent with the Storm, as well as excitement for an opportunity to play at the next level.
“I’ll always remember my old teammates,” Patino said. “I’ve loved this season (so far) because I’ve learned a lot. I feel excited for the promotion to Double-A. I’ve been working hard every single day for that one. It’s a new challenge for me.”
Though Patino is set to be the youngest pitcher to play in Double-A this season, he should fit in just fine, both performance and personality-wise. “He’s one of the most charismatic kids I’ve ever coached,” Zamora said. “He’s a great kid…he’s a hell of a competitor.”
Anderson Haigler is a freelance sports journalist from Escondido, California. This year is his third contributing to the East Village Times. Anderson recently graduated from the University of San Diego with a degree in Communication Studies, where he won three awards from the CCMA for both his sports and breaking news coverage for The USD Vista.