All signs point toward Dinelson Lamet being ready to pitch on Opening Day, but the Padres will use extra caution when it comes to his workload.
Within a matter of three days at the end of the 2020 regular season, the Padres lost their top two starting pitchers as Mike Clevinger, and Dinelson Lamet left their starts prematurely with the same injury. The former attempted to return against the Dodgers in the NLDS, while Lamet never returned to the mound in 2020. Clevinger walked three batters in his only inning of work before news broke that he would undergo his second Tommy John surgery, missing all of the upcoming season.
The Padres have remained optimistic on Lamet, as he resumed his throwing program in early December.
Despite the positive progression towards Opening Day, Padres general manager A.J. Preller didn’t sit on his hands during the offseason. Instead, he bolstered the rotation, acquiring Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove in separate deals. Of course, Lamet is penciled into the rotation, as is Chris Paddack. Where they slot into their regular fifth-day starts remains to be determined, but Preller is optimistic that Lamet will contribute in a significant way.
“He’s in camp – he had a really good offseason,” Preller said of his star pitcher. “He cleared every checkpoint that our group put in front of him. He’s throwing bullpens. He’s been on a normal schedule. Again, I think, so far, the velocity has been really good. The effort has been good. He’s been really right on track with how we’ve mapped it out. I think we’re going to be smart, in general, because of how tough, how good, how important he is to our group. Again, for us, we have a lot of depth.”
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) September 8, 2020
Depth is the keyword. The Padres have done well-developing pitching prospects, with Adrian Morejon, MacKenzie Gore, and Ryan Weathers, among others, ready or close to being ready to step in and give the team meaningful innings. However, Lamet’s emergence over the last year and a half have led many to wonder if he’ll someday win a Cy Young Award. The 28-year-old finished with a 2.09 ERA in the shortened 2020 season, fifth-best in the league and one spot behind Darvish. Acquiring the former Chicago Cubs ace was critical this offseason in the event that something unfortunate happens with Lamet.
But the offseason pitching additions also allow the Padres to take their time with Lamet if needed.
“April 1 is not the important date. We keep talking about wanting to play in October and make sure Lamet is able to pitch for us. But so far, he’s been right on track. He’s throwing the ball well. The velocity has been good. The arm strength has been good. He’s throwing breaking pitches. First couple weeks of camp so far, he continues to pass the checkpoints, and we’ll just go week-by-week as we get into the regular season,” Preller said.
The Padres have announced their first five pitchers in Spring Training games, with Thursday’s starter against the Rangers yet to be determined. Assuming he continues to progress in the right direction, Lamet could make his debut later this week.