The San Diego Padres have one series under their belts in the freshly minted 2017 season.
There were some things to like about the Padres’ performance during the recent four-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, while there were other things that were just painful to watch.
I personally subscribe to the “trust the process” perspective, and even though I know that this season is all about development and not about wins and losses, big blowouts like Monday and Thursday’s games still sting. Analysis of what the team can and should do to improve moving forward is certainly warranted and I know that my peers on the EVT staff will bring readers great content, tackling those points; as will I in future pieces.
Today’s focus however, is on one of the brighter spots for the Padres during the opening series; the bullpen. I’m starting to wonder if this bullpen is maybe even better than we had originally projected.
Let’s start with some pleasant surprises:
It was pretty clear from the start that there is something special about Miguel Diaz. He was the top overall Rule-5 pick of 2017 and the Padres landed him.
As a Rule-5 player, he has to remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season or be returned to his original club (in this case the Milwaukee Brewers). That can be a tall order for a club when the prospect has never seen time above A-ball. Well, in his first few outings as a Padre, Diaz is making quite a case for himself to keep his post.
On Opening Day, Diaz came in to relieve Christian Bethancourt with two outs in the fifth inning. He impressed by recording four outs in 1 1/3 innings, allowing no hits, giving up no walks, and notching a strikeout. The strikeout was a thing of beauty, accented by the called third strike against Joc Pederson; a 98 MPH two-seam fastball that shot towards Pederson’s hips and veered away across the plate, leaving the batter dazed. Check it out:
— Andrew Burer (@andrewburer) April 4, 2017
On Wednesday, Diaz started the bottom of the eighth inning and struck out Logan Forsythe before being replaced by Ryan Buchter to finish the inning. If this is the way Diaz is performing in his first week as a major leaguer, just imagine how far he could go. He’ll be exciting to watch.
We saw a little bit of Jose Torres at the end of 2016 but this season is his opportunity to prove himself for the first time as a member of an Opening Day roster. His first appearance was not the most thrilling. He participated in the collective shelling that a handful of Padres pitchers endured on Opening Day. In his one inning on the mound, Torres gave up two runs (1 home run) and his ERA ballooned up to 18.00. Not pretty.
Of course, what Torres needed was a chance to redeem himself, and on Wednesday night he got just that. Trevor Cahill was pulled after 5 ⅔ innings of grinding it out on the mound and Torres replaced him to hold the Dodgers, who had a 3-1 lead. He did not disappoint, turning out three strikeouts over 1 1/3 scoreless innings. He looked good in his most recent outing and after a strong spring training, his potential is still at a premium.
Craig Stammen is a personal favorite. The veteran right-hander posted a .77 ERA through 11.2 innings pitched during spring training. He forced his way onto the Opening Day roster and has continued to be effective. On Opening Day, he pitched an inning of scoreless relief which helped to stop some of the bleeding that preceded his entrance into the game. On Thursday, Jared Cosart started the sixth inning, but was not getting the job done. After ⅔ of an inning he had already walked three batters and given up an earned run. Stammen was chosen to replace Cosart as the steady hand needed to get the final out. He struck out Joc Pederson to end the inning. Stammen is looking like the adult in the room; a guy who can be counted on in a pinch. I think he has the potential to rival Buchter, Hand, and Maurer as a back-end member of the bullpen.
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