Padres start season with electrifying Tatis sidelined
SAN DIEGO (AP) — Baseball had been back for just a few days before the euphoria turned to shock for the San Diego Padres.
Superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. arrived at spring training with a broken left wrist — believed to be the result of a motorcycle accident in his native Dominican Republic in December — had surgery and is expected to be out until at least mid-June.
Then the Padres watched as every big-name free agent who could have helped them signed elsewhere.
The loss of Tatis to begin the season is huge as they try to dig out from the wreckage of their stunning September collapse. The $340 million All-Star led the NL with 42 homers last year and finished third in MVP voting despite being limited to 130 games due to three trips to the injured list, twice for a left shoulder injury and once because of COVID-19.
The Padres will plug that hole with second-year big leaguer Kim Ha-seong. They’ll put spring training acquisitions Luke Voit at DH and Matt Beaty into the mix in left field, all while hoping their rotation doesn’t wither away physically like it did late last season.
The Padres turned to veteran manager Bob Melvin after their late-season freefall cost predecessor Jayce Tingler his job and left the Friars at 79-83, their 10th losing record in as many full seasons since 2011. The Padres went from holding a one-game lead for the NL’s second wild-card spot on Sept. 9 to being eliminated from playoff contention with seven games left.
Melvin, who has been voted Manager of the Year three times, was hired away from Oakland and inherits a team that should be in a competitive window. The Padres did win a wild-card series in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season before imploding last year after the All-Star break.
“When you have a $200 million payroll, you would think that’s exactly the case,” Melvin said. “You get the type of support from ownership that gives you a chance to win and gives you a payroll where you can go out and pay some guys, which we’re doing right now. I absolutely think that’s where we are right now.”
Injuries aside, right-hander Mike “Sunshine” Clevinger, who returns after missing 2021 while rehabbing from his second Tommy John surgery, likes what he sees.
“When we’re firing on all cylinders, we can compete with anybody on the planet,” Clevinger said. “This is a pretty outrageous lineup we’ve got. Same with the rotation. When you look at some of the arms coming out of the bullpen, we just need to put it together. I think that’s what we were missing last year. People were dealing with a lot of different things, injuries.”
REPLACING “EL NINO”
Kim will fill in at shortstop until Tatis returns. The 26-year-old from South Korea struggled at the plate last year as a rookie but was solid while playing at shortstop, second base and third base.
ROOKIES TO WATCH
The Padres must decide if top prospect C.J. Abrams, a shortstop, and former top prospect MacKenzie Gore, a left-hander, are ready for the big leagues. Both have been impressive in spring training. Gore, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft, has struggled the last few seasons. Abrams was the sixth pick overall in 2019.
Voit, made expendable when the Yankees signed Anthony Rizzo to a two-year contract, will be DH and occasionally spell Eric Hosmer at first base. Beaty is expected to see time in left, along with Jurickson Profar, and as a pinch-hitter, after being designated for assignment by the rival Los Angeles Dodgers and then traded to San Diego. Catcher Jorge Alfaro, obtained from Miami just before the lockout started, has had an impressive spring.
Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, Clevinger and Blake Snell are set for the rotation, Melvin said. But Snell is a little behind and might only go three innings in his regular-season debut. Candidates for the fifth spot include Chris Paddack, Nick Martinez, Ryan Weathers and Gore. The Padres head into the season not knowing who their closer is after Mark Melancon left for division rival Arizona. The candidates for closer are Dinelson Lamet, Emilio Pagan and Robert Suárez.
Musgrove threw the Padres’ first-ever no-hitter in just his second start with his hometown team April 9 at Texas. He was also the only member of the rotation who didn’t miss a start, finishing 11-9 with a 3.18 ERA and 203 strikeouts in 181 1/3 innings.
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