The full minor league roster reported to spring training at the start of the week, so we're on-site in Peoria as the 186 players in minor league camp get ready for the season. With so many bodies at the complex, the Padres are creating multiple opportunities to get players in game situations.
Saturday morning, 13 pitchers, primarily relievers, got a chance to throw to batters for the first time during live bullpens. Hansel Rodriguez, the pitcher acquired in the Melvin Upton, Jr. trade, Wilmer Torres, and lefty Jose Cabrera, who is stateside for the first time, all got on the field to throw to Padres position players. However, the most notable participant was Ryan Butler, who missed all of last season serving a suspension for drug use, and then remaining out of action to complete a rehab program.
"That felt great," said the hard-throwing righty. "That's the first time I've faced hitters in 16 months. It's great being out here."
The 2014 draftee showed the fastball/slider combo that had him on the fast track before his suspension, breaking a pair of bats along the way.
In the afternoon, the Padres had a pair of games against White Sox prospects,and also ran an intrasquad game. Among the highlights on the mound, Logan Allen worked three innings. In his first frame, he issued a leadoff walk and then retired the side on strikeouts, getting each hitter to flail at a change-up. Fellow lefty starters Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer each got a pair of innings in as well. Lucchesi
"I felt a little off this time," said Lucchesi. "Something was off balance. Maybe it was because I was relieving."
While Lucchesi wasn't thrilled with his performance, he did log two scoreless frames, working with a fastball that topped out at 93. His unique delivery also created one of the funnier moments of the afternoon. After issuing a rare walk, he came set and, because of his unorthodox movement, had the baserunner diving headlong back to the bag as he delivered the next pitch home.
Others pitchers who worked more than one inning included Bryan Rordriguez, Trey McNutt, who topped out in the mid-90s, and Austin Smith. The 2015 second-rounder struggled with mechanics and approach through his first two innings, ultimately having the frames rolled over once he'd hit a set number of pitches, even though he didn't record three outs. He did bounce back for a 1-2-3 inning in his third go-around. Minor league Rule 5 selection and El Cajon product Trevor Frank got in an inning as well, showing solid feel throughout the zone.
Today's action also provided the first look we've gotten at several position players. Ethan Skender, whose bat is trending ahead of his glove at this point, and Jack Suwinski are both at full speed after injuries kept them out of action last summer after they got six-figure bonuses to sign out of the draft.They were joined in the lineup facing the White Sox by Gabriel Arias, who made several plays at third base to show off impressive arm strength and range, catcher Alison Quintero and Jorge Ona. Meanwhile, fellow members of the current international free agent class Luis Almanzar, Jordy Barley and Tirso Ornelas were all in action together in the intrasquad game.
Among returners who stood out, Rudy Giron, who appears to have be at least 10 pounds lighter than last year, logged innings at shortstop, looking more fluid in the limited exposure today. Given that it's likely he'll be moving around the infield for Lake Elsinore this season, the leaner frame could be important. Fernando Tatis, Jr. collected several line-drive hits in a match-up with White Sox pitchers who are in the mix for Double-A and Triple-A, and also showed impressive actions defensively at shortstop.
Trae Santos, who struggled through last year after emerging in 2015, launched a moonshot deep into the parking lot in the intrasquad game off Adam Cimber. The submarining righty creates really uncomfortable at-bats for righthanders, but lefties get a much better look at him.
The club added yet another pitcher to the mix in camp, signing righty Chad Nading. That name may ring a bell for very astute long-time followers of the system as the Alaskan native worked as a sidearmer for the Padres in the AZL back in 2010. Though he hasn't appeared in affiliated ball since, he has played in a variety of independent leagues and around the world, and has been coaching high school baseball. He's now working with a more traditional delivery, and putting up velocities in the mid-90s.
Pitchers Bryan Verbitsky and Jaimito Lebron are still early in their recoveries from surgery and not currently in camp. Both will report to Peoria soon after camp breaks and work on the next steps of their rehabilitation then.
Among pitchers working their way back from injuries last year, Justin Hancock is furthest along. Sidelined after making only two appearances for El Paso, he's been free and clear, has thrown bullpens and is scheduled for a game inning on Sunday. Travis Radke, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, is relatively close behind and should be ready to face hitters soon.