PHOENIX — As opening weekends go, the Padres couldn’t have asked for much more. (OK, of course, they could have called for a clear ninth round on Thursday night – in which case they would have gotten off to a perfect start.) But overall, it was an impressive start to the season for a team with big ambitions.
“Losing the first one wasn’t ideal,” San Diego manager Bob Melvin said after Sunday’s 10-5 win over Arizona. “But coming back and winning the next two and having a bit more offense today – it was definitely good to end the series.”
Here are three takeaways from a hectic weekend at Chase Field.
1. This pitch depth should be useful
“Keeping us healthy is the main issue,” right-hander Joe Musgrove said Saturday night when asked about the exorbitant potential in the Padres’ rotation. “We would like to stay healthy for as long as possible. The guys we have, we have a very good chance of winning a lot of games.”
Good. Not even 24 hours after Musgrove uttered those words, southpaw Blake Snell was scratched upon leaving Sunday with a left adductor tightness, the same injury that plagued him last September. The injury, according to Snell, is “more minor” than last time around, but it’s possible he could end up on the injured list.
That’s where all that pitching depth comes in. It’s obviously not ideal when such a power arm gets sidelined on the first pass through the rotation. But the Padres have options.
“At one point, it seemed like we almost had too much,” Melvin said. “And here we are, four games into the season, and that’s not too many. Good job by [president of baseball operations] A J [Preller] go out and take [Sean] Manaea, of course.
Help could be on the way. MacKenzie Gore was outstanding in spring training and pitched five scoreless innings in his season debut for Triple-A El Paso on Saturday night. Mike Clevinger, meanwhile, kicked off an intensive bullpen session on Sunday morning and will begin a rehab stint later this week.
On top of that, the forward of the San Diego rotation already looks dominant. Yu Darvish and Manaea held Arizona without a hit on consecutive nights, followed by Musgrove’s quality start on Saturday. Even with a short spring, the Padres’ first three starters all lasted at least six innings, meaning the bullpen was fresh when it came to covering for Snell on Sunday.
Attrition comes for every rotation at some point. The Padres think they are made to resist it.
2. Capture balance is perfect
Jorge Alfaro, having learned that he and Nabil Crismatt had become the first all-Colombian battery to start a game in Major League history, took a moment to soak in that information.
“Good to know, man,” Alfaro said. “It’s good to be part of it.”
Then Alfaro had something else to eat.
“I just want to say,” he added, “it’s fun to be here.”
The Padres are happy to have him. Alfaro has raked all spring and is now 3 for 8 with a home run — a second-inning solo hit on Sunday — to start the season. If he can sustain that kind of success for some time, his arrival will have been a coup. San Diego landed Alfaro from Miami for modest cash considerations on the last day before the lockdown.
And he’s just the replacement. Austin Nola, healthy after a brutal injury in the 2021 season, is also off to a good start. He will get most of the playing time behind the plate, and he remains an extremely valuable piece as a solid defensive receiver with a solid bat as well.
Of course, as with the initial launch, organizational capture depth is paramount. And the Padres have Luis Campusano, their No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline, hidden at Triple-A. That level of depth made them comfortable trading Victor Caratini to the Brewers on the eve of the season.
3. Some Scale Clarity
It was helpful that the Padres faced two left-handers and two right-handers on opening weekend, as Melvin’s first four starting lineups offered plenty of clues going forward.
First, at shortstop: CJ Abrams started against right-handers and Ha-Seong Kim started against left-handers. It won’t necessarily be a strict peloton, Melvin says. He might ride the hot hand on occasion. But it’s a baseline.
At first base, it’s not so clear. Eric Hosmer will likely start against some southpaws, like he did against Madison Bumgarner on Opening Day. But when Hosmer is seated, the Padres have options. On Sunday, Luke Voit slipped to the top spot and Nola served as the designated hitter. With such an offensive combo at receiver, the presence of a DH could favor San Diego.
“Potentially, yes,” Melvin said. “Austin does a great job with the left-handed pitch, and Alfaro swung the bat really well.”
Then there’s the much-vaunted left-field situation. No, the Padres did not trade for Bryan Reynolds or sign Seiya Suzuki. Instead, they entered the season with serious question marks, as Jurickson Profar and Matt Beaty were set to split time.
And wouldn’t you know it? Profar hit base seven times in 13 plate appearances with a pair of home runs — including the second-inning Grand Slam that set the Padres on course for a D-backs rout Sunday afternoon.