Due to a shortened spring training, sorting out the pitching staff has been a problem for almost all major league managers in April.
San Diego Padres manager Bob Melvin believes the pieces are falling into place. Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell is still searching for answers.
Pitching will be the focus for the teams Tuesday night in San Diego as they meet in the middle game of a three-game series with Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove (1-0, 1.42 ERA) starting against Reds left-hander Reiver Sanmartin (0-1, 6.14).
Following a 4-1 victory on Monday, the Padres will be looking for a third straight win. Cincinnati will attempt to end a seven-game losing streak.
Melvin has a set rotation with Yu Darvish, Sean Manaea, Musgrove, MacKenzie Gore and Nick Martinez while waiting for Blake Snell and Mike Clevinger to return from the injured list.
The Padres’ bullpen, which has had problems, is coming into focus, too. It helps that recently acquired Taylor Rogers picked up his fifth save in as many appearances Monday night.
“With Rogers, we know what the ninth inning looks like,” Melvin said. “Luis Garcia looks to be an eighth-inning guy. We’ll see where it comes up with (Tim) Hill. (Steven) Wilson has put himself into it. And, certainly, Pierce (Johnson) as well. There’s still a little bit of work in progress, but we’re getting a little bit closer to what the seventh, eighth and ninth look like.”
Garcia worked a perfect eighth inning on Sunday in a 2-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. On Monday, Wilson went 1-2-3 in the seventh and Johnson was perfect in the eighth. Rogers closed out both games.
Now Musgrove makes his second start of the homestand against the struggling Reds attack. Musgrove shut out Atlanta on four hits over 6 2/3 innings on Thursday en route to a 12-1 win in the Padres’ home opener.
“I think Joe has figured out there is another pitch (the changeup) in his pocket that can be good for him, and it is,” Melvin said. “I think it’s a really good pitch for him … to have a little bit more of a gap, whether it’s swing and miss or off the end of the bat. Now it’s a true four- and maybe a five-pitch mix with how he can manipulate the fastball.
“He’s come a long ways.”
Musgrove’s opponent on Tuesday also thinks he is figuring it out, although his future role with the Reds is uncertain.
In his first start of the season, Sanmartin gave up five runs on four hits and five walks in 2 1/3 in an April 8 loss at Atlanta.
When the 26-year-old Colombian next pitched, he came on in relief after Luis Cessa worked the first inning as Dodger Stadium. Sanmartin worked five scoreless innings, allowing two hits with two strikeouts in a no-decision as the Reds fell 9-3.
Sanmartin returns to the rotation Tuesday, but the question for how long is problematical. He could be in the bullpen for good when Luis Castillo (shoulder) comes off the disabled list as soon as the end of the month.
“I have a lot more confidence,” Sanmartin said through an interpreter after his outing against the Dodgers. “I knew I went out there and did my job. Thank God it all worked out well.
“I was told I was going to pitch. I could have been coming in the first or second inning or whenever, so I kind of knew to be prepared for any moment. I just went through my routine and felt like it was normal.”
–Field Level Media