With just days remaining in the 2020 regular season, the San Diego Padres have seen their Wild Card Series rotation thrown into disarray. Right-hander Dinelson Lamet exited Friday night's win (SD 6, SF 5) with biceps tightness in the fourth inning, .
Lamet called for the trainers after throwing a slider to Evan Longoria in the top of the fourth inning Friday, and was immediately removed from the game. Here's the video:
Manager Jayce Tingler downplayed the injury following the game, going as far as to say Lamet is expected to make his Wild Card Series start next week.
"We'll know more information each day. But right now, the plan is for him to be able to make his start," Tingler told reporters, including MLB.com's AJ Cassavell, after Friday's doubleheader."... He's feeling pretty good right now. We'll know more probably tomorrow and then the next day after he throws."
Lamet, 28, had a marvelous regular season, finishing with a 2.09 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 69 innings. He missed the entire 2018 season with Tommy John surgery and pitched well when he returned last July. Now more than a full year out from surgery, Lamet had a dominant 2020 and was poised to start Game 1 or 2 in the Wild Card Series.
Clevinger's injury has since been diagnosed as an elbow impingement. He received a cortisone shot and the Padres have not ruled him out of the Wild Card Series rotation. San Diego's rotation depth chart currently looks like this:
- RHP Dinelson Lamet (dealing with biceps tightness, Wild Card Series availability uncertain)
- RHP Mike Clevinger (dealing with an elbow impingement, Wild Card Series availability uncertain)
- RHP Zach Davies (2.85 ERA in 66 1/3 innings)
- RHP Chris Paddack (4.23 ERA in 55 1/3 innings)
- RHP Garrett Richards (recently moved to the bullpen)
Lefty Joey Lucchesi, who made 56 starts from 2018-19, has shuttled back and forth to the alternate site all year. Fellow southpaw Adrian Morejon is a natural starter who has spent most of the year in the bullpen. Righty Luis Patino is an elite prospect with one start and nine relief appearances in the big leagues. Those are San Diego's depth options.
Even if they can pitch in the Wild Card Series, it's possible Clevinger and/or Lamet will be compromised to some degree. They may not have their usual velocity, the usual bite on their secondary pitchers, their usual command, or some combination of the three. Still, Clevinger and Lamet are so good that they'd be a worthwhile roll the dice.
Another thing to consider: the schedule. The NL Wild Card Series begins next Wednesday. Paddack started one game of Friday's doubleheader and lines up to start Game 1 on normal rest. Davies will start Saturday and thus lines up to start Game 2 on normal rest. There's not enough time remaining to rearrange the rotation without getting creative.
The Padres are locked into the No. 4 seed, so their final two games are meaningless (to them). They could skip Davies on Saturday -- alternatively, he could throw one or two innings and use it almost as a throw day between starts -- which would line him up for Game 1 on three extra days of rest. Paddack could then go Game 2 with an extra day. Game 3? Who knows.
Clevinger and Lamet were poised to be one of the more fearsome 1-2 rotation punches in baseball heading into the postseason. Instead, it's unclear whether the Padres will have either pitcher in the Wild Card Series (or the postseason in general), and, even if they are available, it's unclear how effective they will be. It's been a nightmare final week for San Diego.