SEATTLE (AP) — When manager Andy Green walked to the mound on Monday night, the plan was set in motion.
He congratulated Chris Paddack on finishing off his brilliant spring training with the San Diego Padres by throwing 2 2/3 shutout innings against the Seattle Mariners. Green then turned to Eric Hosmer, Ian Kinsler and Manny Machado as they surrounded the young pitcher and posed a question to the veteran infielders.
“He asked us what we were all doing Sunday and we said we would be right behind this guy playing,” Hosmer said. “I think he got the message.”
The 23-year-old Paddack, a promising right-hander, will be part of San Diego’s rotation when the regular season begins. He’ll make his first major league start Sunday against the San Francisco Giants after capping his eye-opening spring with a dominant — albeit brief — performance in Seattle.
Green and his staff had already seen enough over the previous month to know Paddack had earned his spot two years after Tommy John surgery nearly derailed his career.
“(He) earned it. He really did. He did it the way you want to see everybody do it. He knocked the door down,” Green said.
Green was correct. Paddack was impressive all spring. Monday was his fifth appearance and he finished allowing three earned runs in 15 1/3 innings while striking out 24. His fastball and changeup were already major league quality, but the addition of a curveball was a big difference in his progression this year.
Paddack had Tommy John surgery in 2016 after throwing just 42 innings in the minors. He missed the entire 2017 season while rehabbing and split last year between Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio as he continued to build up arm strength. He threw a total of 90 innings in 2018 and was shut down.
There was optimism he could break through during spring training, but no guarantee it would happen.
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“Just the whole moment. Coming in today knowing this was my first opportunity to pitch in a big league stadium. Going into it I had no idea that was going to happen,” Paddack said.
Paddack broke into a smile on the mound as he realized the news being shared. He tried to stay stoic as he walked off the mound, but by the time he reached the dugout the emotions had hit. He connected with his family and his best friend. He made video calls and relished in making the big league club.
“Tears of joy. Tears of hard work,” Paddack said. “Just reflecting on everything that happened, soaking it all in. They gave me some time to call the family. If you were in the hallway you probably heard me screaming.”
Paddack is just another addition to a young but promising Padres pitching staff. His innings will be closely monitored throughout the season and there will be times he might be skipped or regulated considering his limited usage a year ago.
But on this night, all that was secondary.
“The road hasn’t been straight,” Paddack said. “We’ve had some bumps in the road coming back from Tommy John surgery, first full season back last year, I had some adversity I’ve faced, but it’s a special moment for me and my family.”
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