Category Archives: San Diego Padres Gear

Franchy Cordero Jersey

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Padres GM AJ Preller spoke to reporters at the GM Meetings in Arizona yesterday, with a few interesting notes on the club’s current roster concerns. While Preller didn’t unequivocally dispel rumors of Luis Urias’ availability on the trade market, he did offer that he sees “a lot of scenarios” in which the youngster is starting in the middle infield in 2020 (as noted in an article from Dennis Lin of The Athletic). Meanwhile, catcher Francisco Mejia is “very much in the catching equation” for the club next year, and team officials still feel like Austin Hedges can “swing the bat a lot better than he did [in 2019]”.

Preller also shared that the club is expected to retain second bagger Greg Garcia and that the club’s catching depth is “an area we get hit on” from other teams. Taken together, these comments don’t provide much clarity with regard to the team’s plans at catcher and second, but could be seen as typical of an executive staring down an offseason that offers a dizzying number of potential routes toward club improvement.

More from the NL West…

Another one of Preller’s many touted young players, outfielder Franchy Cordero, tweaked a glute muscle while rehabbing at the team’s complex in Arizona this week. As reported by AJ Cassavell of MLB.com (link), the injury is not expected to be overly serious but should delay the 25-year-old’s participation in the Dominican Winter Leagues. Padres fans know well the extent to which Cordero has been limited in recent years by injuries, as a chronic elbow issue acted in concert with a quad injury to rob him of the majority of his 2019 season. Cordero, a lefty-swinging outfielder capable of playing center, fits exactly the type of player the Padres have been rumored to be in pursuit of this offseason, though he has been limited to just 79 major league games since debuting in 2017. For what it’s worth, Preller still characterized Cordero as, “One of the more talented and physically gifted players in the league in terms of a speed/power combo.”

The Giants are considering University of Michigan coach Chris Fetter for their pitching coach vacancy, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (link). As noted previously, Fetter was a considered as a candidate for the Mets’ pitching coach opening. Fetter, a former ninth-round pick of the Padres back in 2009, previously spent time as a coach in the Dodgers system while new Giants manager Gabe Kapler was serving as the Los Angeles director of player development.

Speaking of L.A., Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman reiterated the club’s plans to use Julio Urias in the rotation next season, as noted in a tweet from Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times (link). Friedman currently projects to use Urias, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Kenta Maeda in the rotation, while Ross Stripling will “have a chance” to compete for a spot. The perennial NL West champs have also been connected to a number of high-profile starting pitchers this offseason (Gerrit Cole included), and starter Rich Hill has expressed a strong desire to return to the Dodgers. The team also has Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May on hand as starting options, with Pedro Moura of The Athletic (link) relaying that the club still views May as a big league starter moving forward despite his late-season 2019 deployment from the bullpen.

Francisco Mejia Jersey

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We’re heading into the stretch run of the baseball season and the San Diego Padres are 8 ½ games off the pace for a wildcard berth. Thus, it feels like time is running out for the Padres to make the playoffs.

However, the month of September does offer them ample time to decide if Francisco Mejia is their long-term answer at the catcher position.

The jury is still out on Mejia behind the plate as he has some rough edges to his defensive game that need to be smoothed out before being considered an everyday catcher. But decisions have to be made in what direction the Padres go to improve the roster this winter and Mejia’s late-season audition will clarify the need to acquire another catcher.

Padres general manager A.J. Preller must determine if his prized prospect has shown any progress defensively because his bat is more than major league ready.

Ideally, the San Diego Padres would love for Mejia’s defensive prowess to equal his offensive production, but a more realistic goal is having him become a better all-around catcher. This allows the Friars to start him in 140 games next season with no questions asked.

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With a forthcoming 40-man roster crunch, a stacked farm system, and an active depth chart still littered with question marks, AJ Preller is going to have a full offseason agenda. With 2020 set as something of a make-or-break year for this organization’s leadership, this winter could bring drastic, keep-my-job kinds of moves from the 6th-year GM out of Cornell.

Could we see another massive free agent signing a la Manny Machado? Gerritt Cole would certainly look nice in San Diego brown.

Or, perhaps more feasibly, could we see one of the team’s prized prospect jewels traded for a Noah Syndergaard-type? While a youngster like Luis Patino would certainly fetch a nice return on the trade market, Preller has shown little inclination toward trading his signed-and-developed prospects.

Or, maybe, just maybe, Preller might prune a bit of fat from his 40-man roster and trade from one of the team’s few positions of depth. If Preller were to go such a route, there may be no place better to pick from than the team’s catching reserves.

When Preller traded All-Star closer Brad Hand and sidearmer Adam Cimber to the Indians in exchance for Francisco Mejia in 2018, he essentially sacrificed 1⁄3 of an effective bullpen. Since the trade, Hand and Cimber have provided Cleveland with the following:

80 innings of 3.04 ERA pitching (Hand)
71 innings of 4.44 ERA pitching (Cimber)

Cimber hasn’t been amazing, but, taken together, those are a lot of good bullpen innings—innings that a GM doesn’t sacrifice unless he feels like he’s getting a building block in return.

For his part, Mejia has, when healthy, indeed looked the part of a building block this year. After returning to the squad on June 18th this year, the 23-year-old switch hitter produced a .298/.354/.503 batting line with 8 home runs in 49 games. His defense is a work-in-progress, but most metrics peg him as only slightly below-average behind the dish.

Today also marks the callup of one Luis Torrens, the former 2016 Rule V draftee who has spent the better part of two years honing his craft in the minors. After a respectable showing with Lake Elsinore in 2018, Torrens boldly asserted himself with a .300/.373/.500 line in the Texas League this season—becoming one of the key cogs in the lineup of the champion San Antonio Sod Poddles in the process.

Elsewhere in the organization, Luis Campusano was recently named MVP of the California League, and Baseball America named 25-year-old Austin Allen one of it’s Triple-A All-Stars for 2019. Any way you slice it, the Padres organization is flush with catching depth.

That brings us to Austin Hedges. A draftee of the Padres in the second round of the 2011 amateur draft, Hedges has gotten the lion’s share of starts at catcher since the beginning of 2017. Though he is in the midst of the worst season of his career offensively, his top-flight defense is the catalyst behind a strong 1.6 WAR figure through 97 games. Over the last three years, Hedges has accrued an even 6.0 WAR, indicating that he has been—despite the limitations with the stick—a respectable big league regular.

That production is nice, but, for the reasons illustrated below, Hedges is quite possibly going to be providing that production for another team next season.
Teams In Need

This offseason, something like 15%-25% of all teams are going to be looking for replacements or upgrades at the catcher position. Here’s a look at some teams that could have interest in plugging Hedges in at “C”.
Rangers : -3.1 WAR in 2019 from Jeff Mathis, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Jose Trevino, and Tim Federowicz

The Rangers surprised many this year by hanging in contention until the season’s midway point, and their 74-77 record entering play today is still much better than most experts anticipated. One thing holding them back from getting over the hump? Well, here’s video of what they’ve been receiving from their battery this year:

The production offered from a combination of Mathis, Kiner-Falefa, Trevino, and Fed-Ex has been absolutely useless in 2019 and has, cumulatively, probably cost the Rangers several wins. Hedges is today a much better defender than the formerly formidable Mathis. Might the club be interested in parting with pitching prospect Joe Palumbo—currently ranked 6th in the Texas system by MLB Pipeline—in a deal for Hedges?
Rockies: -1.1 WAR from Tony Wolters, Chris Iannetta, Drew Butera, and Dom Nunez

Intra-division trades are rare, but could Preller feel comfortable trading with the cellar-dwelling Rox? Wolters has logged a nice-on-the-surface .272 batting average in 2019, but park-adjusted measures like wRC+ peg him as a significantly below-average (66 wRC+) performer. Iannetta is so far over-the-hill, he can’t even see it anymore. They don’t have a single catcher in their Top 30 prospect list. Could Preller pry away relief prospect and former second round pick Ben Bowden, who offers a high-90s fastball and has already reached Triple-A?

Tigers: -2.7 WAR from Grayson Greiner, Bobby Wilson, Jake Rogers, and John Hicks.

Rogers is only 24 and the team’s 12th-ranked prospect, but his awful showing at Triple-A and MLB (.115.227.260 in 112 at-bats) this year could have them looking for a more established option. Hedges only comes with two years of control, but could they value his ability to handle a young pitching staff? It’s hard to quantify a catcher’s effect on a pitching staff, but it’s worth noting that the Padres have three under-26 starters who have, at the least, proven serviceable with Hedges behind the signs. With prospects like Casey Mize and Matt Manning likely to hit the bigs next year, Hedges could be a perfect mentor. Young righty projects like Beau Burrows or Kyle Funkhouser could make sense in a return package.
Brewers: 5.9 WAR from Yasmani Grandal and Manny Pina

The Grandal signing has been an absolute coup for the Milwaukee front office, providing a .249/.380/.476 line with 27 homers this year after signing a one-year, $18.25MM deal with a mutual 2020 option this past offseason. Grandal is likely to walk, reducing Milwaukee to Pina and 24-year-old Jacob Nottingham at catcher. Prospect Mario Feliciano probably needs another two years of development before being ready for prime time, so Hedges could be a perfect bridge for the win-now Brew Crew. Could Preller try to buy low on infielder Travis Shaw? Shaw is just a year removed from a 30-homer season, but has scuffled through a .155 season this year. If Preller doesn’t feel confident in the Urias/France competition at second, Shaw could be a nice bench piece to have on hand. Otherwise, would Milwaukee be willing to move on from former pseudo-ace Jimmy Nelson?
Braves: 3.0 WAR in 2019 from Tyler Flowers and Brian McCann

Flowers (34) and McCann (35) have been resoundingly effective for the dominant Braves in ‘19, but Flowers is a possibility to depart in free agency. Prospect catcher Shea Langeliers is coming down the pike, but probably won’t be ready until 2022. Maybe pitcher Huascar Ynoa or speedster CF Justin Dean could suit up in Amarillo colors next year?

Better That The Rest

All of these teams will be looking for catching help this offseason. However, chances are that only one of them will be able to make a free agent signing who would represent a superior option to Hedges.

Yasmani Grandal, 31, is likely to opt out of his contract with Milwaukee in search of a big payday. He’s likely to get it after a strange trip through free agency in ‘18.

Outside of Grandal, here are the other top free agent catching options this offseason, in terms of 2019 WAR:

Jason Castro (33)
Tyler Flowers (34)
Robinson Chirinos (36)

Castro, Flowers, and Chirinos are all good pros, but each is past 33 years old. For a club looking for upside or reliability, Hedges would certainly represent a safer option. Beyond that, each of these players will likely cost $4MM or more on the open market, so Hedges’ contract becomes something of an attractive asset in comparison.

The Padres are likely to have a sizable list of suitors for Hedges in the event that Preller chooses to make him available. As a young, useful player with two years of control—playing a position that San Diego has well in hand—Hedges could be the Padre most likely to move this offseason.

Kirby Yates Jersey

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SAN FRANCISCO — Kirby Yates is the surfer baseball nearly forgot.

Not a single team bothered to draft him 10 years ago. And the next decade was spent sold, released, purchased, waived and traded. He spent parts of nine years in the minor leagues.

Now, at 32, he is on the verge of climbing to the mountaintop of baseball accolades.

Yates is three weeks away from representing the San Diego Padres at the All-Star Game.

“If it happens, it means I’ve come full circle,’’ Yates told USA TODAY Sports. “I’ve failed a lot. I mean, I’ve been failing for years. And to make the All-Star Game, it would be unbelievable. This game is funny. It’s crazy. It’s weird.’’

Who would ever have imagined that Yates, who was shuffled and discarded like a used deck of cards from five different organizations in three years, would have the loftiest statistics by any closer in baseball?
Kirby Yates has converted every save opportunity this season.

Yates has been virtually perfect this season, leading the major leagues with 23 saves in 23 opportunities, with a league-leading 0.96 ERA, yielding a .137 batting average against right-handed hitters, to go along with two scoreless streaks of 10 or more innings.

In an organization that had three Hall of Fame closers (Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Trevor Hoffman) a Cy Young closer (Mark Davis), Yates is saving games at a rate never before seen in San Diego.

PLAYOFFS: Some division races are already over

PADDACK: NL ROY candidate sent to Class A

He is the first Padres’ pitcher to have at least 20 saves before June and is just three saves shy of the franchise record for saves before the All-Star break, trailing Heath Bell in 2011.

“It’s been neat to be compared to some of the great closers this organization has had,’’ Yates said, “but I don’t think people should slot me into their category. I have a lot to prove before being compared to them. Come on, let me pitch a full season first, then you can say what you want.’’

Yates is still trying to grasp his accomplishments while knowing that of all the players who make this year’s All-Star team, no one might appreciate it more than him.

“I don’t take any of this for granted,’’ Yates says, “knowing just how hard it was for me to even get to the big leagues, and then bouncing around like I did. And now this.’’

Yates, born and raised in Lihue, Hawaii, visited the mainland only once in his life before his senior year. He had only two collegiate offers to play beyond high school, choosing Yavapai Community College in Prescott, Arizona, over Central Arizona College.

He missed two years in college recovering from Tommy John surgery, and when the 2009 amateur draft came and went, with 1,521 players selected in 50 rounds, Yates’ name was never called.

Tyler Yates, 41, who pitched five years in the major leagues and is now a police officer back home in Kauai, vividly remembers that telephone call from his little brother, who suddenly was about to quit.

“As soon as the draft was over,’’ Tyler Yates said, “he called me and said, ‘Dude, I didn’t even get drafted. No one wanted me. A scout just called, but I don’t even know if I want to play baseball anymore.’

“I told him, ‘You waited your whole life for this. You better take it. Come on, you can’t quit now.’ ’’

Yates listened to his brother, signed a week after the draft with the Tampa Bay Rays and reached the big leagues five years later. He was sent to Cleveland for cash considerations after the 2015 season. Six weeks later, he was traded to the New York Yankees. He pitched 41 games in 2016 for the Yankees, going 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA, and suddenly started to believe he could have an actual future in the major leagues.

He decided to fully dedicate himself to the game, moved from Hawaii to Chandler, Arizona, where he could not only take advantage of the training facilities but also would no longer be tempted to blow off his workouts for a day of surfing with a beer cooler nearby.

“I’d go surfing all of the time; I loved my life,’’ Yates said, “maybe a little too much. I had to be more disciplined and take advantage of this gift. It was one of those things that you work your whole life for this, so why wouldn’t I put forth more effort and get myself dialed in.’’

Yates, who was relying solely on his fastball and slider, started experimenting with a split-finger pitch that winter. He never got a chance to use it with the Yankees, or even thank Masahiro Tanaka for helping teach him the pitch. He was claimed off waivers again by the Los Angeles Angels. He thought the pitch was coming along fine in spring training and his six minor league appearances with Class AAA Salt Lake, but after being called up by the Angels, his tenure lasted a mere inning.

Next stop, San Diego, with the Padres claiming him on April 26, 2017.

In two years, he has morphed from a journeyman to a middle reliever to a premier setup man to one of the most dependable closers in the game.

“I always knew he could do this,’’ Tyler Yates says. “It was always there. But he just had to believe it.’’

Yates had no choice when the Padres traded relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber two days after the 2018 All-Star Game for catching prospect Francisco Mejia. This was the opportunity that was going to make or break him.

“I hated the way I got the job because Brad Hand was my closest friend on the team,’’ Yates said, “but I also felt I was more physically and mentally prepared than anything I could possibly be for in my life. I never panicked. I was never scared. It’s not like I wanted to fail, but I wasn’t afraid to fail, you know what I mean?

“It’s like, it can’t be anything worse than I’ve already been through. I figured if that’s as bad as it’s going to get, no matter what I do as a closer, it can’t ever be that bad again.’’

Well, Yates hasn’t had to find out, converting on 35 of his 36 save opportunities since becoming the Padres’ closer, yielding just 16 hits while striking out 48 batters in 28 innings this season.

It’s not as if he lights up the radar gun with his 93-94 mph fastball, but hitters are kept completely off-balance with his 86-mph split-finger, which he throws nearly half of the time.

Oh, and you want to talk about preparation?

He’s one of the first players to arrive to the Padres’ clubhouse, spending hours poring over scouting information, studying videotape and analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of every player he might potentially face in that day’s game.

“He doesn’t just take the ball, chuck it and hope things happen,’’ Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley says, “he’s 100% prepared for each and every game we play. He’s learned how to pitch his way. He knows where his outs come. And he has so much confidence now.

“You hear people say that with a story like Kirby’s and overcoming so many obstacles, he’s proving a lot of people wrong now.

“No, he’s just proving himself right.’’

Really, the only obstacle in Yates’ path now is that he might be, well, too good. He is tantalizing to every contender needing bullpen help before the July 31 trade deadline, and with the Padres falling out of contention, they suddenly have an awfully attractive trade piece.

“I don’t want to go; I really don’t,’’ Yates said. “I love it here. I feel we’ve got something brewing here and will be in contention of years. And I’m so comfortable here. It just fits. I love the lifestyle. I love everything about it.’’

San Diego might not be Kauai, but it’s the closest thing in the major leagues, playing in the perfect climate, and just off the Pacific beach. His dad, Gary, got to see him pitch a week ago in San Diego, and he knows if he’s traded back east, it might be too far for his parents. They never once got to see him pitch for the Yankees because of the 12 hours it would take on even a direct flight to New York.

“It’s just too far for my parents,’’ Yates said, “that’s why San Diego is perfect. I know it’s part of the business, but I’d just hate to leave here.’’

Considering Yates’ success and popularity in the clubhouse, veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler and his teammates say, the feeling is completely mutual.

“We’re thrilled that teams like him,’’ Padres manager Andy Green said. “But we love him. We want him here. We want him closing out games for years to come for us.’’

Yates, who’s a free agent after the 2020 season, refuses to stress out about it, knowing it’s taboo in his Hawaiian culture, but certainly sees the irony.

Ten years ago, almost to the exact day, no team in baseball wanted him.

Today, who doesn’t?

“Crazy game, huh?’’ said Yates. “Who would have believed it?’’

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Now, it’s Trey Wingenter.

The right-handed reliever has been placed on the 10-day injured list with a shoulder strain, the latest blow to a bullpen short on arms and long on innings.

“A little tightness in the shoulder, nothing too serious, probably something that needed a few days,” Wingenter said. “Don’t always have a few days to give. So take 10 days, make the most of the rest and be ready to come back strong.”

The 25-year-old said the tightness he has felt for a while peaked in Friday’s appearance, when he allowed a home run to the first batter he faced in the seventh inning of a tie game.

Wingenter has thrown the third-most innings (15 1/3) out of the bullpen behind Craig Stammen (18 1/3) and Kirby Yates (18).

His importance was growing, as his standard appearance was most often a late-and-close situation.

He is next in a line of pieces to go missing, further taxing a bullpen that has thrown 124 innings, 10th most in the majors.

Robert Stock was a hard-throwing, multi-inning bridge with a 2.45 ERA the second half of last season. He’s currently in Triple-A trying to prove he can throw strikes consistently.

Jose Castillo’s 97 mph fastball and wickedly breaking slider were increasingly put into high-leverage situations in 2018. These days, the left-hander spends part of every few afternoons playing catch from about 60 feet, trying to work back from what is being termed a flexor strain without surgery.

Aaron Loup, a left-handed specialist acquired in February, was giving the Padres quality outings (0.00 ERA, five strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings) before he went down early last month with an elbow strain.

Until they get back — along with Miguel Diaz, whose surgically repaired meniscus has progressed to the point he is starting his rehab assignment in Double-A on Sunday — the Padres bullpen is going to have to find a way to patch together effective games in the same way they did most of last season and virtually all of April.

“Everybody is talented,” closer Kirby Yates said Saturday night. “And everyone accepts the workload and knows our job, knows what we have to do on a daily basis.”

Yates has taken the loss the past two games against the Dodgers after entering a tied game in the ninth inning and allowing a run. This his come on the heels of his allowing one run in his first 16 innings of the season, which included his converting all 14 of his save opportunities.

The Padres recalled Phil Maton from Triple-A for the second time in six days. Maton began the season with the Padres, was optioned on April 3, recalled April 14, optioned April 21 and recalled Tuesday before being optioned Wednesday.

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Pitchers jumping from High-A to the major leagues is something we rarely see. Having not even faced competition in the upper-minors yet, going from facing lineups that a majority of non-big leaguers to facing actual big league lineups is not an easy task. Taking on that task Sunday will be Padres prospect Nick Margevicius, a good-but-not-great prospect (FanGraphs tabs his future value at 40) who the Padres saw enough promise from him in camp to put him in the big league rotation.

A left-hander out of Rider University, where he put up a 3.18 ERA in 229 college innings, he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. His pro-debut saw him yield dominant results across two levels (1.31 ERA, 48 IP, 8 BB, 62 SO), included with a big strikeout boost when he left the college ranks. He started the 2018 season at Low-A Fort Wayne where he continued his success (3.07 ERA, 76 IP, 9 BB, 87 SO), earning him the promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore, where he finished out the season (4.30 ERA, 58 2⁄3 IP, 8 BB, 59 SO). Now after an impressive showing in Spring Training (12 IP, 4.50 ERA, 4 BB, 12 SO), he’ll get his first taste of big league action.

Off the top of my head, the last notable jump for a pitcher from High-A to the majors was Jordan Hicks last year. The reasoning for his case was pretty ease to point out, that being that he sits triple-digits. Here’s the thing with Margevicius, though: he can barely hit 90 mph on the radar gun.

Being a minor leaguer, there isn’t much public data available on Margevicius. Luckily, he did appear in a Spring Training game against the Diamondbacks, who play in one of two Spring Training complexes with Statcast-tracking. This appearance came back on March 19th, an outing that saw him give up two earned runs in four innings, striking out three and walking one. His fastball velocity was dreadful. He maxed out at 90.7 mph, minimized at 86.9, and averaged 88.8. This falls in line with the scouting reports. He’s “crafty.”

“Margevicius has the qualities of a finesse lefty. His fastball sat in the 88-to-90 mph range, touching 91, with above-average armside movement and riding life when he was up in the zone. He will mix an infrequent cutter to righties in the mid-80s, showing pitchability and knowing when to change looks at the heater.”

This velocity isn’t something we’ll typically see in today’s game and it’s something we keep seeing less and less of with upcoming prospects. Out of 265 pitchers that threw a four-seamer and accumulated at least 10 innings, only 11 pitchers sat lower than what Margevicius did with his four-seamer on March 19th. Adding an age constraint of 23 or younger and the lowest average velocity was from Orioles reliever Josh Rogers at 89.9 mph. Nobody else sat below 90.

Now you may be asking however did Margevicius reach the highest level of baseball in the world. Well, there’s two reasons. First, it’s his superb-control. Here are the walk-rates of each of his minor league stops.

2017, Rookie: 5.0%
2017, A-: 3.6%
2018, A: 2.8%
2018, A+: 3.3%

Since 2017, here are the 10 lowest walk-rates among minor league pitchers with at least 150 innings. Worth noting that none of these pitchers posted a higher strikeout-rate than Margevicius.

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The Padres announced Monday that they’ve selected the contract of right-hander Ronald Bolanos from Double-A Amarillo. Southpaw Jose Castillo was moved to the 60-day injured list to open a spot on the 40-man roster.

Bolanos, who turned 23 just 10 days ago, was a fairly high-profile signing by the Padres, securing a bonus worth a bit more than $2MM when he left his native Cuba. Listed at 6’3″ and 220 pounds, Bolanos is generally regarded as one of the more promising arms in a loaded San Diego farm system. MLB.com tabs him 15th among Friars farmhands, and he’s listed at No. 17 on Baseball America’s midseason update and No. 39 over at Fangraphs.

Bolanos opened the season in Class-A Advanced and posted a 2.85 ERA through 10 starts before jumping to Double-A. His 4.23 ERA there isn’t as impressive, but Bolanos has upped his strikeout rate, improved his walk rate and maintained his strong 47.7 percent grounder rate since moving up to face more advanced competition. He’s still relatively young for the Double-A level and will face considerably more experienced pitching in making his big league debut.

The Padres have kept Bolanos in a starter’s role throughout the bulk of his minor league career, though scouting reports note that there’s a definite chance he ends up in the ’pen. He draws praise for a clean delivery and a fastball that sits 93 mph while occasionally touching 96-97mph. His slider, curveball and changeup are less polished offerings, and the development of those offerings will likely determine whether his future is in the San Diego rotation or bullpen. For now, he’ll get his first experience at the MLB level in hopes of convincing the club that he can be a part of the staff early in the 2020 campaign.

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SUNDAY: The promotions of Baez and Morejon are official. The Padres made room for them by optioning outfielder Josh Naylor and righty Trey Wingenter to Triple-A El Paso. They also transferred injured pitchers Adam Warren and Miguel Diaz to the 60-day IL.

SATURDAY: Righty Michel Baez’s promotion to the Padres from Double-A Amarillo is “imminent,” per the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee. Baez, who was a nominal starter prospect – and near-consensus top-100 name – prior to the 2019 season, has worked strictly in relief for Amarillo since returning from a back injury in mid-May.

It’s the third in a string of high-profile prospect promotions for the plummeting Padres this weekend, who also recalled INF Luis Urias from Triple-A El Paso and are set to select the contract of touted lefty Adrian Morejon, also from Double-A. The San Diego ’pen has been in shambles lately: apart from the untouchable Kirby Yates, who’s on pace for one of the best reliever seasons in MLB history, the revolving high-leverage door for the Friars hasn’t yielded a single reliable arm.

Baez’s prospect stock has slid considerably this season, with FanGraphs now characterizing his once-solid command as “fringe” and bemoaning an unforeseen velocity drop in the latter stages of the 2018 season. The 6’8 righty’s size can be a “hindrance,” per Baseball America, who notes that Baez has struggled to repeat his delivery of late. MLB.com is the high team on the 23-year-old: they place him at a solid #70 on the site’s top 100 list.

In 27 innings for Amarillo this year, Baez has set down 38 and walked 11 en route to a 2.00 ERA. Like soon-to-be teammate Morejon, Baez isn’t on the club’s 40-man roster, so two players will need to be jettisoned from the group shortly. The club also must make room for lefty Jose Castillo, who’s set to return soon from a lengthy injury absence.

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SOUTH HOLLAND — High school football coach Terry Kennedy would bang his Indiana State University class ring on every player’s helmet before they took the field.

Any kid who ever heard that crisp clack echo in their ears will tell you it was more than a pre-game ritual.

“That was his little wake-up call,” says Jake Thormeyer, who played on the 1990 Thornwood High School team that Kennedy coached to a nine-win season, a school record.

More than anything, maybe even winning, Kennedy dedicated his career to teaching players to be prepared for whatever it was they were up against.

With a chiseled six-foot-three frame and a lollipop dangling from his mouth, Kennedy was a sideline general straight out of central casting. He barked instructions in a booming, gravelly voice that commanded respect and obedience from, well, everyone.

In 1999, after 11 seasons, Kennedy retired as Thornwood High School’s winningest head football coach. He helped dozens of players earn college scholarships including Michael Blair, who went on to play in the NFL.

“He used to always say to me, ‘Tuck that ball away, you’re not Walter Payton,’ Blair said. “That always stuck with me. I knew it was coming from a good place, and always ended with a smile and a tap on the helmet with the ring on his finger.”

Kennedy, who lived in Woodridge, died on Sunday.

He was 73.

“Once You Got To Know Him”

Terry Kennedy was born in Chicago on Aug. 1, 1946.

His father, Edward Kennedy, worked for the IRS and his mother, Cecelia Kennedy, worked at Calumet Cleaners in Riverdale.

Kennedy and his two sisters, Beth and Mariann, lived in the Grand Crossing neighborhood until the family moved to suburban Dolton.

Kennedy attended St. Jude the Apostle and Thornridge High School, where he excelled as a three-sport athlete in football, swimming and track-and-field.

“Everybody always said it was an unusual combination to have a football player also be a swimmer and run track as a quarter-miler,” his long-time pal and assistant coach Stu Vogel said.

As a senior, in 1964, Kennedy was named Thornridge’s Athlete of the Year. That same year, Thornridge girls picked Kennedy as the boy they’d most like to be stranded with on a deserted island, Vogel said.

After high school, Kennedy was too skinny for Division 1 football, so he played at Thornton Community College and hit the weight room, bulking up enough to make the Indiana State football team in 1966. The next year, Kennedy was named team captain.

After graduation, Kennedy taught special education at Thornridge, where he coached football and track.

“Not a lot of people know that Kennedy also was considered one of the best shot put and discus coaches,” Vogel said. “He helped several kids qualify for state.”

For three seasons in the late ’70s, Kennedy took over as head football coach at Thornton Community College, while continuing to teach at Thornridge and counseling kids with behavioral issues at District 205 schools.

Politics pushed Kennedy out of the junior college coaching ranks. He resigned because he thought it was wrong to recruit players knowing that school administrators at TCC (now South Suburban College) were considering eliminating the football program, Vogel said.

So, Kennedy joined the Thornridge varsity football staff as defensive coordinator. And in 1988, he took over as head football coach at Thornwood, a District 205 rival. Kennedy brought fellow Thornridge alumni Vogel and Bob Morgan along for the ride as assistant coaches.

“Terry loved to teach. He just loved coaching. He was tough, but a great guy once you got to know him,” said Morgan, who first met Kennedy when he was a student on the Thornridge track team in 1977.

At Thornwood, students who weren’t football players typically met Kennedy at their worst moments in his off-the-field role as dean of discipline. The “recalcitrants,” he lovingly called them.

Over 11 seasons, Kennedy lead the Thunderbirds to the state quarterfinals four times, and a 63-46 record.

Thormeyer, who took over as Oak Forest High School’s head football coach this year, said playing under Kennedy at Thornwood helped shaped his coaching philosophy.

“He always said football isn’t a show-up-and-play sport. Preparation means more than everything else,” Thormeyer said. “Being in the weight room in the off season and being close with your teammates matters. He was no nonsense, team-oriented man. He was always honest with us, gave good advice about not being delusional about the future without crushing our dreams. That’s something I always remember to do with my guys.”

Coach Of The Year

Kennedy retired as Thornwood’s head coach in 1999, stepping away from the spotlight to quietly coach freshmen and sophomore football at Thornridge. He taught driver’s education part time, read two or three mystery novels a week and played as much golf as the weather would allow, until 2006 that is.

That’s when Kennedy’s longtime pal and Thornridge athletic director at the time, Kay Rampkey, called with an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“My varsity football coach had taken ill and I had to figure out what to do,” Rampkey said. “Terry epitomized what a coach should be. I considered him a brother. We didn’t live far from each other. Our babies grew up together. He was a first-class man. I asked him to come back to be the head coach. He couldn’t believe it.”

Kennedy quickly got the old gang back together, including Thornridge alumni Morgan and Vogel.

“He told me to help him out, and we’d be done by October,” Morgan said. “Then we got on a roll.”

The 2006 Falcons snapped an 11-season losing streak and tied the school record with nine wins. Kennedy’s team beat district rivals Thornwood and Thornton and made the state playoffs for the first time since 1993 in season that ended in a loss to the eventual state champions in the Class 6 A quarterfinals.

The Illinois Times named Kennedy 2006 Coach of the Year under the headline, “What A Way To Go.”

But if you ask Rampke about how Kennedy should be remembered, she doesn’t mention football.

“His legacy? Three daughters and his grandchildren,” she said.

Kennedy’s daughters said growing up with her dad was probably a lot like playing on his football teams “except there were no helmets and head slapping.”

Kennedy’s growling baritone, for instance, struck fear in the hearts of his girls’ boyfriends. “Our friends would say, ‘Your dad is so scary.’ We always laughed at that because to us he was just dad,” Lauren Kennedy-Tharp said.

Kennedy always had an opinion about his daughter’s fashion choices, making it known that he preferred to see them wearing sweatshirts (even poolside in sweltering heat) and sensible shoes instead of “clodhoppers.” That’s what he called their collection of high-heels and funky sandals.

“He gave us a lot of life lessons. And lot of those lessons had to do with football. Most our lives revolved around the game,” Kennedy’s middle daughter Katy O’Donnell said. “His big thing was go to college, get a great job with benefits and be prepared for life. And we all did that.”

Kennedy wasn’t as successful at coaching his girls to love sports.

“He always wanted to raise independent girls. He tried to get us into sports but sort of failed at that,” Kennedy-Tharp said. “We never took it very far. But we had so much fun at those football games. Watching him after a win, all the reporters waiting to talk to him, and he’d make them wait so we could run out to him on the field. It felt like dad was a celebrity.”

Kennedy eased back into retirement after his coach-of-the-year season, spending time watching his grandsons’ baseball games and swim meets, never missing an opportunity to coach them up.

“Dad was constantly giving my kids little tips on how to improve their stroke in swimming and take off from the starting deck to get the edge in a race,” O’Donnell said.

Kennedy also remained close with assistant coaches that he counted among his best friends. Every few weeks he’d meet up for beers with Morgan, Vogel and a rotating cast of his favorite characters to catch up on things and talk about old times.

“Later in life we became really good friends,” Morgan said. “We were planning on getting together again next week. And then …”

Well, there are some things you can’t be prepared for.

“It’s heartbreaking,” Vogel said. “He’s gone too soon.”

Kennedy is survived by his daughters, Anne Otzen, O’Donnell and Kennedy-Tharp, and six grandchildren. Funeral services will be private.

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Rollie Fingers had quite possibly the most famous mustache in baseball. But fans didn’t come to the ballpark to see just that. They came to see him close out games with his sinking fastball night after night.

“When he came in, you took a deep sigh of relief,” said former teammate Sal Bando. “You knew the game was in control.”

The 1981 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner spent 17 years in the big leagues with the Athletics, Padres and Brewers. He set the record for career saves – since broken – with 341. The handlebar mustache was first grown in 1972 because a promotion dreamed up by A’s owner Charlie O. Finley offered him a $300 bonus, but it soon became his trademark.

Born on Aug. 25, 1946 in Steubenville, Ohio, Fingers signed with the Kansas City Athletics in 1964. During nine seasons with the A’s, Fingers led the league in games twice and finished in the top ten in the league in saves seven times.

Fingers won three World Series titles while with Oakland from 1972-74 and was the MVP of the 1974 Series, earning a win and two saves in four games. Fingers won or saved eight of the A’s 12 World Series victories during their three-year run atop the baseball world.

After the 1976 season, the seven-time All-Star then went to San Diego – where he led the league in saves during his first two seasons, the second of which he posted 37 saves and tied the National League record.

“With Fingers, you know exactly what you’re going to get, just about every time out,” said Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson.

Fingers led the league in saves again in 1981, but this time it was in the American League after a trade to the Brewers. Fingers finished his career with 114 wins, a record 341 saves, 1,299 strikeouts, a 2.90 ERA and 1,701 innings pitched in 944 games.

“He’s the master,” said fellow relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry. “Look at his durability and longevity. He always knows how to make the right pitch.”

Fingers began his career as a starter, but found limited success once he reached the big league. He credits manager Dick Williams for moving him to the bullpen and turning him into a closer.

“Every organization realizes the importance of relief pitching now,” said Fingers. “Whether I had anything to do with that or not, I’ll leave that up to others to determine.”

Fingers got his answer when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992.