With two straight wins over the Cincinnati Reds to open a 10-game homestand, the San Diego Padres could be poised to climb back into the National League West race.
That might explain why the Padres made some last-minute changes to their pitching plans Saturday, two days after optioning a potentially needed starter David Weathers to Triple-A El Paso.
Right-hander Dinelson Lamet (1-2, 3.33 ERA) had been scheduled to face Reds prized rookie right-hander Valdimir Gutierrez (3-1, 2.74) Saturday night in the third game of a four-game weekend series. Padres ace Yu Darvish was to have started Sunday — possibly with the Padres seeking a sweep.
But with the Dodgers coming to San Diego for three games starting Monday, both Lamet and Darvish were pushed back a day — leaving a void Saturday night in a nationally televised game.
Normally, rookie left-hander Weathers, who had been part of a temporary six-man rotation as the Padres played on 20 straight days, would start in the newly created opening. But with Weathers temporarily in El Paso, right-hander Miguel Diaz (2-1, 2.18) will make his second start on Saturday night.
The situation raises a number of questions. If the Padres knew this was possible, why option Weathers now? And how long can Diaz go, raising questions about a capable but heavily used corps of Padres relievers.
Diaz’s only start this season was May 3. His longest outing has been three innings, on May 24. Over five innings in his four most recent appearances, Diaz has allowed five runs (four earned) on five hits and two walks in five innings. Twice in those outings, he served up a two-run homer.
The plot thickens because three days after dispatching Weathers to El Paso, the Padres moved left-hander Daniel Camarena — the Triple-A West Pitcher of the Week last week — from the El Paso rotation to the Padres’ taxi squad.
Might Camarena be activated for his major-league debut before Saturday’s game? Does it matter?
The Reds seem to have found a new weapon in 25-year-old Cuban import Gutierrez, who will make his fifth major-league start Saturday. He has worked 23 innings since being promoted from Triple-A Louisville, allowing seven runs on 15 hits and 10 walks with 19 strikeouts in 23 innings. In his last two outings, he has thrown 102 and 110 pitches, respectively.
The right-hander has a 1.087 WHIP and a .185 opponents’ batting average.
“To step in the way he has and handled it like he has says a lot about him,” Reds manager David Bell said recently of Gutierrez. “We’ve always thought a lot of him. It was a a question of finding the right time. In his last couple outings, he’s gotten stronger the deeper he went. He’s kept pitching and really competed. He hasn’t backed down.”
Meantime, the Padres didn’t identify Diaz as their Saturday starter until after Friday night’s 8-2 win over the Reds.
“We like Miguel,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said recently of the 26-year-old. He can be used in several different roles.
Actually, Diaz’s numbers are close to paralleling — over a longer time period. In 11 appearances covering 20 2/3 innings, he has given up seven runs (five earned) on 12 hits and 10 walks with 23 strikeouts. He has a 1.065 WHIP and a .167 opponents’ batting average.
Diaz has faced the Reds once before, in 2018 when he allowed two runs on three hits in 1 2/3 innings.
–Field Level Media