We’re now a week into September, which means that we’re a week into expanded MLB rosters, as teams may now promote any player on their 40 man roster to the active roster. The Padres are finished with their call ups, leaving them with 32 players on the active roster. That should be plenty of extra beef, right? You’d think, but it wasn’t.
On Saturday night against the Rockies, the Padres played 12 innings, using 7 relief pitchers after Joe Wieland’s return from Tommy John surgery lasted just 2.1 innings. Thankfully, it was performance and pitch count that got Wieland, not anything relating to injury. However, because of the short start, the number of pitchers used, and the number of pinch-hitters that the Padres were forced to use throughout the game, they ran out of position players. In the top of the 11th, with runners on 1st and 3rd with 2 outs and the pitcher’s spot coming up in the lineup, all 14 position players on the roster were either in the game or had already been used and removed, and the Padres were left with using Andrew Cashner, who lined out to center and end the scoring opportunity.
It had actually been that way since the 9th, when Rene Rivera hit for Nick Vincent. Here is how Bud Black used his 6 bench players:
Top 5: Adam Moore hit for reliever Tim Stauffer.
Top 6: Seth Smith hit for 1st baseman Tommy Medica.
Bottom 6: Jake Goebbert replaced Abraham Almonte, plays 1B. Smith stays in game at LF.
Top 7: Corey Spangenberg hit for reliever Alex Torres. (He homered, his 2nd pinch-hit home run in a week)
Top 8: Will Venable hit for Cameron Maybin.
Top 9: Rene Rivera hit for Nick Vincent.
There’s nothing horribly wrong with this. The Padres were playing from behind all game, and these moves are those of a manager playing from behind. Did Smith need to hit for Medica? Did Venable need to hit for Maybin? These were lefty/righty match-up decisions that might make sense in the moment, but they came back to haunt the team in the 11th when they had a chance to finish the comeback and take the lead.
The real problem is that it’s September, and with rosters expanded, the Padres still have only a 6 man bench. Yes, they have 32 men on their roster, but 18 of them are pitchers. MLB teams generally have 5 man benches from April through August, so that means they only have 1 extra position player on their roster than usual. It may seem like more than that, since half the roster is players who shouldn’t be regular contributors to a major league ball club, but it’s literally just Adam Moore, the 3rd catcher, who is technically extra on the bench right now.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Jace Peterson, who had 58 plate appearances over 27 games played during the regular season, is noticeably absent from the active roster. With shortstop Everth Cabrera currently injured and in legal trouble that could affect his future with the club, Peterson, a natural shortstop and one of the team’s top prospects, seems like the obvious choice to get some playing time at the position this month, perhaps earning the opportunity to win the job full-time next Spring. But he’s not with the team, already assigned to the Arizona Fall League, where he’ll play outfield. It’s a puzzling decision.
Versatile outfielder Reymond Fuentes never got the call to the bigs this season, struggling a bit in AAA after being called up to the level mid-season, but he did have 36 plate appearances over 23 games last year, and was another option to come up and pinch-run or sit on the bench for a few weeks. Outfielder Yeison Asencio could have been rewarded for his strong season with a call up as well. Or they could have called up all 3 available guys, let them know that playing opportunities might be scarce, and use them as needed. What would it harm?
On Saturday night, somebody was needed. As much as Andrew Cashner seems to enjoy the opportunity to step in when needed, he shouldn’t have been needed. There should have been a better option with the game on the line. Not that I really care if the team wins or loses these meaningless September games, but it just seems really sloppy to expand rosters, use a ton of pitchers, but not expand the bench.
Speaking of meaningless September games, I mentioned a month ago how important it is for the Padres to have one of the 10 worst records in baseball in order for their first round pick in the 2015 draft to be protected from being used as free agent compensation this off-season. At the time, they were fairly safely in the bottom 10. Improved play since the All-Star Break, however, leaves them now in a precarious situation.
If the season ended now, the Padres would have either the 10th or 11th pick in the draft, both protected (11 picks are protected as the Astros will have the 2nd pick as compensation for screwing over Brady Aiken). At 66-76, they are tied with the Phillies for the 9th worst record in the league. The Reds, however, are just .5 games ahead (behind?) in the standings, the Mets are just 1.5 games better, and the Rays are just 2 games better. With 20 games left, the race for protection will be very tight. Stay tuned.