Padres Add More Pitching

Competition increases in San Diego's ever-growing staff

The Padres have tried to create competition in 2016 Spring Training, especially in the pitching staff. That competition got a little more … well, competitive on Thursday.

The Friars signed a pair of relievers, both of them left-handed relievers: Matt Thornton and Chris Friedrich. Both are in training camp on minor-league deals with a chance to earn a Major League gig.

Thornton is 39 years old, making him a year older than Padres manager Andy Green. But, age has not been an issue for him. Last year in Washington Thornton pitched to a 2.18 ERA in 60 innings, the 10th straight year he’s reached at least 60 innings out of the bullpen.

He immediately becomes a strong candidate for the left-handed relief specialist role, a spot that many think Drew Pomeranz was favored to earn. However, Pomeranz is stretching out to be a potential starting pitcher.

In fact, the Padres have multiple players they’re giving a chance to earn a spot in the starting rotation. After Tyson Ross, James Shields and Andrew Cashner, San Diego is looking at a seven different guys to potentially earn the final two starting spots.

It’s widely believed that Brandon Maurer has the inside track on the 4th spot in the rotation. Maurer, who was one of the Padres’ most effective relievers before injury cut short his 2015 season, floated the idea of moving back in to the rotation around last year’s All-Star break. The Padres agreed in the off-season. Now Brandon thinks there’s only one thing that could keep him out of a starting role.

“All I really need to do is make sure my arm is ready,” says Maurer. “If my arm is ready to go by the beginning of the season I should be alright.”

If so that leaves five guys competing for one spot. A few of them, like Pomeranz and Carlos Villanueva, would stay on the Opening Day roster, easily sliding back in to the bullpen if they don’t work out as starters. Robbie Erlin would also be an option for that move as a long-relief of swing-guy.

Colin Rea, Brandon Morrow and Philip Humber are also going to get a chance to win a role in the Top-5 but they are likely not bullpen candidates. Green says the competition is wide open and all seven men will get an equal chance to win a job.

As for Friedrich, he’s what Green called a, “longer-term play.” The former Rockies first-round pick is coming off a rough season in Colorado, where he walked 25 batters in 58 innings. Friedrich is also recovering from a shoulder problem but the Padres expect to see him in Spring Training games by the end of March.

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