Padres Closer Dinelson Lamet? It Could Happen

Friars thinking about converting starting pitcher to a bullpen role

Padres manager Jayce Tingler says injured starting pitcher Dinelson Lamet had a good day of work on Monday. Lamet is trying to come back the forearm inflammation that landed him back on the Injured List.

A year ago, Lamet finished 4th in the National League Cy Young Award voting after a fantastic season as a starter. In 2021, he might be the key to the Padres pitching staff woes.

But not as a member of the starting rotation.

“As a group I think we feel a little bit more confident, for where we’re at in the season, that the best opportunity to get him through the year healthy, and possibly the best opportunity to help this team, might be in shorter stints going forward,” says Padres manager Jayce Tingler.

As the trade deadline looms the Padres need more starters. They only have three healthy ones right now and four guys in the Injured List.

They also need to provide a break for the overworked bullpen. San Diego’s relievers are on a pace to throw the most innings in the history of Major League Baseball. It’s astonishing they still lead the league with a 2.94 ERA. Closer Mark Melancon has shown signs of slowing down after a dominant start to the season.

Here’s where Lamet is an intriguing relief option.

He throws a 98 MPH fastball and one of the best sliders in the game. That’s the classic combination you see for lockdown closers.

When Lamet was building back up he seemed fine tossing two to three innings at a time. His pitch count didn’t go above 70 until June. Lamet made four starts of at least 4.0 innings and 72 pitches. In the 5th start, he left with the forearm problem.

If the Padres and Lamet think part of the issue is the duration of his outings, throwing him in the bullpen for one or two inning stints is a good way to maximize his dominant stuff.

Before they make that call, there will be a few more hurdles for Lamet to clear.

“We’ve got a bullpen session, we’ve got a live BP,” says Tingler. “He needs to come through there healthy, aggressive, he needs to be himself where he’s free and can let it go and be aggressive. We do those things then we’ll start to look at what does game competition look like and then what does that road map back with us, and ultimately pitching with us … what does that look like?”

You can build a pitcher up slowly if you start in March. Doing it in July is not the best of ideas. If all goes well and Lamet is healthy after his next few workouts, it would make perfect sense to put him in the bullpen and go get some more starters on the trade market.

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