USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the MLB playoff races.
By almost any measure, rookie Chris Paddack has proven he can pitch in the major leagues. But the San Diego Padres on Wednesday optioned the talented right-hander to the minors.
The demotion comes as a bit of a shock to Padres fans after Paddack posted a 3.15 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 13 walks in his first 65⅔ innings as a major leaguer.
He’s performed well enough to be considered one of the top candidates for National League Rookie of the Year honors. He even showed a little big-league swagger earlier this season when he welcomed a head-to-head matchup with rookie slugger Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.
“He’s a great player, no doubt. Does he deserve (the Rookie of the Month award)? Absolutely. But I’m coming for him,” Paddack said before facing the Mets last month. “We’ll see Monday who the top dog is. That’s something I’m looking forward to, for sure.”
The youngster backed up his bravado in that May 6 game, tossing 7⅔ shutout innings and striking out 11.
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Paddack, 23, made San Diego’s roster out of spring training, despite only reaching the Class AA level last season.
The Padres say they’re sending him to Class A Lake Elsinore (Calif.) to get some extra rest. To some, that might be code for manipulating his major league service time, but he can only stay in the minors for up to 20 days.
It’s not uncommon for teams to limit the workload of young pitchers, especially those who have had major injuries in the past. Paddack tore his ulnar collateral ligament in 2016 and missed the entire 2017 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
However, he was brilliant last season, posting a combined 2.10 ERA at Class A and AA with 120 strikeouts in 90 innings. That, coupled with a strong spring training, won him a spot in the Padres’ opening day rotation.
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