Padres notes: Jose Azocar making powerful case to make roster; Drew Pomeranz’s progress
Jose Azocar says he has watched “every pitch” of Venezuela’s two victories in the World Baseball Classic.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “I feel like right now they can win it all.”
Azocar could have been a part of that team. But he wanted to increase his chances of being a part of the Padres. So he turned down the invitation to be on his home country’s WBC squad in order to be at spring training.
“I need to be here to fight for my spot,” he said. “I was so excited when I got that call, but I was like, ‘No. I can’t go.’ I needed to realize I need to fight here. There is a lot of competition here.”
There has been a fairly fierce battle among the players vying for what are probably two available bench spots. It seems Azocar and fellow outfielder David Dahl and infielders Tim Lopes and Rougned Odor are the leading combatants heading into the spring’s final two weeks.
Azocar is not just showing up. He has played eight of the Padres’ past nine games and in the past six of those has gone 7-for-19 with two stolen bases.
The 26-year-old Azocar provides solid defense at three outfield spots and plus speed on the base paths, has the experience of being on the roster last season and has apparently added something else to his repertoire: power.
Azocar hit a home run last week, which is one more than he had in 202 at-bats in his rookie campaign. Moreover, it was noticeable from the start he was driving the ball far more frequently than his rookie year, when ground balls through the infield, bunts and beating out slow dribblers accounted for many of his hits.
“It’s been fantastic,” manager Bob Melvin said. “Now we’ve seen the home run, we’ll probably see a few more go because he definitely has the power to do it. … It was more intrinsic things before. He could steal a base for you, he played good outfield. He’s way more comfortable now, and you’re seeing what he can do.”
Azocar worked this winter to get more upright and also widen his stance, which he says provides more balance and allows him to get off more powerful swings.
“The game right now is not just about put the ball in play,” he said . “It’s drive the ball to gaps, probably hit homers and be able to run the bases too. So I think it’s my job. … I try to drive the ball before two strike so I put a little more power, because I know I have it but I don’t know how to use it 100 percent. So I’m working right now on that. I’m seeing the balls flying a little more than they used to.”
Pomeranz’s next step
Reliever Drew Pomeranz is scheduled to pitch in a simulated game Thursday. If all goes well, he could be in a Cactus League game by the weekend.
Pomeranz is coming back from August 2021 flexor tendon surgery that caused him to miss all of ’22. The left-hander has maintained all spring he is on track for opening day.
“You still can’t rule it out,” Melvin said. “I know he is digging for that. Is he a little bit late? Maybe. But I think a lot will (be) determined … by how the sim game goes and if his next one is a regular game.”
The Padres believe it is possible Pomeranz could be ready for the regular season if he can get four or five Cactus League appearances.
One of the most effective relievers in the major leagues when he is healthy, Pomeranz has thrown just 44 1/3 innings since signing a four-year, $34 million contract before the 2020 season.
- Fernando Tatis Jr. spent the morning taking extended batting practice and then working in the outfield. In the afternoon, he went 1-for-3 and played right field. He was listed in the origninal lineup as the Padres’ designated hitter but played in the field because he was feeling good. Throughout, he showed no lingering effect from the left knee bruise suffered Saturday when he was hit by a pick-off attempt.
- Joe Musgrove threw in the bullpen Monday morning, his second since fracturing his left big toe on Feb. 27. Musgrove was scheduled to fly Monday to San Diego for a biomechanical screening to compare his movements while pitching to a baseline screening he did previously. The Padres want to make sure he is not altering his mechanics to compensate for the toe. Musgrove is progressing faster than the team projected, but all involved say it is likely he will not be ready for opening day.
- Adrian Morejon reported feeling better but will undergo an MRI on Wednesday to assess the cause for pain on the back of throwing elbow. The left-hander departed his outing Sunday.
- Catcher Luis Campusano, who has not played in a week because of a hamstring strain, is expected to play Wednesday.
- Xander Bogaerts is expected back in camp Wednesday, and Melvin anticipated the shortstop playing in that night’s game. Bogaerts’ Netherlands team was eliminated from the WBC. Second baseman Ha-Seong Kim is also expected back this week after South Korea was eliminated as well.
- Juan Soto was 2-for-4 with a home run and had an outfield assist Monday in the Dominican Republic’s 6-1 victory over Nicaragua in the WBC. Dominican manager Rodney Linares reportedly said before the game the Padres have said Soto cannot start back-to-back contests in the WBC because they want to continue being cautious with his left calf. Melvin said there are no restrictions on Soto. Ben Fraser, one of the Padres’ athletic trainers, is with Soto in Miami.