Andres Muñoz Now Brings More Than Heat
Righthander Andres Muñoz made his major league debut on July 12. Sixteen of the reliever's first 20 four-seam fastballs topped 100 mph, and the 102.3 mph heater he threw was the fastest thrown by a Padres pitcher in the Statcast era.
"We’ve known for a long time, he has a really live arm,” Padres manager Andy Green said. "We’ve been talking about his arrival for a while."
Yet the 87 mph slider Muñoz used to fan Brian McCann for his first big league strikeout is the key to unlocking the 20-year-old's potential.
"That kind of shows how far he’s come," Green said. "That’s a lot of credit to people in (player development) who at one point were forcing him to throw (his slider) because they knew it would be good for him.”
That force-feeding accelerated as the 6-foot-2 Muñoz reported to Double-A Amarillo to start the year.
Signed for $700,000 out of Mexico in 2015, Muñoz’s famed fastball ticked up as high as 104 mph this year in the Texas League.
It’s a weapon that he leans on, especially if sometimes wavering command lands him behind in the count. Which is why the Padres mandated slider usage earlier in the year.
Muñoz had to throw a slider within the first two pitches to a batter and when he got to two strikes. The hope was he would approach 20 percent usage. Before long, the picture of a frustrated Muñoz gave way to one of a maturing pitcher shaking off his catcher to get to his slider.
The Padres called up Muñoz to begin the second half. On his way to the majors, he struck out 58 batters in 35.2 innings at Amarillo and Triple-A El Paso. He recorded a 3.03 ERA in 35 appearances while walking 4.5 per nine innings.
"For the amount I’ve worked on (my slider), I feel comfortable with that pitch,” Muñoz said. "(I’m) confident I can throw it in any count. I’m very confident in it, just as I am with my fastball.”
— Cuban outfielder Jorge Oña will miss the rest of the season after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing (right) shoulder. Oña, who signed for $7 million in 2016, was hitting .348/.417/.539 with five homers in 25 games at Double-A Amarillo when he played his last game on May 3.
— First-round shortstop CJ Abrams started his career with a 20-game hitting streak in the Rookie-level Arizona League. The 18-year-old was hitting .419/.452/.676 with two homers and 12 steals through 23 games.