Righthander Chris Paddack waited 22 months to show off his reconstructed elbow after having Tommy John Surgery in August 2016.
The initial report?
The 22-year-old was better than ever.
Paddack opened the year with 24.2 scoreless innings after reporting to high Class A Lake Elsinore in late April. Though he allowed eight runs in 10 innings over his final two starts in May, his return to competitive pitching was been eye-opening.
Paddack struck out 51 batters through 31.2 innings, while allowing just 24 hits and two walks. The resulting 0.82 WHIP prompted some to wonder just when the Padres might have to bump him to Double-A San Antonio.
“The balance is trying to find a level where he has a little bit of adversity and a little bit of success,” pitching coordinator Eric Junge said, “and then he perseveres and goes to the next level. I was expecting him to go there and succeed. The thought was maybe push him up to Double-A later in the year, if he can handle it.
“I don’t think anybody expected this level of success.”
Maybe because the Padres are just getting to know Paddack.
That’s because he made just three starts in the organization before he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in the low Class A Fort Wayne bullpen. The Padres acquired Paddack in June 2016 when they traded Fernando Rodney to the Marlins. Miami drafted him in the eighth round in 2015 out of Cedar Park (Texas) High.
During his layoff, Paddack committed himself to improving a fringy curveball, putting on 15-25 pounds of muscle and eliminating the “inverted W” from his delivery to relieve stress on his elbow.
The early returns have seen his fastball ticking up to 96 mph and his budding 12-to-6 curveball touching 78 mph when he snaps one off just right. Meanwhile, his Vulcan changeup—an 82-83 mph offering with downward tumble and run—is as devastating as ever.
“The past 22 months in Arizona is something I’ll never forget,” Paddack said. “Looking back on it, I’m glad I got hurt when I did. I’ve learned so much about myself, about the game. I’m stronger. I know my body. I’m more mature.
“I think I’m better now than I was before.”
>> Lefthander MacKenzie Gore, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft, hit the Fort Wayne disabled list for a second time with a blister on his middle finger. He allowed nine runs on 15 hits and two walks through his first eight innings in the Midwest League.
>> Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hit his 10th homer of the season on May 31, completing a month in which he hit .336/.414/.639 in 29 games at San Antonio. He hit .177/.231/.333 in 24 games in April.