Image credit: (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
PEORIA, Ariz. — When Luis Patiño signed with the San Diego Padres in July 2016, he was a much different player than he is today.
At 6-foot, 150 pounds, the 16-year-old Colombian righthander was considered well underweight for a professional pitcher of that height. Before playing his first game in the Padres’ farm system, Patiño knew he had to bulk up.
“You can’t have low weight and throw 200 innings,” Patiño said. “You need to have good weight so you never have an injury or something.”
The Padres first discovered him at an international prospect showcase in the Dominican Republic in February 2016. At that time, his fastball floated between 83 and 85 mph. Knowing that his velocity wasn’t near major-league caliber, Patiño focused on weight training and becoming stronger.
“Lifting weights a lot,” Patiño said. “Working on my legs, making my legs stronger. Working on my core.”
Fast forward to the present day and Patiño is 185 pounds. His fastball now touches 99 mph—more than 10 mph faster than when he first arrived in San Diego’s organization.
In addition to weightlifting, Patiño minimized cardio to up his velocity.
“Not running a lot because when I’m running, my weight always goes down,” Patiño said. “I stop a little running and my body and muscle tend to improve in a lot of ways.”
Four years, 35 pounds and 15 mph later, Patiño is the No. 2 prospect in the Padres system. He has posted a sub-3 ERA at every minor-league level at which he has pitched and collected 16 total wins in three seasons.
In 2019, he pitched 87.2 innings for High-A Lake Elsinore before receiving a call-up to Class-A Amarillo. Patiño made two starts with the Sod Poodles, allowing just one earned run in 7.2 innings.
His key to posting stellar numbers at every level? Taking every opportunity to get better along the way.
“Every single time that I have the opportunity to throw a program bullpen or have something to work on or get better, I do it because I need to improve more and more,” Patiño said. “Because to go to the big league, I want to have good stuff.”
Now 20 years old, Patiño participated in his first spring playing at the Padres’ big-league camp. He threw once, allowing three earned runs in one inning of work against Kansas City on March 5.
That appearance came nearly a month after Patiño arrived at San Diego’s camp in Peoria, a week or so later than other pitchers. Patiño was well aware of the coaching staff’s intentions of easing him in before his arrival.
“Basically, the day he got the invite at camp, this was it,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. “I don’t think there’s been any surprise, and I think he’s been well-prepared and he’s handled it well.”
Patiño has made the most of his lag time. Rather than just waiting for his turn on the mound, he has rubbed elbows with the veterans on San Diego’s roster, hoping to gain the mindset of an experienced MLB player.
“(I’m) learning from the experienced guys from the big leagues, like (Chris) Paddack or (Craig) Stammen or Jayce (Tingler),” Patiño said. “I’m younger, and I need to learn and I need to get better every day.”
Tingler has hinted at Patiño potentially making his MLB debut this year. While that’s one of Patiño’s primary goals for 2020, he’s focused on something simpler: just playing the game he loves.
“It’s more like enjoy baseball, and when the opportunities come, be prepared,” Patiño said.