Padres’ Jay Groome Ready For His Clean Slate

Seven years ago, the Padres considered drafting lefthander Jay Groome with one of their three first-round picks. But The version of Groome they received from the Red Sox last August in the Eric Hosmer trade was not the same pitcher on their radar in 2016.  

Groome no longer regularly hits 97 mph. The power curveball he had before Tommy John surgery has been replaced by a cutter/slider hybrid. His strikeout numbers took a big dip in 2022.   

“I’m not the same pitcher,” Groome said after last year’s trade. “I’m better.” 

Groome’s march to the majors stalled in Boston, but he finished 2022 with a career-high 144 innings, which included a 3.16 ERA in 51.1 innings in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

That success had everything to do with continuing to lean into early contact. Groome’s strikeout rate plummeted from 12.4 per nine innings in 2021 to 8.8 last year, but pitching deeper into games pushed him up the Padres’ depth charts.  

“Toward the end of 2021, going into 2022, I really felt like I had a good feel of what all my pitches do,” Groome said. “I kind of put (away) the old me of trying to just blow everyone’s doors off, because I started lasting longer in games.

“I had never really understood the importance of first-pitch outs and getting guys out on three pitches or less, but that’s what keeps you in the game for six and seven innings.” 

The presence of veterans Nick Martinez, Seth Lugo and Michael Wacha seemingly make Groome a long shot to open the season in San Diego, but a strong spring could push him toward the front of a callup line that includes fellow lefthander Ryan Weathers, righthanders Reiss Knehr and Pedro Avila and minor league signees Cole Hamels, Julio Teheran and Wilmer Font.  

It’s a start.  

“When I got traded,” Groome said, “I was talking to my father a lot and we just said, ‘This is your clean slate. So just go out there and show these guys that you can compete.’ ” 


— Catcher Ethan Salas, the 16-year-old Venezuelan who signed in January for the largest bonus in the international class, is expected to see some action in big league spring training games. Internal evaluators believe Salas rivals Jackson Merrill, Dylan Lesko and Luis Campusano as the top prospect in the organization. Salas would be called up from minor league camp, while Merrill, a non-roster invitee to big league camp, is also expected to get plenty of run while regulars are participating in the World Baseball Classic.  

— Lesko, who had Tommy John surgery last spring, was progressing in his throwing program and is expected to make his pro debut early in the Arizona Complex League, when the Rookie-level season opens in June.

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