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Padres' Kevin Kopps Could Be On Fast Track To MLB Debut



Even with 89.2 innings on his résumé during a mind-boggling redshirt senior year at Arkansas, righthander Kevin Kopps was poised to move quickly in the Padres’ system.

Why not?

He was already 24 years old. He already had Tommy John surgery on his medical history.

Six months later, the fast track had predictably carried Kopps into big league camp after the 6-foot, 200-pound reliever finished a whirlwind first summer at Double-A San Antonio last year.

“It's another adjustment every level you get to,” Kopps said, “so I was curious to see how the hitters were (in Cactus League games) and just ready to get back into the groove I was in last season.”

It was quite the groove.

The go-to bullpen arm for the Razorbacks, Kopps led the nation with a 0.90 ERA, had 12 wins, 11 saves and struck out 131 hitters.

With a below-average fastball, almost all of that success revolved around a plus-plus, mid-80s slider/cutter that he likens to Daisuke Matsuzaka’s gyroball.

After carving up college hitters last year, Kopps—a third-round pick who signed an under-slot deal for $300,000—continued to lean on that pitch heavily while striking out 22 batters over his first 14.2 innings as a pro.

Because his sinker sits in the low 90s, the prevailing thought among evaluators is that Kopps’ breaking ball will determine how quickly he makes his MLB debut and how long he sticks there.

They’re not wrong, but Kopps, now 25, has circled his sinker as a point of emphasis moving into his first full year of pro ball.

“My slider is more swing-and-miss, and I want my fastball to be (swing and miss)," Kopps said, "but I have to understand that throwing a sinker, it’s not a swing-and-miss pitch. It’s a contact pitch.

“That’s kind of helped me get in the zone more with it and trust that it’s going to be a ground ball.”

FATHER FIGURES

— Lefthander Adrian Morejon and righthander Michel Baez, both recovering from Tommy John surgery, are pushing toward a return before the all-star break. Morejon was sitting 94-95 mph in his bullpens and still projects to start, while Baez, who was sitting 93-94 mph in his bullpens, expects to return as a reliever.

— Outfielder/first baseman Daniel Montesino, who signed for $1 million in 2021 out of Venezuela, will miss all of 2022 following Tommy John surgery. The 18-year-old hit .316/.444/.489 with four homers and eight steals in 56 games in the Dominican Summer League.

Phillies Photo By Kevin D. Liles Getty Images

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