The Padres were without a key bullpen piece for all of last season. Left-hander Drew Pomeranz missed the whole year after suffering a setback in his recovery from August 2021 surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his forearm.
With camp opening this week, San Diego skipper Bob Melvin provided reporters (including AJ Cassavell of MLB.com) with an update on the veteran reliever’s status. While the club plans to take things cautiously early in exhibition play, they’re anticipating a fairly normal build-up to the regular season. “I wouldn’t say (Pomeranz) is on a program where he’s completely a ’go’ like everybody else,” Melvin said. “That could happen at some point in time early in camp. There’s still probably some restrictions on him. But once we get to games, hopefully he’s in a place where he’s just trying to get ready for a season.”
If all goes as expected, the 34-year-old will be in the Opening Day bullpen. A healthy Pomeranz would have a chance at carving out a key late-game role. Prior to his season-ending injury in 2021, he’d posted a 1.75 ERA with a 29.4% strikeout percentage through 25 2/3 innings. That came on the heels of an even more dominant 1.45 ERA, 39.7% strikeout rate over 18 1/3 frames during the shortened 2020 season. All told, Pomeranz has a 1.62 ERA while punching out a little more than a third of his opponents in 47 appearances during this stint as a Padre.
Signed to a surprising four-year deal over the 2019-20 offseason, Pomeranz has more than made good on the organization’s faith on a rate basis but unfortunately been unable to accrue many innings. He’s headed into the final season of that contract and playing this year on a $10MM salary. That makes this a pivotal season for the former All-Star, since he’s slated to return to the open market next winter.
Pomeranz will at least be joined by star closer Josh Hader and ground-ball specialist Tim Hill as left-handers in the bullpen. Adrián Morejón would likely join them if he’s not given a rotation opportunity. San Diego would have to keep Rule 5 selection Jose Lopez on the big league staff if they want to retain his long-term contractual rights, while José Castillo, Tom Cosgrove and Ray Kerr could all find themselves in the mix. There’s ample depth, though Pomeranz may have the highest upside of the bunch aside from Hader. From the right side, Robert Suarez, Luis García and Steven Wilson all look likely to assume important innings in what should be a very strong relief corps.