The curveball the Padres thought they were getting a year ago showed up this week.
“I haven’t thrown any like that in a while,” Bryan Mitchell said. “.. That felt good. I haven’t gotten the bad swings on the ones down in a while.”
The right-hander struck out four in two perfect innings Tuesday at the end of the Padres’ 4-3 victory over the Diamondbacks. He had to get an extra out in the eighth inning when a curve for a third strike bounced away from catcher Webster Rivas. He had to work with a man being placed on second base to start the ninth inning as part of Major League Baseball’s testing of possible extra-inning tiebreaking measures.
The Padres hadn’t seen effectiveness like that from Mitchell even in a solid September. The curveball was not the difference then. It was that he developed a two-seam fastball.
Mitchell just late last week started throwing the curve with a quicker arm motion, increasing the velocity and deception of the pitch.
“More throwing it like a fastball,” he said.
By the first week of May, after posting a 6.47 ERA in seven starts, Mitchell was in the bullpen. On May 12, Headley was designated for assignment. In June, Mitchell began a three-month stay on the injured list.
He returned in September and made four mostly good starts, including 8 2/3 shutout innings against the Giants on Sept. 24.
Based on that final month, he was again in the rotation equation entering spring. But he didn’t perform well enough from the start to stay in it for long.
Monday, Green said Mitchell was essentially pitching for a job.
“He’s going to have an opportunity to throw the baseball here in the last week and make an impression,” Green said.
Mitchell went out Tuesday and did just that.
“Best we’ve seen at any point in time,” Green said afterward. “That was swing-and-miss secondary. ... Do that a few more times, he’ll turn some heads.”
In another spring, Nick Margevicius might be making the jump to the big leagues, a la Joey Lucchesi last year.
The 22-year-old left-hander showed the Padres he has the stuff. He showed them he has the makeup.
After Margevicius struck out 146 and walked just 17 batters in 135 innings between low-A and Single-A and then allowed a run on four hits and struck out eight over seven innings in a postseason start for Double-A San Antonio last season, some on the Padres staff mentioned as spring training began that Margevicius could end up being the biggest surprise in camp. Of course, at that point very few people outside the organization even knew how to say his name (mar-GAH-vi-chuss).
They learned after he threw two hitless innings against a stacked Cubs lineup in his first start. In four spring starts, he allowed 12 hits and seven runs (six earned), walked four and struck out 12 across 12 innings.
The Padres will now let him put into practice what he learned in his first major league camp while pitching in the minors.
Everyone concerned is certain he will be better for what he did this past six weeks.
“Yesterday was a good summary for the whole camp for me,” Margevicius said Tuesday after allowing three runs (two earned) in four innings against the Diamondbacks. “I made really good pitches. I thought I was executing really well. They were just battling. That’s what it’s going to be like at this level. You face really good hitters. You can make your pitches, and they’re good too. You have to be focused every time. … I’ve had a great experience. I’m proud of how I competed every single day.”
It is considered a virtual certainty among those in the organization that it won’t be long until he’s in San Diego.
“He had a tremendous opportunity for a guy who’s barely touched above A-ball,” Green said. “He’s done a very good job with it. He’s going to continue to learn, he’s going to continue to grow. He’s that type of person. We’re excited about his future.”
Time to taper
The Padres were off Thursday and players will report directly to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on Friday afternoon rather than working out at the Peoria Sports Complex.
As they did for Tuesday’s game, the Padres will take batting practice at the ballpark before a 6:40 p.m. game against the Rockies.
The Padres’ workouts before games have been truncated all week, with players and coaches working one-on-one or in small groups.
Pitchers and catchers, most of whom show up days or weeks before their first official workout with the team, have been in Arizona for at least five weeks. Position players, the majority of whom also trickle in early, held their first official workout Feb. 20.
“At this point in camp we’re going to try to minimize the extra time on the field,” Green said. “That doesn’t mean there won’t be extra work, but scheduled extra work will be more individualized the rest of camp. Everything else we do will be mimicking the season.”
The Padres host the Angels on Saturday and Cubs on Sunday in Peoria before flying to Seattle for games against the Mariners on Monday and Tuesday. Opening day is Thursday against the Giants at Petco Park.