Once looked at as the top candidate to head the Padres rotation, Dinelson Lamet was a pitcher many believed to be the next big name. With an already crowded room of talent, however, he may be looking at a restructured role this upcoming season.
A Smooth Move
Bouncing back from Tommy John surgery is not an easy feat, with most players missing roughly one to one and a half years of time. Lamet, unfortunately, had his season ended before it even began when it was confirmed on April 13, 2018 that he was to undergo the surgery. He made his return late in the 2019 season and appeared in every game he was slated to pitch during the Covid-shortened 2020 season. He posted a 2.09 ERA, the franchise’s lowest qualifying mark ever.
He also has a 31 percent strikeout rate, is by the far the highest for any Padres pitcher with at least 50 starts. Despite this, the additions of Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, and Yu Darvish the following year did not help his case to remain a relevant option in their starting rotation. Injuries to the above mentioned players did give him more chances to start during 2021. Yet his own injuries again caught up with him, and he endured four different stints on the injured list. Once back, he was mixed into the bullpen rotation to provide relief when other pitchers got into jams.
Even though he is a solid starter for this club, Lamet may be better suited for a bullpen role. With a pitch selection consisting of a fastball, slider, sinker, and changeup, it can be hard to argue that he would not dominate more in this position. Think about it: a batter who has been working all game to get a hit, fighting off tough pitches in the first time or two through the order, the starter finally leaves the game, but no relief is in sight for our luckless hitter as a fresh-armed Lamet walks to the mound. His slider garnished a 42.5 percent whiff rate last season, so putting him into late game situations would definitely yield more success when guys are worn down but still fighting to stay alive in the box.
The most important thing to note here is that the bullpen move will allow coaching staff to keep an eye on his elbow and measure the length of his outings. This will certainly give his arm a chance to slowly but surely heat up as his appearances go from one to two innings back up to five or more. Not to mention, he could benefit from this type of method mentally as it may reduce his stress around when he is coming out or how far he’ll be allowed to go.
Changing The Pace
Speculations have been pointing to him potentially falling into the closer role given they have not had a very reliable arm there in a while. Most of the time last season was spent recalibrating the Friars bullpen which resulted in long-time pitching coach Larry Rothschild getting the boot. Lamet also doesn’t seem to mind taking on a new role as he stated, “Whatever the team wants, whatever the manager needs me to do, that’s what I am going to be doing”. Having an attitude like that is what separates the boys from the men in MLB so keeping this mentality will be key to embracing a new role.
I also believe that he will compile more starts to balance out his relief work given Snell, Darvish, and Musgrove all ended up on the IR multiple times last season. Fans also love watching him pitch considering his windup and release are a thing of baseball beauty and that’s something you simply can’t take away from the game. Whatever his fate becomes in 2022, he will make the best of it and work his way back into an amazing yet constantly injured starting rotation.
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