NL West Notes: Padres, Giants, D-backs, Swihart

Few teams have received worse second base production than the Padres, for whom Ian Kinsler, Luis Urias and Greg Garcia have combined for minus-0.7 fWAR and a dismal .144/.252/.237 line in 111 plate appearances. Now, the Padres find themselves waiting for someone to “take hold of” the job there, manager Andy Green said Saturday (via Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune). Kinsler has had the most opportunities (66 PA), but while he’s a longtime quality starter at the keystone, he has been a detriment to the Padres’ on-field efforts in the first season of a two-year, $8MM contract. Urias, a high-end prospect, may be the Padres’ long-term solution at the position. The 21-year-old has only come to the plate 28 times this season, though, leaving Acee to wonder if the Padres will send him back to the minors for more reps. However, Green believes Urias has gotten “consistent enough” playing time in the bigs this year.

Elsewhere around the division…

  • Giants manager Bruce Bochy says they expect Mark Melancon to close games at some point this season, per Kerry Crowley of The Mercury News. Melancon has been about as good as can be so far this year, scattering seven hits across ten scoreless innings. The 34-year-old has also finished five games for the Giants, though none were save opportunities. He’s no stranger to the ninth inning, having saved 182 games in his career, including a league-leading 51 for the Pirates in 2015. Melancon followed up that campaign by saving 47 games for the Pirates and Nationals before cashing in on his current four-year, $62MM deal, of which he will have one year and $14MM remaining after this season. The bullpen has been an area of strength for the 8-14 Giants, with lefty Will Smith the nominal ninth-inning anchor. Given the number of horror-show bullpens around the league right now, there’s likely to be trade interest in one or more of San Francisco’s high-performing relievers at some point this season. Melancon figures to stick around, however, as his deal is more cumbersome than the contracts belonging to Smith, Tony Watson, Nick Vincent, Sam Dyson et al.
  • If the Giants do part with any of those veterans, it could open up a spot for Triple-A righty Ray Black. For now, however, the team has shut down Black for seven to 10 days on account of a right pronator strain, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was among those to tweet. It’s troubling news in light of Black’s injury-checkered past, and it continues a rough April for the flamethrowing 28-year-old. After posting a 3.16 ERA with 16.13 K/9 and 2.81 BB/9 in 25 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level last year, Black has pitched to a 6.43 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 7.71 BB/9 in seven frames this season. He also had trouble preventing runs in a 23 1/3-inning major league debut in 2018, when he recorded a 6.17 ERA, though he did manage 12.73 K/9 against 3.86 BB/9.
  • The Diamondbacks plan to utilize just-acquired catcher Blake Swihart in the outfield corners on occasion, according to manager Torey Lovullo (via Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic). Lovullo added that the Diamondbacks will use the 27-year-old Swihart there to spell veterans Adam Jones and David Peralta, both of whom are in their 30s. The outfield’s not foreign to Swihart, who played 48 games there as a member of the Red Sox, as Piecoro notes. While it’s rare for any catcher to line up in the grass, Lovullo says Swihart is “a pretty special athlete.”

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