Profar a bright spot in LF amid lineup-wide slump

2 years ago

SAN DIEGO — The Padres spent much of March searching for a left fielder, perhaps someone with a potent bat who they could rely upon for some power. Instead, without a major acquisition, they gave Jurickson Profar the everyday role. Profar had originally signed as a super-utility type, but San Diego had a glaring need in left field. 

Ten days into the season, Profar has given the Padres precisely what they were searching for all along. He went deep again on Saturday in a 5-2 loss to Atlanta and has now accounted for three of the team’s eight home runs this season. 

And, well, that’s sort of the problem. Profar’s success was supposed to be ancillary. He wasn’t supposed to be carrying this Padres offense. But right now, the lack of thump elsewhere is becoming a real concern.

“A lot of people are still searching in the lineup,” Profar said. “I think the more we play, the better we’re going to get. We’ve got some good guys in this lineup. We just need to get it going and do it together.”

Designated hitter Luke Voit, acquired for that very purpose, is off to a slow start. He struck out three times on Saturday afternoon, and although he’s already walked eight times, he is just 6-for-34 on the young season. 

In fact, Voit, Jake Cronenworth, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers are all searching for their first home run. Hosmer has been outstanding at the plate, even without a long ball. Cronenworth and Voit, meanwhile, have at least done their part, OBP-wise. Myers has missed a couple games due to injury. But the lack of offensive firepower — exacerbated by Fernando Tatis Jr.’s injury — caught up to the Padres this weekend, as they fell to .500 with a second consecutive loss.

Trent Grisham, at least, tallied his first dinger – an opposite-field blast against Braves reliever Will Smith in the eighth inning. Grisham said he sees a similar breakout on the way for the rest of the Padres’ major offensive weapons. 

“Everybody knows we have the talent,” said Grisham. “It’s just about going out and grinding out those at-bats, coming together.” 

Despite the homer — impressive in its own right off a tough lefty reliever — Grisham’s most dazzling contribution on Saturday came with his glove. In the top of the second inning, he made a brilliant leaping catch at the wall, taking away a home run from Brewers catcher Manny Piña.

“I knew it was hit well, and I just started running,” Grisham said. “That second peek, I knew I had a chance. It was all about negotiating the wall. I got into a bad habit of kind of jumping into the wall or worrying about the wall. But I did a good job of just staying focused on the wall and high-pointed it as best as I could.” 

Funny Grisham should say that. He’s been outstanding defensively since arriving in San Diego, particularly during his Gold Glove Award-winning 2020 campaign. But if there’s one area of Grisham’s game that could use some improvement, it’s his wall work. On Saturday, he passed his first test with flying colors. 

“That was freaking awesome,” said right-hander Nick Martinez, who was on the mound at the time. “Robbed one and hit one. That’s a heck of a day for him. … Heck of a catch. He’s a great athlete, obviously. He’s got one of them gold ones.”

Martinez’s second start as a Padre wasn’t quite at the level of his first. He allowed four runs on seven hits over five innings. In his third trip through the order, the Braves started to square him up. Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna both hit solo homers in the top of the fifth, giving Atlanta a three-run lead. 

The Padres’ bats, meanwhile, stayed quiet until Grisham’s homer in the eighth. After they scored 12 runs in the home opener on Thursday night, the Padres have scored two runs in each of the past two games. 

“We had a few balls hit hard,” said manager Bob Melvin. “But we couldn’t string it together. That’s when you start to press a little bit. … Last couple of games, maybe just pressing a little bit to try and do a little bit too much.”