EL PASO, Texas —In 2017, after eight starts with the Triple-A Chihuahuas, the Padres promoted Dinelson Lamet to the big league. He and his 95-plus mph fastball excited Padres fans tired of seeing what had been a growing line of place-holders and retreads.
In 21 big league starts that year, Lamet posted a 4.57 ERA with 139 strikeouts in 114.1 innings against 54 walks and 88 hits. Like most rookie pitchers, he had his ups and downs, but a few things stood out about the then-24-year-old as held the opposition to a .210 batting average in his rookie year: a big fastball and a devastating slider that we saw in the minor leagues.
The big question was if he could develop an effective changeup as a third pitch. Many believed it would emerge in his second year in the big leagues.
However, just before the 2018 season, Lamet underwent Tommy John surgery knocking him out for a full year. Now, Lamet is on the verge of returning to the big leagues, with a changeup and curve to pair with a fastball that still arrives at the plate in a hurry.
So far, he’s thrown two rehab starts with the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm and three with the Chihuahuas, where we caught his last minor league appearance.
“I see him doing whatever he wants, either starting or relieving,” said Triple-A manager Edwin Rodriguez. “He’s strong, has great stuff and he can go six or seven innings.”
We caught up with Lamet and talked about the process of coming back.
MadFriars: How did being away from baseball improve your development?
Dinelson Lamet: From the beginning, I was aware that I was going to lose a whole year, so I knew that I had to continue to prepare myself as much as I possibly could.
So, it was not time to stop working.
You have always had a good fastball. How long did it take the velocity to come back and the command?
Dinelson Lamet: At the beginning, it was strange facing hitters because I had been away for so long. Velocity-wise it came back pretty quickly, and then the command.
With the Padres you were mostly a fastball-slider. Bronswell Patrick [the El Paso Chihuahuas pitching coach] said that you now have a fastball, slider, and curveball. Why the change?
Dinelson Lamet: [laughs] Bronswell is wrong, I will have to correct him on that. I still have the changeup and I added a curveball. The curveball will help me with lefties and that is why I am working with it.
I was impressed in your last outing, after you gave up the solo home run you came back with three straight offspeed pitches. What were they?
Dinelson Lamet: I threw a pair of curves, then I came back with a slider to finish it off.
Now that you’ve had a year of rehab, how much do you weigh?
Dinelson Lamet: I am 6-foot-4 and I weigh 231-pounds.
How tough is it for you to throw the curve and the slider and how do you keep them from blending?
Dinelson Lamet: I have the same grip, the only thing I really change is the angle of my arm.
Going forward do you see yourself more as a starter or a reliever?
Dinelson Lamet: I always work hard to prepare myself for whatever role. Right now I am a starter but if the club thinks I can help them the most in the bullpen – that is where I will go.