11:37AM: The Padres have announced the move, with right-hander James Norwood called up to take Weathers’ spot on the active roster. San Diego acquired Norwood from the Cubs in an April trade, and Norwood is now set to make his first appearance of the 2021 season and make his Padres debut.
10:42AM: The Padres are sending left-hander Ryan Weathers to Triple-A, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee. Weathers will be stretched out again as a regular starter in the minors, though his next call-up to the big leagues could be to fill a hole in either the rotation or the bullpen.
The news represents a change of course from just two days ago, when the Padres initially planned to move Weathers to the bullpen. The rookie had been deployed as both a starter and reliever this season, stepping into the rotation due to injuries to Adrian Morejon and Dinelson Lamet. However, Lamet’s return from the injured list temporarily gave San Diego a six-man rotation, which the team saw as a way of keeping its starters fresh.
Now, as Acee writes, “Lamet appearing to have reached a point where he can effectively go five or more innings allowed the Padres to prioritize Weathers’ development, as they feel their second-ranked pitching prospect is better served for the long term getting consistent work as a starter.”
It creates a bit of an interesting present vs. future situation for the Padres front office. While nothing would stop the team from quickly calling Weathers back up to the active roster if necessary, the argument could be made that Weathers is most useful right now as a reliever in the majors, given how San Diego’s bullpen has been shaky over the last month. The leaky relief corps has been one of the reasons the Padres are only 4-12 in their last 16 games, and the team now sits five games out of first place in the NL West.
With the Giants and Dodgers not showing any signs of slowing down, it leaves the Padres with little margin for error for reaching the postseason, so having Weathers on hand to secure even one or two extra wins could make a huge difference in what might be a tight NL wild card race. Weathers is still only 21 years old, so it wouldn’t be difficult for the team to stretch him out next spring with an eye towards resuming his career path as a starting pitcher.
That said, being a starter could also ultimately be how Weathers best contributes to the 2021 team, in the event of another rotation injury. Having Weathers ready to go at Triple-A could be a necessity for the Padres, given their lack of healthy and experienced starting depth in the minors. Though Weathers has all of 47 1/3 MLB innings to his name, that still makes him the Padres’ top “sixth starter” candidate waiting in the wings.