6:06 pm: The Padres officially announced Avila’s promotion. Catcher Austin Nola was transferred to the 60-day injured list to open 40-man roster space. Nola underwent season-ending thumb surgery last week.
11:14 am: The Padres will select the contract of right-hander Pedro Avila and give him the start in tonight’s game, reports Daniel Alvarez Montes of El Extra Base (Twitter link). They’ll need to make a corresponding 40-man roster move.
Avila, 24, will be returning to the big leagues for his second stint. He first debuted as a 22-year-old back in 2019, making an April spot start in which he allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings. San Diego optioned him back to Triple-A El Paso the next day, and he’d continue to pitch there until sustaining an elbow injury that eventually led to Tommy John surgery. The Padres removed him from the 40-man roster that winter as they made a series of transactions in advance of the Rule 5 Draft, but they re-signed Avila to a new minor league pact the day after he elected free agency.
Avila wasn’t in the Padres’ player pool during last year’s shortened season, but he’s returned to the mound in 2021 and split the season between Double-A and Triple-A. In a combined 74 2/3 frames, Avila has worked to a 4.22 ERA with a solid 25.1 percent strikeout rate but a lofty 11 percent walk rate.
San Diego’s rotation has been decimated by injury in 2021. Joe Musgrove and Vince Velasquez — the latter of whom was signed after being released by the Phillies — are the only healthy starters on the active roster at the moment (with Dinelson Lamet currently working out of the bullpen). Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, Chris Paddack and Adrian Morejon are all on the injured list. Top prospect Ryan Weathers, meanwhile, is down in Triple-A after struggling badly following an impressive two-month stretch to begin his MLB career.
All of that will lead to a late cup of coffee for Avila, who could function as a depth option for the Padres next year if he sticks on the 40-man roster all winter. Avila still has a pair of minor league option years remaining, which is critical for him given the lack of an obvious path to a rotation spot next season. Darvish, Snell, Musgrove, Lamet, Paddack, Morejon and Mike Clevinger are all either signed or under team control in 2022 and figure to be in the mix for rotation innings. Alternatively, Avila could vie for a spot in next year’s bullpen; he’s split his time in the minors as a starter and reliever in 2021.