Dinelson Lamet’s breakout season with San Diego ended just short of the Padres’ first playoff appearance in 14 seasons.
That turned out to be a good thing.
The big right-hander, who finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2020, said Friday that he thinks he narrowly avoided another Tommy John surgery when he agreed with team doctors to shut down his season.
Lamet underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy in the offseason and, coupled with rest, was able to bounce back.
“I took my time, let everything take its course and I think everything has progressed as we wanted it to,” he said through an interpreter after throwing a bullpen session in Peoria, Arizona. “I feel like I’m 100% myself.”
While the Padres will closely monitor his progress, particularly when he’s relying on his slider, Lamet’s status is good news to a team that ran out of starting pitching in the playoffs and lost newcomer Mike Clevinger to Tommy John surgery in mid-November.
Lamet and Clevinger both came out of their final regular-season starts. Lamet missed both a wild-card series against St. Louis and the Padres’ three-game sweep at the hands of the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Division Series.
Clevinger missed the wild-card round and tried to pitch in the NLDS, but came out in the second inning of the opener after his velocity dipped dramatically.
While the Padres initially said Lamet had biceps tightness, there seemed to be some mystery surrounding the injury.
Lamet, 28, sidestepped a question about the precise diagnosis of his injury.
“I think it really just came down to rest,” he said. “My arm told me I needed to stop, I needed to shut down before anything got worse. I think that was the diagnosis.
“Hearing from doctors, it was, if you keep trying to push through something when your arm is telling you to stop, you can end up doing damage to your ligament and you want to avoid a Tommy John surgery,” he said.
Late in spring training in 2018, Lamet was named to the opening day roster but injured his elbow later that day. He had Tommy John surgery and missed that season.
He went 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA in 12 starts in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, with 93 strikeouts and just 20 walks.
The Padres rebuilt their rotation when general manager A.J. Preller pulled off three blockbuster deals after Christmas. Preller acquired Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays, Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs and San Diego native Joe Musgrove from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I feel privileged, honestly, that we’re able to roll out a rotation like this,” Lamet said. “I’m working as if I’m not on the team. I’m trying to take every day as a new day and a day that I need to work and prove myself. I feel privileged to be part of it but I’m not taking anything for granted.”
NOTES: The Padres say that in accordance with local, state and MLB COVID-19 protocols, Peoria Stadium will operate at 16% capacity, allowing for 1,960 fans. Tickets will be sold in various-sized pods. Fans will be asked to wear masks at all times, other than when eating and drinking; practice social distancing; and limit movement within the ballpark. Autographs will not be permitted.
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