Padres see upside in Perdomo amid struggles

Young righty still learning at big league level

Padres see upside in Perdomo amid struggles

SAN DIEGO -- When the Padres watch Luis Perdomo, they see the life on his 97-mph fastball -- the one he used to punch out Mark Reynolds in the first inning Sunday. They see the break on the three straight nasty curveballs he used to whiff Charlie Blackmon in the fifth. And they see the sharp downward movement on the sinker he used to get a pair of ground balls and escape trouble in the third.

Simply put, despite Perdomo's struggles this season -- and they've been abundant at times -- the Padres see him as an integral piece in their future rotation. And because of that, they're willing to tolerate nights like Sunday, when Perdomo, a Rule 5 Draft pick, was roughed up for six runs over 4 1/3 innings in a 10-3 loss to the Rockies.

"This guy's got a chance to be special some day," said skipper Andy Green. "We're enduring some of the tougher outings right now, but I think on the other side of that is going to be something pretty special."

James Shields was slated to start Sunday night, but he was traded to the White Sox one day prior. In return for Shields, the Padres received Erik Johnson, but the right-hander had thrown seven innings for Triple-A Charlotte on Thursday and wasn't available.

That left the Padres -- who had taxed their bullpen recently, anyway -- scrambling for a starter. Perdomo, the only reliever who hadn't pitched over the previous three games, got the call.

"There's resiliency in him and character in who he is as a person that makes you think this is going to be good for him in the long run," Green said of Perdomo's first stint in the big leagues. "He's obviously been thrust into a few circumstances that, in an ideal world, he's learning at Double-A right now. He's learning not under the bright lights, in relative anonymity."

Perdomo turned 23 on May 9 and has never pitched at Double-A or Triple-A in his career. He made the jump straight to the Padres as the result of his Rule 5 status, which means he cannot be sent to the Minors.

Otherwise, he'd likely be pitching at Double-A San Antonio. But the Padres do not feel as though 2016 is a wasted season in Perdomo's development. Green firmly believes there's progress Perdomo can make at the big league level, and he thinks it's already taken shape.

Perdomo agrees.

"I definitely feel close," Perdomo said. "And I know I've gotten a lot better."

Perdomo has only appeared in 16 games this season, many of them in mop-up duty. But the Padres have given him several chances to prove himself in high-leverage situations, and he's succeeded in a few -- most notably in April appearances against Arizona and San Francisco. He was also strong over four innings during the Padres' 17-inning loss to the Dodgers last month, before coughing up four runs in his fifth.

Sunday, of course, was not one of those solid appearances in a high-leverage spot. The Padres fell behind right away when Perdomo surrendered a mammoth two-run first-inning homer to Carlos Gonzalez.

"It's just a changeup that stayed middle up," Perdomo said. "The hitters here, they don't miss it. He made the swing."

He kept San Diego in the game until the fifth, when he visibly began to tire and allowed a two-run shot to Nolan Arenado. That was his 77th and final pitch of the night, and he's only thrown more in that emergency relief appearance against LA.

Afterward, Green acknowledged he may have made a mistake leaving Perdomo in the game as long as he did -- a tough call, given that the Padres' bullpen has been taxed the past few days.

Nonetheless, Perdomo views his time at the big league level as a positive, specifically with the veteran leadership he's received from fellow relievers Fernando Rodney and Carlos Villanueva, among others.

"It's been good," Perdomo said. "The guys here, the veterans, have definitely helped me. Whether I play well or I play poorly, they're always in my ear trying to help, saying, 'Keep working hard.'"

If he does, Green and the Padres think they have something special. 

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.