Padres considering new way to use SP depth

Piggybacking starters among unique ideas team could try in 2017

Padres considering new way to use SP depth

PHOENIX -- The Padres are already tinkering with a few outside-the-box ideas to try this season.

They entered camp with Christian Bethancourt as a pitcher/catcher/outfielder hybrid. They're going to try putting their two best defensive outfielders in the corners during Cactus League play.

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And they could be on the verge of a new experiment as well.

Here are the basics: The Padres have about 11 pitchers competing for rotation spots in camp. A handful of them have experience in the bullpen as well.

During the season, the Padres might plan to go through an opposing lineup approximately once with a certain starting pitcher. Then they might replace him with another starter -- preferably of a different handedness -- in the early innings.

The goal is simple: to quickly negate any matchup advantages in the opposing lineup, or at least force the opposing manager to go to his bench earlier than usual.

Padres skipper Andy Green didn't explicitly say that he's going to do so. But he noted that the Padres are open to the idea.

"It's well within intelligent thinking to say, you know what, let's flip this and take advantage of it," Green said. "Let's force them to make a decision. At least it's something else they've got to think about."

Green on competition, rotation

The concept certainly fits within the constructs of the Padres' roster. It's very possible they'll carry seven pitchers who are capable of starting, with two serving in the bullpen. Green mentioned lefty Christian Friedrich and righty Paul Clemens as an example of two starter/reliever types capable of piggybacking because of their different styles. Both pitchers looked sharp at times last season but were susceptible to big innings later in their starts.

Of course, there are drawbacks.

"What you've got to watch, too, is how many innings we have to eat during a season," Green said. "If you start putting that much on your bullpen, now you're really starting to crush your bullpen arms and have to use your high-leverage arms in bad situations sometimes. It hurts the depth very, very quickly."

It's unclear how extensively -- if at all -- the Padres would utilize such a strategy this year. For now, it's mostly conjecture -- but still worth noting because Green didn't shy away from the topic.

So why haven't other teams attempted it?

"My perspective would be it's a little bit more counter-cultural than anything else," Green said. "It hasn't really been done before. But matchups are becoming more and more prevalent."

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.