Lamet's recipe for success? Strike one

Prospect trusts arsenal of pitches, stays aggressive

Lamet's recipe for success? Strike one

SAN DIEGO -- Dinelson Lamet owns a 98-mph fastball, a slider with a sharp bite and a changeup that falls off the table.

With an arsenal like that, the rookie right-hander has every right to attack the strike zone -- even when he's facing the defending champs.

Making his Petco Park debut, Lamet, the Padres' No. 10 prospect, struck out eight Cubs over five innings in a 6-2 victory Tuesday night. He tied Bob Shirley for the most strikeouts by a San Diego pitcher in the first two outings of his career with 16. Lamet also became the first big leaguer to debut with consecutive eight-strikeout starts since Masahiro Tanaka did so for the Yankees in 2014.

Lamet's recipe? Strike one.

"A big mistake you can make is not really trusting your pitch," Lamet said. "It ends up being a ball if you're not being aggressive with it. If you're scared of that, it's not going to go well. For me, I always try to be aggressive and just attack in the zone."

Between the second and fourth innings, Lamet threw 12 consecutive first-pitch strikes to Cubs hitters.

"I've seen him be really, really good, and I've seen him struggle," said Padres right fielder Hunter Renfroe, who played with Lamet at Triple-A last season. "The times he was bad, he wasn't throwing many strikes, and people were getting their 'A' swing off on a 3-1 pitch or a 2-0 [pitch]. He's got really, really good stuff. When he throws strikes, he has been phenomenal -- in Triple-A and now here."

Lamet made two appearances for the Padres in Spring Training, walking five hitters over one inning. Three months later, he seems like a different pitcher entirely.

The 24-year-old right-hander had one walk Tuesday, coming after an 11-pitch battle with Ben Zobrist. Lamet surrendered runs on a bad-bounce chopper in the second and a Kyle Schwarber homer in the fifth.

"I felt a lot more confident knowing that once I had a strike on those guys, that I could go after them with my offspeed pitches and breaking pitches," Lamet said.

The biggest difference for Lamet this season has been the inclusion of a changeup. He began throwing the pitch consistently after being sent to the Minors during Spring Training.

It's become a go-to out pitch for Lamet, who was thought of primarily as two-pitch pitcher when the year began.

"It was outstanding," said catcher Austin Hedges. "I didn't know it was that good. It wasn't that good last year. ... It's a really good pitch for him to be able to get a swing and a miss or a ground ball at any time."

Lamet joined the rotation last week after right-hander Jered Weaver was placed on the disabled list with hip inflammation. Lamet's biggest advantage over the velocity-deprived veteran: margin for error.

In that regard, the Padres aren't asking Lamet to hit spots. They don't want him nibbling around the strike zone. They're fine if, say, once in a while a hitter like Schwarber turns around an 0-2 fastball and puts it in the right-field seats.

"His stuff is good enough to win in the strike zone, so we ask him to attack the plate," said Padres manager Andy Green. "The changeup's real and the slider is real. Those are real weapons. That's three above-average Major League pitches, and that's a really exciting thing to see out of a young guy."

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.