Mike Clevinger, MacKenzie Gore stifle Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — Is this really the back end of the Padres’ starting rotation? Because if so, it’s time to put the rest of the league on notice: The bottom of the San Diego rotation looks an awful lot like the top of a few others. Maybe better.

In their 3-0 victory over Philadelphia on Tuesday night, the Padres employed a piggyback in which right-hander Mike Clevinger took the ball first, followed by lefty MacKenzie Gore. There aren’t enough starts to go around anymore. So the Padres found a creative way to keep their electric rookie on the mound on regular rest.

That game plan worked to perfection. Clevinger was brilliant in his third start since his return from Tommy John surgery. He pitched five scoreless, one-hit innings, needing just 75 pitches to do so. It was, by some distance, the best Clevinger has looked since the 2020 surgery, Spring Training included.

Then came Gore, making his first professional relief appearance, Minor Leagues included. He worked three scoreless frames, striking out four on 40 pitches. On the strength of a two-hit night from newcomer Robinson Canó, the Padres got plenty of offense to improve to 3-1 on their road trip and 23-13 overall.

Much has been made lately about the depth of this starting rotation. What, exactly, are the Padres supposed to do with all these pitchers?

Perhaps the answer is: Use them. If you have lots of good pitching, you don’t let it go to waste. And if a disproportionate number of those pitchers are starters, you find a place for them – particularly when the bullpen has proven somewhat leaky of late.

Right now, it just so happens that the Padres have seven healthy and capable starting pitchers. Gore’s move to the bullpen was prompted by Blake Snell’s forthcoming return from the injured list. When Snell finishes his debut outing on Wednesday, it’s entirely possible the Padres could piggyback Nick Martinez, another one of their starting pitching options, on top of him.

There will come a time when that level pitching depth comes in very handy. It was just last season, after all, that the Padres dealt with a slew of injuries and found themselves wholly devoid of rotation options come September.

For now, they’re more than content to flaunt their abundance of riches.

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