SAN DIEGO — CJ Abrams is back, and the Padres are hopeful the presence of their top prospect could mitigate the effects of losing superstar third baseman Manny Machado to injury.
The Padres promoted Abrams ahead of Monday’s series opener against the D-backs at Petco Park, a day after Machado a sprained left ankle in Colorado. Machado appears to have avoided significant damage to his left leg, and he has not yet landed on the injured list. But an IL stint remains a possibility, and Machado was out of the starting lineup on Monday night.
In the meantime, it’s Abrams who seems likely to assume the bulk of the playing time in Machado’s absence. Abrams was in the lineup batting eighth and playing shortstop, with Ha-Seong Kim sliding from shortstop to third base.
“I’m hoping Machado has a speedy recovery,” Abrams said. “Hopefully he gets back soon.”
Abrams, the No. 6 prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, broke camp with the Padres after Spring Training, despite having never played above Double-A. But he struggled in his first stint in the Majors, hitting just .182/.270/.273 with two doubles and one home run in 20 games before being sent down on May 10.
“It put things in perspective,” Abrams said. “This is the big leagues, a lot of good pitching, they command well, and I kind of got myself out. … It was a little bit nerves, a little bit of everything. It was a learning experience.”
The demotion to Triple-A clearly had the desired effect on Abrams, who found his form and slashed .314/.364/.507 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in his time with the Chihuahuas.
“Playing every day, you kind of get into a rhythm, you’re able to see what’s working and what’s not working,” Abrams said.
To make room for Abrams on the Major League roster, the Padres optioned right-hander Reiss Knehr to Triple-A El Paso.
For now, Machado remains on the roster, as the Padres hope he’ll be available before the end of the minimum 10-day stint he’d have to spend on the injured list. They’re willing to play with a short-handed roster if there’s a possibility they get Machado back, say, a week from now.
If the Padres ultimately decide that Machado needs an IL stint, they could back-date that stint to Monday, provided they make the move before Thursday’s game against the Phillies.