It wasn’t a lingering injury to his left shoulder that caused the Padres to sit Manny Machado for Sunday’s game.
He was held out so there would not eventually be another issue with the shoulder — or hamstring or oblique or groin or anything else the Padres are trying to prevent from sidelining more of their players.
The 162 games Major League Baseball is playing over six months this year is the same as all those season schedules from 1961 through 2019. But this is the first one to come on the heels of playing 60 games the previous season.
It was only one year of a sprint, but it certainly seems to have made the proverbial marathon seem like an ultramarathon where runners trek across Death Valley.
“It is crazy to think we’ve still got, especially after last year, two-thirds of the way to go,” said Padres manager Jayce Tingler, whose team is playing its major league-high 62nd game Monday night.
Even having at least one (and more often at least two) key players on the injured list for four weeks running has not prevented the Padres from frequently giving their regulars a day off.
Wil Myers, who said last week that his knee tendinitis was no longer an issue, nonetheless was not in Monday’s starting lineup. It was his second time in six games not starting, though he did enter the June 2 game in the fifth inning.
Machado, who has started more games (900) than any other major leaguer since 2015, including all 60 of the Padres’ games in 2020, was out of the starting lineup Sunday for the second time in eight days. He is so valuable to them that last month the Padres did not start him for seven games to rest his shoulder and did not put him on the injured list, meaning they sacrificed a bench spot to give him rest but also not have him inactive for a full 10 days.
By the Padres’ standard of usage this season, Machado has been a workhorse. He started the first 18 games of the season and 23 of the Padres’ first 24 games (in a 25-day span). Among Padres players, only second baseman Jake Cronenworth, with 58, has started more games than Machado’s 50.
First baseman Eric Hosmer, who started the second-most games in the majors from 2015-19, was held out of this season’s third game and has started more than eight days in a row just once. His maximum this season is 11 straight days.
Even 22-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who has missed 17 games during two IL stints, has played just one stretch longer than six days in a row.
“We’re going to have some guys get some days down,” Tingler said Sunday for what may have been the 20th time this season.
All season, even as the bullpen has been pressed into extra duty, Tingler and the pitching coaches have kept relief pitchers in specific roles and given ample rest whenever even remotely possible. Multiple relievers have gone through a stretch of a week or more where they did not pitch more than once.
The team has also temporarily gone to a six-man rotation to give its starting pitchers more rest.
Additionally, the Padres have been especially cautious with what might have in previous seasons been considered minor aches to be played through. And players with actual injuries are being brought back slowly.
Trent Grisham has been working on the field since he went on the injured list May 24 with a bruised heel, and multiple people in the organization have said he would probably be nursed through this injury while staying in the lineup later in the season. But the Padres want to wait until he is 100 percent before having him play again.
A perusal of MLB transactions pages indicates why the Padres are being careful.
Just in the first six days of June, 35 players were placed on the 10-day injured list. That is 13 more than in the same period in 2019, 17 more than in ’18 and 14 more than in ‘17.
According to an article in USA Today last week, citing former Giants and Dodgers athletic trainer Stan Conte, who now consults for MLB teams and the league, 104 soft tissue injuries led to players being placed on the IL in April and May. That was a 160 percent increase over the first two months of the 2019 season. There were similar increases in hamstring injuries (193 percent) and oblique strains or tears (83 percent). There were also 16 groin injuries that required IL stints, compared with two in the first two months of ’19.
“You look around the league, it feels like — and the number and research has supported it — guys around the league are dropping left and right,” Tingler said.
The Padres not the only ones attacking this season differently, essentially rewriting the manual on how to keep players fresh and healthy.
The Dodgers, for instance, have regularly rested Mookie Betts and Justin Turner. Sometimes it is has been for what is characterized as a relatively minor malady. Other times, it was simply for their veterans to get off their feet.
“Early on I was resistant to taking days off,” Betts told reporters recently. “But a lot has changed since I first came up, and there’s a lot of data that proves that some days off definitely helps on the back end.”
The Padres are among the teams counting on it.