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Luis Arraez makes an immediate impression with Padres’ first four-hit debut

PHOENIX – Less than two hours before Luis Arraez stepped into the left-handed batter’s box Saturday at Chase Field, San Diego Padres president of baseball operations AJ Preller sat in the visitors’ dugout and described the simple vision that had forced him to make an unusually timed hit to make. trade.

“From an offensive standpoint,” Preller said, “you want to be able to put pressure on the other team.”

At 5:10 p.m., Arraez began an exercise with immediate satisfaction.

The two-time All-Star and defending National League champion connected on the second pitch of his first plate appearance, hitting a double down the right field line. He ended his next at bat by carving a line drive to the opposite field. He went that way again in his third meeting with Brandon Pfaadt, throwing a changeup out of the zone and throwing another single to left. Then, as if he hadn’t already made enough of an impression, Arraez threw a third single to right-center to open the top of the seventh.

It was around that time that the Arizona Diamondbacks decisively succumbed to all that pressure. The Padres scored eight runs in that inning and went on to win their fourth straight game, 13-1. Arraez, who was acquired hours earlier from the Miami Marlins, went 4-for-6 with two runs, an RBI and two at-bats in the top of the seventh inning. From their dugout and then in their clubhouse, his new teammates marveled at his impact.

“He inspired all of us, the way he hit,” left fielder Jurickson Profar said.

“I absolutely love him,” right-hander Michael King said. “It’s like a spark plug.”

“This is my first day and I already love this team,” Arraez said. “I hope we keep playing like this and then stick together, man. We are family and I just want to be here and do my little things.”

For Arraez, Saturday was a striking example of his ability to stack small contributions in a significant way. His Padres debut marked both the first four-hit introduction in franchise history and Arraez’s twelfth four-hit game since the start of the 2022 season. No Major Leaguer has had more four-hit games in that span. San Diego had 23 four-hit games to its name as a team before Preller pulled off a rare blockbuster performance in May.

The CEO’s motivations now appear clear. The Padres relinquished their top hitter, Juan Soto, in December to cut costs and acquire needed pitching depth. They traded for Dylan Cease in March in an attempt to replace departed Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell. Around the same time they were in discussions with a club that was about to be rebuilt. Marlins left-hander Jesús Luzardo had become less of a target after Cease’s arrival. Miami’s lefty opening man, meanwhile, still qualified as a tantalizing possibility.

“We knew we had to find other ways to find offense,” Preller said. “A left-handed bat was something we prioritized. And I think ultimately we can wait, or we can go out and try to get one of the better left-handed bats that we thought was probably going to be available, and do it now and go get Luis Arraez for 140 games, instead of somebody else to buy for 60 games.”

The Padres didn’t wait long. A 9-24 start accelerated the Marlins’ decision to dismantle their roster. Talks between the two teams have increased in recent weeks, according to Preller. A deal was struck Friday, with Miami agreeing to pay Arraez’s $10.6 million salary up to the major league minimum. In the process of landing a unique talent, the Padres amassed significant prospect capital. She too a little reduced their payroll and their luxury tax figure.

“I think this was one where it went both ways, where we were able to add some elite talent, we were able to do it at a price that ultimately suits us this year, and hopefully it allows us to do some other things down the road to do as necessary,” Preller said.

Saturday, at least for a night, the team’s needs felt less pronounced. The Padres scored 18 hits, matching the season high they first reached during their March 21 Swat-fest in Seoul, South Korea. Profar, their hottest hitter, moved from the leadoff spot to the five-hole and delivered three hits, including a two-run home run. Struggling second baseman Xander Bogaerts started in the six-hole for the first time since 2017 and doubled during an offensive parade in the seventh inning. Manny Machado drove in three runs, Ha-Seong Kim homered and Jake Cronenworth and Jackson Merrill each contributed two hits. On defense, Fernando Tatis Jr. delivered. a stunning throw from right field to support King’s scoreless performance.

For San Diego, it was the kind of all-around effort that created some welcome distance from a recent five-game losing streak. The Padres (18-18) have rebounded in large part thanks to their starting rotation’s 1.14 ERA over the past four games. But as they clinched a second consecutive series, the addition of a 6-foot-4 hitter generated a palpable sense of momentum.

“Obviously I’ve seen him before in the league, but it’s pretty special to see him up close,” manager Mike Shildt said of Arraez. “Great to have him on our side. Clearly a great approach. And I understand why he is rightly nicknamed ‘The Sprinkler’. I mean, you’re talking about just an artist who can hit the ball all over the field and hit it where it’s thrown. That was a feast for the eyes. What a talent.”

Arraez, who had been staying in San Francisco during a road trip with the Marlins, landed in Phoenix on Saturday around 2:30 p.m. He arrived at the visitors clubhouse at Chase Field around 3:30 p.m. and soon met up with Shildt and Preller. About an hour later, he made his Padres debut as the team’s leadoff and designated hitter. Two pitches later he was already 1-for-1.

After delivering three more hits in his next three at-bats, and after the Padres had stormed to a victory, he described being low on sleep and high on adrenaline.

“It changes a lot,” Arraez said. “I mean, I lose a lot in Miami. And I miss my ex-teammates and the coaching staff there; everyone knows that. But thanks to God I am here now and now I am on a winning team. I know it’s hard when you go to the stadium and play and then lose the game. So thank God for changing my life now. And then I’m here to prepare my mind and … win a lot of games.”

The Padres know to expect daily energy from Arraez, who wasted no time in bringing a signature celebration to his new club: After each of his three singles, Arraez enthusiastically punched the chest of first base coach David Macias. The team expects it will continue to use Arraez as a designated hitter before deploying him at second and first base. There will be discussions, Preller said, about third base and left field, two other positions Arraez has played in the past.

“I think now we have an opportunity to rest a few guys if they need a day,” Preller added. “It will be up to Mike and his staff what that lineup ultimately looks like, but even if we get someone who is a regular in our lineup, we need to have a very competitive team and (be able to) give someone a day off to give.”

Despite his versatility, Arraez may not be an ideal fit on an infielder-laden roster. Never known for his defense, he entered the Majors last on Saturday with outs above average. A slow start on offense had contributed to his contributions being limited to exactly zero FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement this season.

But all season, the Padres had been looking for a deeper lineup and more consistency on the left side. It can be difficult to quantify the influence of one of the sport’s most important leadoff men and threats on the foundation. Arraez’s wizardry with a bat has drawn comparisons to the greatest Padre of all time, and it’s a testament to the 27-year-old that such praise doesn’t feel like a stretch.

“It’s hard to have a compliment for Tony Gwynn,” said Shildt, “but if there is one in our modern game, we have him on our team now and that just feels good, doesn’t it?”

On Saturday, at least for a night, it felt that way. Arraez had three hits against the first six pitches he saw. Padres players crowded the dugout’s top rail, exchanging cheerful gestures with the newcomer. The offense gave King an early lead, adding in the fourth and flattening the Diamondbacks’ pitching staff three innings later. The effect of Arraez’s unmistakable hitting style already seemed to be wearing off.

“I really think it continues to solidify the approach of this offense and (what) Victor Rodriguez, our hitting coach, has established,” Shildt said. “We played the game, played situational baseball. But now we see a man who takes that even to the next level and can model and demonstrate that. It will only continue to fuel our entire lineup.”

After the game, one of Arraez’s new teammates gave a strong testimonial. Profar had witnessed rare bat-to-ball skills in the top of the fourth inning, when Arraez threw his barrel on an outside pitch for a two-out, runscoring single. Three innings later, as the Padres were parading around the bases, the left fielder spotted a slider on the outside edge of the plate.

“He inspired me and got the hits he got,” Profar said. “On that home run I made it 3-2. I just wanted to throw a single like he did, and I hit him pretty good.

(Photo of Luis Arraez’s reaction after his first-inning double Saturday against the Diamondbacks: Norm Hall / Getty Images)