Padres make a flurry of roster moves in latest attempt to save their season

TORONTO — Taylor Kohlwey was at the movies Monday night in Oklahoma City, watching the latest installment of the “Mission: Impossible” series when Triple-A El Paso manager Phillip Wellman summoned him back to the team hotel. There, the outfielder learned he was headed to another country to join a big-league club attempting its own version of a highly difficult, if not impossible, task.

By Tuesday afternoon, Kohlwey had settled into the visiting clubhouse at Rogers Centre amid a flurry of roster moves. The spike in activity was the most obvious sign that the Padres, less than two weeks before the trade deadline, are still trying desperately to resuscitate their season.

“You go with what you think’s the right thing for a while, and at times you have to make some adjustments,” manager Bob Melvin said before a 9-1 win over the Blue Jays. “Today’s one of those days. Three moves in one day is a lot.”

Besides giving Kohlwey his first major-league call-up, the Padres reinstated catcher Luis Campusano from the 60-day injured list and recalled infielder Alfonso Rivas from El Paso. To accommodate the arrivals, they designated infielder Rougned Odor for assignment and optioned catcher Austin Nola and infielder-outfielder Brandon Dixon to El Paso.

How much of an impact the two returnees and the one newcomer will have remains to be seen. None of them appeared in Tuesday night’s rout. Campusano, who is scheduled to start behind the plate Wednesday, could earn regular playing time behind Gary Sánchez, but the paths for Rivas and Kohlwey are less clear. Rivas, 26, is a minor-league signee who has a .247 average and four home runs in parts of three major-league seasons. Kohlwey, 28 and a fellow left-handed hitter is the Padres’ 21st-round pick from the 2016 draft.

The hope is that the reinforcements will provide at least marginal upgrades and more flexibility than the bench trio of Nola, Dixon and Odor, who had combined to hit .184 with eight home runs. The Padres front office, despite long odds of sneaking into the postseason, appears determined to wait a while longer before deciding whether to buy or sell at the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

For now, the preference remains clear.

“I think we’re going to be prepared for every scenario,” president of baseball operations A.J. Preller said before Tuesday’s game. “I think we continue to look at this club as a team that is gonna play better than its record and a team that has a real opportunity to compete and play for the playoffs. This time of year, we’ll look at all different factors. But we’re looking at adding to the club and adding some pieces to get us closer to contention.”

Preller was asked at what point buying would become counterproductive. Tuesday’s win, according to FanGraphs, would give the Padres a 25.8 percent chance of advancing to October. The past few months have exposed the organization’s lack of upper-level depth, the kind of depth that has buoyed more successful teams.

“I think we’ll cross that bridge when it gets to it,” Preller said. “I think we all know there gets to be a point where, you know, you’re going south in the standings and everything like that. But we’ll look at the calendar, we’ll look at where we’re at with how we’re playing, we’ll look at what’s out there if we want to add to the team, what’s out there in terms of possible deals.”

Tuesday’s moves supplied a reminder of the downside of Preller’s aggressive, transaction-heavy approach. Nola, 33, was acquired at the 2020 trade deadline in a six-player deal that long ago turned lopsided in favor of the Mariners. The converted infielder had fallen to new depths this season, slugging .192 and ceding the vast majority of his playing time to Sánchez, a former All-Star who was picked up in May after being discarded by two teams in the span of weeks.

The Padres decided they could no longer afford to have Sánchez catching more than 80 percent of their games, as he had so far in July. They did not designate Nola for assignment because Campusano is returning from thumb surgery and is still unproven as a big-league contributor. So, Nola was optioned for the first time in his career.

“I don’t know that it wouldn’t be good for him to go down there and get some at-bats, because he’s a better player than he’s shown here,” Melvin said. “And the workload’s been pretty extreme for Gary, so Campy’s going to get his share of games, too.”

In the series opener against the Blue Jays, the Padres demonstrated why, on some nights, they do not seem to need all that much help.

For the second time in five games — and after three consecutive losses — the offense swatted four home runs. Toronto starter Alek Manoah needed 41 pitches to complete the top of the first, and another 51 pitches before he was pulled after only three innings of work.

Padres starter Joe Musgrove tweaked his left adductor early in his outing but still managed to complete six innings of one-run baseball on a season-high 109 pitches.

Rookie sidearmer Alek Jacob, making his second big-league appearance, threw two innings of scoreless relief.

Musgrove, afterward, downplayed the severity of his injury. He had in-game conversations with both Melvin and pitching coach Ruben Niebla about staying on the mound.

“I don’t think it’s going to limit anything,” said Musgrove, who expected to make his next start in turn.

It was the kind of performance by a clubhouse leader with a keen awareness of the moment. The Padres need to go 9-3 to merely climb above .500 by the trade deadline.

“I feel like, whether we buy or sell, we’re a really good team regardless,” Musgrove said. “There are certain guys that they’re not gonna sell off. And even if we do sell off, you know, the Blakes (Snell), the (Josh) Haders, that are going to be available at the end of the year, we have a good team in here without those guys. Obviously, we’re not the same team without them, but we do have a good team. So I feel like that’s not as much of a concern and we’re not really thinking about that. We’re thinking about winning games one at a time and just putting as many as we can get in a row.”

The Padres, to date, have yet to win more than three games in a row. They have outscored their opponents this season by 44 runs, but much of that total has come in blowouts.

“We just got to be consistent,” said Soto, who hit one of the team’s four home runs Tuesday. “It’s been like that the whole year. We have games like this, and then we come back and we don’t do anything. We just got to keep the same pace every day.”

“Again, we have games like this. That’s why we have the run differential that we do,” Melvin said. “It’s the close ones that are going to tell us where we’re going to end up going.”

Wednesday, the Padres’ ability to sustain something will again be tested. So will their depth. Campusano will be in the starting lineup, catching Yu Darvish in a game for the first time.

(Photo of Joe Musgrove, who threw a season-high 109 pitches in the win against the Blue Jays: John E. Sokolowski / USA Today)

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