TinCaps vs. West Michigan
Where: Parkview Field
When: 7:05 p.m.
Pitchers: Joey Cantillo (TinCaps) vs. Wilkel Hernandez (Whitecaps)
TV: Xfinity 81
Radio: 1380 AM, 100.9 FM
The TinCaps opened the 2018 season in Eastlake, Ohio, against the Lake County Captains on April 5. Ohio native Nick Margevicius took the mound for Fort Wayne and gave up one hit in 52/3 innings.
Exactly a year later, Margevicius was pitching another opener. This time he was on the mound for the San Diego Padres, taking on the St. Louis Cardinals at their home opener in Busch Stadium. The 22-year-old left-hander proceeded to give up one hit in five innings.
Margevicius, a soft-tossing left-hander who was never among the Padres' top 30 prospects according to MLB.com, has enjoyed a rapid rise through the San Diego organization over the last year. He started the 2019 season on the Padres' roster with just one game above A-ball under his belt and has held his own through four MLB starts. His jump from the TinCaps to the Padres in a single year is a signal to the rest of the organization that the top brass is watching.
Margevicius is just the most glaring example of a trend in the San Diego system: when the Padres feel a player is ready to perform at the MLB level, they're being aggressive with promotions. Players like infielder Fernando Tatis Jr. and pitcher Chris Paddack each jumped to San Diego's opening day roster in 2019 without playing in Triple-A. That matters to players at lower levels.
“The No. 1 motivator for (the players) is when they see their peers up there and having an impact at the big-league level,” TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras said. “I don't have to do much convincing with this (year's) group. They know where they stand, they know where Tatis and Paddock and Margevicius are in the lineup in our organization.
“Hopefully I don't have to use that as motivation. They'll let their game and practices speak for themselves but it's definitely easier to convey to them when they see their peers making it.”
Margevicius, who was a Midwest League All-Star last season before moving up to High-A Lake Elsinore, has gone 1-2 with a 3.60 ERA in his first four major-league starts. He's striking out close to a batter per inning and, crucially, he isn't walking hardly anyone – just two free passes in 20 innings.
He was told by the Padres' brass that it was his command and work ethic, including in spring training prior to this season, that led them to give him a chance in the San Diego rotation. He didn't know he'd have a shot at reaching the majors at the start of spring training, but never ruled it out and kept working.
“In spring training, I was just like, 'You're in it until you're not,'” Margevicius said. “That's the way I treated it. As long as you're still in camp, you've got a chance. I was in there at the very end and I was hoping.”
Margevicius made his major-league debut March 30 against the San Francisco Giants, less than a year after being assigned to Fort Wayne in April 2018. Ryan Weathers, Margevicius's successor as the TinCaps' opening day starter, was excited to know the organization is watching the lower levels but won't let it derail his preparation.
“Just knowing that they're paying close attention to you, it's really good,” Weathers said. “But you try not to look too far ahead. You try to focus on what's going on right now. If you're worried about the future, you're going to forget about the present and you might not pitch as well, trying to worry about something else.”