Highly touted San Diego Padres prospect Cesar Vargas made his Major League debut on Saturday at Petco Park. Vargas was spectacular in five strong innings of work after being recalled to replace injured starter Robbie Erlin, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list due to an elbow strain.
He had impressed the Padres with three scoreless innings in a spring-training exhibition in Mexico City, then opened the season with the Double-A San Antonio Missions, where he turned in a pair of dominant outings, reaffirming the organization’s decision to convert him back to a starter.
The big, strong right-hander kept the St. Louis Cardinals off balance and struck out Kolten Wong the first Major League hitter he faced after tossing three consecutive balls to open the game.
Vargas allowed one run on five hits in his Major League debut. Vargas, who was recalled from Double-A San Antonio on Friday, struck out three and walked three but didn’t factor into the eventual outcome.
The Padres bullpen imploded in allowing 10 runs over the last four innings as San Diego fell 11-2.
With a cutter that hovered close to 90 mph and a curve ball that serves as his primary off-speed pitch, Vargas proved to be a difficult riddle for Cardinal batters to solve to on Saturday. Though he nibbled at the edges in throwing just 48 of 88 pitches for strikes, he limited hard contact.
Vargas exited to a huge ovation from the appreciative crowd after surrendering a solo home run to Stephen Piscotty and walking Matt Holliday with score tied 1-1 but could possibly make at least one more start in a Padres uniform.
“I thought he was really good,” San Diego manager Andy Green said. “I thought as the game went on, he got better and better. We couldn’t ask for more from him. He made a mistake on a breaking ball to Piscotty that really cost him, but then we gave him one more batter.”
Prior to the home run in the sixth, Vargas only faced one significant scoring threat, when former Padre Jedd Gyorko and Aledmys Diaz had singled to put runners at the corners with two outs. But Vargas recovered to strike out Michael Wacha to preserve San Diego’s 1-0 lead at the time.
Vargas is still among the Texas League leaders in strikeouts and earned run average for the Missions.
By Mark Caul