SAN DIEGO -- Having the designated hitter for a season in the National League is as much about options as it is about offense.
More than anything, it is a matter of health.
With just three weeks of preseason summer camp after 31/2 months in which the MLB season was suspended, it was deemed to be too risky to pitchers' health to add hitting and running the bases to their ramped-up responsibilities. So among the myriad one-year-only rule changes was the institution of the universal DH.
"I was concerned about the pitchers starting up," Padres manager Jayce Tingler said. "I certainly think of guys like (Dinelson) Lamet or (Garrett) Richards coming off Tommy John in the prior years and them not only having to prepare to be a starting pitcher and build up, but I was a little bit concerned about those guys swinging a bat. I know the work those guys put in on their own rehab. Just the thought of them running down the line or pulling an oblique while they are hitting. ... "
Now, the Padres will be able to consider many others whose job it actually is to hit when filling out their lineup card each day.
In a season in which slumps can be tolerated far less and a hot hand almost absolutely must be ridden, in that each game is equivalent to 2.7 games in a regular 162-game season, Tingler will have a number of ways to utilize the designated hitter.
On most days, at least at the outset, he will likely decide on a primary DH such as Josh Naylor, Wil Myers or Ty France, depending on who is swinging the bat best come July 24.
While the 60-game season means many players can be expected to play every day, that doesn't necessarily mean they will do so in the field. Position players will only have had a short time and just three preseason games to get their legs in game shape. It is possible -- even likely -- that Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Tommy Pham won't wear a glove some days.
"I think that's where the DH comes into play," Tingler said. "Maybe it's a bat you want in there 58 or 59 games. (The DH means) being able to take a guy and rest his legs and still get four or five at-bats."
Tingler could also choose to stick with a player who is hot at the plate. That might mean Greg Garcia as DH on a day he's not at second base because Jurickson Profar is also hitting well. It could mean Francisco Mejia serving as DH for a game Austin Hedges is behind the plate.