Dylan Cease’s “Nasty” Stuff is Paying Early Dividends for San Diego Padres

Through his first six starts with the San Diego Padres, Dylan Cease is showing exactly why he was coveted by so many teams.

Dylan Cease #84 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the top of the first inning during the exhibition game between San Diego Padres and LG Twins at Gocheok Sky Dome.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 18: Dylan Cease #84 of the San Diego Padres pitches in the top of the first inning during the exhibition game between San Diego Padres and LG Twins at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 18, 2024 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images)

San Diego Padres manager Mike Shildt said it didn’t take long after the Padres acquired starting pitcher Dylan Cease to know what he could mean for the franchise’s rotation.

“I didn’t have a lot of history with him. But I can tell you, when we saw him throw in Korea, in an exhibition game, a day after a long flight, we went ‘Well, that’s special,'” Shildt recently recalled about his first moments with Cease in brown and gold. “You know, now I understood what everybody talks about.

“We have seen him in the past. He’s always been good, but it’s like, ‘Wow,’ and you start to appreciate him the more we are around him and get him out there. He has electric stuff.”

Yes, that deal for Cease that cost the Padres three top 10 prospects and right-hander Steven Wilson was pricey for San Diego. However, in the early returns, Cease has been well worth the price paid.

Ad – content continues below

Through his first six starts of 2024, Cease has turned in a 2.78 ERA/2.82 FIP/0.869 WHIP over 35.2 innings. Mixed into those numbers is the fact that the 28-year-old right-hander is also allowing a league-low 4.3 hits per nine innings and you can see just how special Cease has been in his initial outings with the Padres.

Cease has been especially tough on right-handers in 2024, holding them to a combined 6-for-67 at the plate, with only two of those hits going for extra bases.

“I think I’m just difficult on righties. I have multiple breaking pitches, fastball ride, and then when I’m commanding it, I just think I give them a tough look,” Cease said. “I don’t want to jinx myself, but that (domination) will probably end at some point, but I’m very pleased with where things are right now.”

Of course, as the numbers show, Cease has been pretty hard on left-handed batters as well this season.

“I think a lot of it is knowing the hitters’ weaknesses and maybe what I’m commanding better that day. And the rest is just mixing and giving different looks,” Cease told me about the start to his season after he held the Colorado Rockies to one run and one hit over 7.0 innings while striking out eight and not issuing a walk.

And he did this at Coors Field, which has played with the psyche of opposing pitchers since it opened in 1995.

Ad – content continues below

“I think after maybe my pregame ‘pen, I had thrown some offspeed pitches in spots I wasn’t super thrilled with and I really just had to commit to kind of change my sights and (San Diego pitching coach) Ruben (Niebla) helped me a lot with that,” Cease said of his success in Denver.

“Once I committed to it, I got in a rhythm.”

Finding that rhythm is important to Cease, on the mound and away from it as well. He has long been a believer in the power of meditation and yoga and the physical and mental benefits that can occur.

I asked Cease if that ability to center himself became especially useful during what was a wild few days in March when he was traded from the Chicago White Sox to the Padres and then immediately had to hop on a flight to join his new team in Seoul as they prepared to open the season in Korea against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It’s definitely something that’s important to me,” Cease said of his mindfulness activities. “I think it just kind of helps me stay on track and, if anything, helps me manage myself.”

After a crazy beginning to the Padres chapter of his MLB career, Cease has certainly settled in with the team, telling me he has found fellow veteran pitchers Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove as solid sounding boards in the clubhouse.

Ad – content continues below

“It’s inevitable that you’re going to talk to everybody about kind of what’s working for them, what they’re feeling and what they’re seeing,” Cease said. “Pitching can be so subjective, so it’s always interesting to hear what a certain guy is feeling.”

Those conversations are paying off as new teammates (and a new manager) are learning not only about Cease’s special gifts on the mound, but also what he can do with them as the Padres look to their rotation as a key for a 2024 postseason push.

“The slider is just really nasty,” Shildt said. “Sometimes you take a step back and just appreciate greatness. He will throw some sliders and it’s just like, ‘Whoa,’ so that doesn’t necessarily surprise me with that outlier of a pitch any more.”

Cease, however, just sees it as another day on the mound and another chance to get better at his craft.

“I’m just trying to execute pitches,” Cease shrugged. “But better sequences can lead to better results without a doubt.”