SAN DIEGO — When the Padres traded right-handed reliever Miles Mikolas to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Nov. 25, 2013, some members of the San Diego family felt a mistake had been made.
Mikolas was 25 at the time and a bit raw, but the Padres loved the ceiling.
In parts of two seasons with the Padres, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Mikolas, who was a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, was 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA in 27 relief appearances.
Mikolas, of course, has matured into a formidable starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals — thanks in large part to a successful, three-season detour to Japan where he posted a 31-13 record with a 2.18 ERA.
Mikolas is 4-0 with the Cardinals this season with a 2.70 ERA in six starts. He has allowed 13 runs (12 earned), 37 hits and two walks with 31 strikeouts in 40 innings.
Thursday night, he returns to Petco Park to face the Padres for the first time in the opener of a four-game series that the Padres will use to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1998 National League championship season.
While Mikolas will be facing his original team for the first time Thursday, he has had success at Petco Park. He was 2-0 at Petco Park as a Padre with a 2.84 ERA in 14 relief appearances.
Starting for the Padres Thursday night will be right-hander Jordan Lyles, who comes out of the bullpen to replace Bryan Mitchell (0-3, 6.47 ERA) in seven starts) in the Padres rotation.
Lyles, 27, made five starts for the Padres last season and was 1-3 with a 9.39 ERA. He contended for a rotation spot this spring, but was told a week before Opening Day that he would be starting the season in the bullpen.
Lyles has made 13 relief appearances with the Padres this season and is 0-0 with a 3.66 ERA. He allowed eight runs on 14 hits and seven walks with 16 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.
Padres manager Andy Green is hoping Lyle’s bullpen experience will alter his thinking as a starter.
“Starters have a different mentality and they can learn from the bullpen,” Green said Thursday. “A starter’s mentality is to go six or seven innings. In the bullpen, it’s ‘I have to get this guy out’ and they go after the hitter with everything they have.
“That’s what we want Jordan to take to the rotation, that same type mentality. He’s earned the right to go back into the rotation and we’ll see how he does and takes the opportunity to run with it. I’d love to see the full complement of his arsenal used in the rotation the way he’s used it in the bullpen.
“I think if he goes at his three or four innings the way he’s gone at his one inning, he’ll have a lot of success. The fastball has been really good. The breaking ball has been really good. The changeup has gotten underneath bats a lot. He’s left one or two up, but he’s been really good.”
Lyles is 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in six games (two starts) against the Cardinals. He has never won at Petco Park, where he is 0-3 with a 4.91 ERA in 16 games (six starts).