Bochy: Gaudin likely to start Sunday

Bochy: Gaudin likely to start Sunday, Pagan gets shot

Bochy: Gaudin likely to start Sunday
May 29, 2013, 5:00 pm
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Chad Gaudin has a 2.05 ERA in 18 relief appearances this season with the Giants. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN FRANCISCO – Chad Gaudin is the likely choice to make a spot start Sunday at St. Louis, Giants manager Bruce Bochy confirmed.

The Giants have Gaudin down in pencil just in case an emergency presents itself and he’s needed in relief before then. Otherwise, the right-hander will make his first start since 2009 with the New York Yankees.

As for left-hander Mike Kickham, who was sent back to Triple-A Fresno one day after making his big league debut, Bochy left no doubt the left-hander would be summoned back to the big leagues again this season.

The current plan calls for Kickham to pitch June 15, when the Giants are certain to need a No. 5 starter again. The club could decide to amend those plans if it’s decided the other four starters could benefit from extra rest. In that event, they'd need a No. 5 starter June 9 at Arizona. More likely, though, they’ll use two days off next week to skip that spot.

Here's the important point: Kickham wasn’t sent out because the Giants felt he was overwhelmed while retiring just seven of 15 batters Tuesday at Oakland. They simply needed a fresh arm in the bullpen in the short term, so they swapped him out for veteran right-hander Ramon Ramirez.

“He had great stuff,” Bochy said of Kickham, who didn’t miss by much with a fastball that topped out at 94 mph. “I had to get him (in the third inning). I didn’t want him to have too rough an outing. But I liked the stuff he threw: good fastball with movement, good curve and slider. It takes a settling in process. It did for him when he got to Triple-A.”

As for Gaudin, Bochy called him “invaluable.”

“I know he is for me,” Bochy said. “You can use him anywhere.”

With Gaudin out of the bullpen picture for now and Santiago Casilla out for two months after surgery to remove a cyst from his right tibia, your right-handed setup men are suddenly two guys who didn’t make the club out of spring training.

Jean Machi has established himself quickly, though. And Bochy said Ramon Ramirez is healthy after a rough spring. The right-hander and member of the 2010 World Series club had a 3.46 ERA with the Grizzlies with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings.

“In the spring he was trying to get back into shape,” Bochy said. “He’s been getting better and better at Fresno. He’s gone three innings, but is he here to be a long man? Not really, to be honest.”

A lot of fans are asking why not call up Heath Hembree, the Giants’ top relief prospect.

I asked Bochy and he said Hembree is close to being deemed ready to face major league hitters. I do think we’ll see him at some point this season. But as it was explained to me, the Giants don’t want to bring him up as an extra arm. They are grooming him for a late, leveraged relief role and don’t want to throw him in there until they absolutely feel the time is right. That could be a week or two from now. It just depends on how the bullpen comes together now that roles are being shifted around a bit.

"He's close," Bochy said of Hembree.

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As for Casilla, head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner told me surgery went well to remove a cyst that was inside his tibia. The procedure involved drilling into the bone and it was a rare condition for an athlete. Casilla will be on crutches for two weeks and will require four to six weeks of rehab after that before he could return. So you’re looking at the end of July, basically.

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In other pregame news, center fielder Angel Pagan will receive a cortisone shot in his ailing hamstring to try to speed recovery. He’ll be out for these two games against the A’s but Bochy said he’s hopeful Pagan would be available to start Friday at St. Louis. If not, then obviously the DL looms as a possibility.

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The Giants transferred infielder Tony Abreu to the 60-day disabled list to create a 40-man roster space for Ramirez. Abreu is on a rehab assignment that will expire June 8. After that, the club will have to figure something out. Abreu is out of options but he couldn’t win a backup infielder spot in the spring because of an ongoing knee issue.

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Eric Surkamp, also on the 60-day DL, is doing well in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He’s scheduled to start an extended spring game Saturday in Arizona. After a year of mindless rehab, I’ll bet it will feel like Game 7 of the World Series for him.

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