Kruk & Kuip: 'The Giants have some things they have to correct'
The Giants starting rotation posted an ERA of 9.83 during the recent road trip. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
DENVER – Prior to Sunday’s 5-0 loss at Coors Field Giants manager Bruce Bochy provided much food for thought about the state of his sagging rotation.
But the tastiest morsel might have come after the game.
“They've done so many remarkable things, but at the same time it's a new year,” Bochy said. “We've got to make some adjustments.”
Most of those adjustments will come in the starting pitchers’ side sessions with Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner. The club has a day off Thursday, but couldn’t truly skip a starter or re-jigger the rotation until the first week of next month, when they have breaks in the schedule June 3 and 6.
One alternative might be presenting itself in the minor leagues, though. Left-hander Mike Kickham, who had a poor spring and a rough start at Triple-A Fresno, is starting to string together quality outings.
He allowed one run (unearned) in six innings while striking out eight Saturday night. He’s 2-1 with a 1.80 ERA over his last four starts, with a 25-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Stuff-wise, Kickham brings a lot more to the table than right-hander Chris Heston, who has a 5.33 ERA through nine starts. A left-hander, Kickham can maintain low 90s velocity and has a pretty good slider.
I wouldn’t expect the Giants to bring up Kickham this week, or anything. Chad Gaudin remains the first option should the Giants decide to give one of their five starters a break.
But at least there’s a name worth watching in the upper levels of the system now.
I asked Bruce Bochy if it was his idea for the whole club to go with high socks Sunday.
It wasn’t, “and I’m done with it,” he said.
So drink this up while you can, folks. (And thanks to @carmenkiew for the hardest laugh I had all week.)
Angel Pagan left in the fifth inning because of flu symptoms. He was feeling lightheaded prior to the game and received intravenous fluids, “but it caught up to him,” Bochy said.
His replacement, Andres Torres, looked like he was seeing double, too. Torres struck out and hit into a double play in two at-bats. He has a .224 average and .263 on-base percentage this year. And while I thought I remembered him contributing off the bench quite a bit, he’s just 1 for 9 as a pinch hitter.
No, I do not think the Giants are on the verge of designating Torres for assignment. But Francisco Peguero really couldn’t do worse. Maybe if Torres continues to struggle, the club might find a way to get him on the disabled list while they evaluate some other options in their left field platoon.
Bochy saw Barry Zito’s outing the same way I did. There is very little good that can come out of 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings, but it was a 3-1 game in the sixth when the left-hander delivered the baseball. On this trip, that qualified as darn competitive.
Zito ended up getting charged with five runs, after Jose Mijares allowed both inherited runners to score. And still, it ranked as the fewest runs allowed by a starter on this six-game trip.
“He didn’t have his sharp command but he battled well, especially in this ballpark,” Bochy said. “He competed very well. We just got shut down. It makes for a lousy road trip. It’s time to go home and play better ball.”
Brandon Crawford had a tough game. He made a wide and unnecessary throw that resulted in an error, he missed a catch on the same play that could’ve resulted in an out, and he could have received an error on an earlier ground ball single that he couldn’t handle.
The Giants made 13 errors in six games, but Bochy is tired of talking about them.
“The more you talk about it, the more I think they think about it,” he said. “Overall, we just had a horrible trip.”
As I mentioned in the Instant Replay, Zito allowed 11 hits one start after matching his career high with 12. It’s hard to take solace in anything when you’ve allowed 23 hits in 11 1/3 innings.
“My timing was in and out today,” Zito said. “I made some pitches when I had to, but the ball was generally up in the zone.”
Zito, after his starts, usually defaults to the same outlook when asked to compare : He’s going pitch to pitch, not looking at things from a wider lens.
But he managed to pull back to provide some healthy perspective.
“It’s May right now,” he said. “Considering how difficult it’s been for us lately, it’s not as bad as it could be record wise. … Going home is going to motivate us. It’ll give us energy. Our fans are always great there. Just put this behind us and keep grinding.”
They might want to re-grind those Zito bobbleheads they gave out at Triple-A Sacramento. For one, it doesn’t look anything like him. For another, they made him right-handed.
The Giants now have a 9-1-1 series record in their last 11 series with the Rockies.
Sergio Romo only pitched once on the trip, and sometimes managers like to give their closer a tuneup inning when they aren’t getting enough work.
So I was surprised when Chad Gaudin pitched the eighth inning instead of Romo – especially since Ryan Vogelsong has struggled all year, and you’d imagine the Giants would want to keep Gaudin fresh to back up the right-hander on Monday.
But when I asked Bochy about it, he said nothing was wrong with Romo. He just doesn’t want to use him unless absolutely necessary.
Gaudin should be available in relief Monday, Bochy added.
As hard-working beat colleague Alex Pavlovic noted (by reading the Fresno game notes – smart move, Alex), Hector Sanchez hasn’t played since May 12 because his right shoulder is sore again.
As Alex and I were discussing, one Fresno guy who intrigues both of us is Juan Perez. He started at shortstop Sunday and can play third and second base in addition to the outfield. Several scouts last year told me he was even better defensively in the outfield than Gary Brown.
Perez is 26, and definitely not a hot prospect. But he has better tools and more upside than a lot of bench players in the big leagues. He entered Sunday hitting .306 with a .880 OPS. (After the game, he was riding a 12-for-20 streak that included three doubles and two homers.)
I’m not sure the Giants have discussed promoting him, but he’s a right-handed hitter with versatility to spare. (He’s 9 of 10 in stolen bases, too.)
Even if Perez doesn’t make his way onto the Giants roster, the club will be in the trade market in a couple months. Here’s wagering that Perez’s name will draw some interest as a piece of a deal.
Brown, by the way, has been caught stealing five times in nine attempts and entered Sunday hitting .204 with a .279 on-base percentage and 44 strikeouts in 166 at-bats.
One other Grizz note: Brett Pill started at third base on Sunday. That’s probably more a reflection on the lack of third basemen in the Giants system than anything else.
Second baseman Nick Noonan was OK after his neck connected with Carlos Gonzalez’s knee. The collision happened on a pickoff play in the third inning as the Rockies’ No.3 hitter scampered back to the bag.
A neck to the knee. Pretty much summarizes this road trip for the Giants, doesn’t it?