GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Chad Gaudin wasn’t supposed to start Thursday. He received the assignment earlier in the day when Tim Lincecum couldn’t go because of a blister.
And in a sense, that made for a perfect audition.
Gaudin pitched three tidy innings, blanking the Cleveland Indians while registering six of nine outs with ground balls, in the Giants’ 6-4 exhibition loss at Goodyear. He helped his cause to make the opening-day roster as a bullpen swingman -- a role that requires readiness at all times.
“I think it’s a very important role,” Gaudin said. “It’s a little overlooked, but I did a lot of it last year (with the Rays) and it’s not an easy task. If I can go in there and save people, eat those innings up, that’s how you can win the next two games – or even the following week.”
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Gaudin “gave us what we wanted to see” against the Indians.
“We’re all looking for a guy who can go multiple innings, spot start for you,” Bochy said. “We haven't had that. We’ve gotten away with it. All things being equal, sure. Our preference would be to have a guy like that.”
Long or short, the Giants have just one job up for grabs in the bullpen as long as Javier Lopez (bruised hand) and Jose Mijares (elbow impingement) recover in time. Gaudin might be the top candidate on a list that includes fellow non-roster invitee Scott Proctor and right-hander Yusmeiro Petit.
Petit, who has thrown five scoreless innings thus far, is out of minor league options. So the Giants would expose him to waivers before they could send him to Fresno.
The Giants might not seem like the most opportunistic club for a non-roster right-hander. But Gaudin said he was eager to sign. For one, his wife is from Benicia. And he enjoyed his three seasons playing for the Oakland A’s.
But mostly, he said he saw how much fun the Giants had down the stretch, and the thought of joining that group appealed to him.
“This is one of the hardest working springs I’ve been to,” said Gaudin, citing all the traffic in the weight room and trainers’ room before and after the scheduled workouts.
Gaudin already has a good social netwoek in the room. He played with Barry Zito and Marco Scutaro in Oakland.
“I’ve seen him pitch in every role,” said Scutaro, before leaving to join Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. “He can start, go long relief, or get an out.”
And with his sinker, Gaudin usually keeps his infielders engaged.
Gaudin certainly looked like a seasoned member of the Giants’ bearded bullpen brigade when he first arrived in Scottsdale. But the trimmer came out a little more than a week ago.
“It was getting a little ridiculous,” he said. “Like I had a squirrel on my face.”
The Giants have plenty of power arms in the minor leagues, but it takes more than velocity to retire major league hitters. And neither Josh Osich nor Heath Hembree is a finished product just yet.
Both hard-throwing prospects gave up runs, and Hembree had an especially rough outing. Nick Swisher hit a three-run home run and Jason Giambi followed with a well struck shot that clanked off the metal roof beyond the right field fence.
Bochy said pitching coach Dave Righetti wondered if the mound was a bit off, since so many pitchers were up in the zone. George Kontos also had trouble getting his pitches down, especially his curve, but he kept his outs in the park.
Hunter Pence had a productive day in the No.3 spot, with a pair of RBI hits. After Brandon Crawford reached on a sun-aided triple, Pence whacked a high fastball from Ubaldo Jimenez up the middle for a single.
Pence chased pitches way too much in his three months as a Giant last season, but just from memory, there weren’t too many times he failed to get a runner home from third base with less than two outs.
Brandon Belt stayed hot with a two-run double and is hitting .464 this spring. But he lost bragging rights in minigolf when Gary Brown defeated him on Wednesday’s off day.
Belt still maintains he is undefeated in swimming, ping-pong and just about any other individual pursuit in which you keep score.
Brett Pill was held out because of an inflamed knee, but Bochy said the first baseman should be OK in a day or two.
Andres Torres (strained oblique) is swinging from the right side and could start taking right-handed batting practice this weekend, Bochy said. He might get a pinch-hitting appearance against a lefty if one presents itself, too.
Torres should begin taking light swings from the left side in the next few days as well. It’s apparent this injury will cost him a decent chunk of the spring. There’s a lot of time left, though.
Tony Abreu has been AWOL all spring because of a strained quad, but Bochy said the infielder is making progress and should make his exhibition debut soon. Clearly, the Giants see him as a favorite to win a backup infield spot if he can show something this spring.
“He’s in the mix,” Bochy said. “He’s finally making progress like we were hoping.”
Abreu was a top prospect at one time with the Dodgers but hasn’t been able to stay healthy for long stretches. The Giants plucked him off waivers and added him to their 40-man roster over the winter.