Bochy plans to carry 12 pitchers as roster takes shape

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Bochy plans to carry 12 pitchers as roster takes shape

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he plans to begin the season with a 12-man pitching staff -- a somewhat surprising announcement, since the club will operate with just a four-man rotation for the first nine games.

The decision has several offshoots. It means an eighth bullpen spot, which would go to right-hander Dan Otero or non-roster right-hander Jean Machi. Both have had solid springs, but the Giants wouldn't need to carve out a 40-man spot to add Otero.

It also means one fewer position player on the opening-day roster, which increases the likelihood that Brandon Belt will begin the season in Triple-A Fresno.

With Emmanuel Burriss the likely starter at second base and outfielder Gregor Blanco assured a place, the Giants would appear to have three spots for six players: Mike Fontenot, Ryan Theriot, Brett Pill, Hector Sanchez, Joaquin Arias and Belt.

Fontenot played shortstop in a minor league game and Theriot started at short in the night game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise. Although there's an excellent chance both will be on the roster, the Giants would have to act before 9 a.m. Friday to cut either player before their contracts (1.25 million for Theriot, 1.05 for Fontenot) become fully guaranteed. The Giants would pay just a quarter of their salaries if they cut them loose earlier.

Arias is the best defender on the infield other than starting shortstop Brandon Crawford. But the Giants have determined that Crawford will play every day -- against both right-handers and left-handers -- so keeping the best defender might not be as high a priority as having an experienced bat off the bench.

The Giants probably would have to cut either Fontenot or Theriot to carry Sanchez as a third catcher and switch-hitting bat off the bench. Either Eli Whiteside or Chris Stewart will be the primary backup to catcher Buster Posey.

Why carry a 12th pitcher? Well, maybe the decision can be described in four words: Coors Field, Barry Zito.

Zito is going the wrong direction this spring, and because the Giants won't give extra rest to their starters in the first three turns through the rotation, they can't run the risk of an innings deficit or a tired bullpen. Plus the Giants will play in two hitter's yards -- Chase Field and Coors -- on the first trip. Zito is penciled in to start the Rockies' home opener April 9.

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have put a focus this spring on getting Brandon Crawford ready for the World Baseball Classic, which meant a slight surprise for the first lineup of the new year. Crawford is hitting leadoff in Friday's exhibition opener so he can potentially get extra at-bats. Crawford and Buster Posey will leave camp in early March to represent the United States in the WBC. 

Manager Bruce Bochy went heavy on the regulars in the exhibition opener. Crawford is one of six likely opening day starters to play right away:

Crawford SS
Panik 2B
Belt 1B
Pence RF
Morse DH
Parker LF
Gillaspie 3B
Hundley C
Hernandez CF

Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch an inning Friday against the visiting Reds, followed by Clayton Blackburn, Steven Okert, Derek Law, Cory Gearrin and others. The opener is meaningful to a couple of players fighting for spots. Michael Morse, the DH, is trying to make the team as a left fielder/first baseman. Jarrett Parker is trying to beat out Morse, Mac Williamson and others for the starting spot in left. 

The Giants are facing a Reds team full of prospects, including the starter, right-hander Rookie Davis, who was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Former Giant Adam Duvall is hitting fourth for Cincinnati. 

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.

The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?

"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.

"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.

The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen. 

Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.

"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.

Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot. 

Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...

STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.

"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”

ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo

SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.

LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”

QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?

“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said.