Programming note: Giants Insider Andrew Baggarly is in Arizona; check back for his coverage throughout spring training and watch SportsNet Central nightly at 6 and 10:30 p.m. for all the day’s MLB news.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Giants made several expected cuts and one surprising one on Friday, optioning right-hander Heath Hembree to Triple-A Fresno.
Hembree was considered a top candidate to win a place in the opening-day bullpen. Right-hander Jake Dunning, who was also in the mix, was optioned as well. The club also sent out pitchers Erik Cordier, Adam Reifer and Brett Bochy.
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Giants manager Bruce Bochy was a bit cryptic when asked about Hembree, saying “the way it was set up, he wasn’t going to break with us.”
You have to wonder if Hembree was dealing with any physical issue; although he allowed just one run on two hits over six appearances, he hadn’t pitched since Sunday.
Hembree certainly looked ready last September, when he didn’t allow an earned run over nine big league appearances. But Bochy said the club was looking to prioritize innings and length from the back of the bullpen, while Hembree is more of a short reliever.
“We feel right now Heath could use a little bit more time with what we’re looking for right now,” Bochy said. “Innings are going to be critical for us and some other guys will get the first shot here. We feel that’s better suited for our club at this time.”
The Giants have eight candidates remaining for three bullpen spots, most notably rookie right-hander Derek Law and left-hander Dan Runzler. It was thought that Yusmeiro Petit was trying to hold off David Huff for a spot as the long reliever, but both pitchers are out of minor league options and it’s possible the Giants could keep both of them.
Right-handers Kameron Loe, J.C. Gutierrez, George Kontos and Jean Machi are the other bullpen candidates still in camp.
Bochy said it’s a testament to the competition in camp that the club sent out Hembree (1.80 ERA), Dunning (1.42 ERA), Cordier (0.00 ERA) and Reifer (2.25 ERA). Bochy's son had a 2.08 ERA, too.
“This is the best group of young pitchers I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Bochy said. “We have some tough decisions to make here. We’ve got a little over a week to finalize these spots and it’s been competitive. It’s going to go down to the last couple games.”