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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Giants made two tough but expected cuts on Sunday, optioning right-hander George Kontos to Triple-A Fresno and reassigning left-hander Dan Runzler to minor league camp.
The bullpen competition is now whittled down to five for three spots, with the expectation that right-hander Yusmeiro Petit, left-hander David Huff and right-hander Jean Machi – the three pitchers who are out of minor league options – break in with the team.
Rookie right-hander Derek Law and non-roster right-hander J.C. Gutierrez remain in big league camp as well.
It wasn’t performance that eliminated Kontos, a popular pitcher who was a key cog in the 2012 World Series bullpen. He was unscored upon in his last six appearances and appeared to recapture some of the downward movement on his bread-and-butter power slider. He struck out the only two batters he faced Sunday.
Runzler posted a 2.70 ERA in seven appearances, including three that spanned multiple innings. His delivery looked much cleaner and coaches lauded the work he’s done to resuscitate his career. He was the winning pitcher after recording four outs Sunday.
But the key phrase when putting together an opening-day roster is “organizational inventory.” It takes a lot more than those initial 25 players to make it through a 162-game season. And with a four-game series at lively Chase Field to start the season, Giants manager Bruce Bochy wants maximum coverage with long guys Petit and Huff. The Giants also know from last season that a lack of pitching depth usually comes back to bite you. And if they exposed Huff or Petit to waivers, they’d probably lose them.
Kontos had a minor league option remaining, and if he keeps pitching well at Fresno, odds are he’ll be up soon enough. The same goes for Heath Hembree, who was optioned on Friday. And Runzler, too, although he faces the additional hurdle of getting back onto the 40-man roster.
It really was a night-and-day difference for Runzler when he received the bad news this time. A year ago, he angrily stormed out of Scottsdale Stadium when informed he wouldn’t make the club. This time, it was a placid scene as he slowly packed his bag.
“They were happy with how I threw the ball and happy I got back to the form I had,” a noticeably trimmer Runzler said. “It was all positive stuff, other than being sent out. I’m happy I came to camp in good shape and showed everybody, showed myself, that I can throw the ball the way I can. For the overall picture, I’m pretty pleased with how it went. I’m happy, not satisfied.”
And last year?
“I think last year I didn’t handle it the best way I could,” said the 28-year-old, who went on to post a 5.68 ERA in 51 games for Fresno. “I took a different mindset this year and I want to keep that mindset for the rest of my career. I didn’t let things I can’t control control me.”
Including who has options and who doesn’t.