Sabean looking for 'meaningful piece' for Giants' bullpen

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Sabean looking for 'meaningful piece' for Giants' bullpen

BOSTON — Brian Sabean doesn’t know whether the Giants will get an impact bullpen arm in a market flush with marquee buyers. But he knows exactly the type the front office will chase before the August 1 deadline. 

“The real dilemma is how you upgrade, and it has to be meaningful,” the Giants’ executive vice president of baseball operations said. “It can’t just be a body.”

The Giants are aiming high in their search for bullpen help. In the past, Sabean and Bobby Evans have added matchup plays and middle relief types, and it’s worked out well. But Sabean made it clear Wednesday that as Evans canvasses the market — and the Giants are checking in on just about everyone — he’s looking for a back-end type. 

The Giants have 18 blown saves this season, the most in the Majors. Before Wednesday’s loss at Fenway Park, Sabean was asked if he would be comfortable in the postseason with the current options in the eighth and ninth. The Giants have Sergio Romo setting up for Santiago Casilla. 

“It’s a good question, but usually bullpens get on a roll like a rotation or a lineup,” he said. “They’ve got the experience. They’ve been there before, both of them. Then you lean on that. Having said that, we know how busy (the front office) guys are looking for some help. But it’s not just going to be the average Joe coming in.

“You’re thinking it’s going to be a meaningful piece, but the competition on the premium people is going to be real stiff and it already is.”

The Giants have watched as good prospects have been shipped away in early deals, and they know the ask on an Andrew Miller or someone similar will be astronomical and somewhat system-depleting. They’ll see Miller this weekend, along with Aroldis Chapman, who was suspended 30 games earlier this season for a violation of MLB’s domestic violence policy. The sense from Giants officials at the moment is that the incident hasn’t eliminated Chapman as an option. Asked about the type of addition he would prefer, Sabean described a pitcher who can get a strikeout in a big spot, someone who sounds very much like Chapman. 

“The (way) the game is played now you want swing-and-miss,” Sabean said. “We got away with it a long time — and to their credit — with a lot of contact relievers. But the game has kind of changed in front of us. Now that wouldn’t preclude you from getting somebody that was as such, but selfishly you would want somebody that could really get through an inning and not have much flak in getting through the inning.”

Miller averages 15.24 strikeouts-per-nine and Chapman, who hit 105 mph earlier this week, is also elite at 12.71.

There are others on non-contending teams — like Milwaukee’s Tyler Thornburg or San Diego’s Ryan Buchter — who fit the strikeout mold, but not the rest of the wish list. The Giants have checked in on Philadelphia (David Hernandez has that kind of power stuff) and they could find a strikeout arm on a sinking team in their division; The Diamondbacks still have Tyler Clippard and Daniel Hudson available after dealing Brad Ziegler. 

But the Giants are aiming higher, and while they're unlikely to trade off their 25-man roster they won’t completely rule it out. Team president and CEO Larry Baer said there is wiggle room in the budget, even with the Giants already paying the competitive balance tax. The bigger issue will be what is being sent back for an impact player. 

“You know you’re going to hurt somewhere, it’s just how much pain you’re going to take,” Sabean said. “I think you’re seeing in some of these trades, the people who have been really aggressive have really gotten a premium guy back. That’s really what you have to decide — what side of the fence you want to be on.”

Regardless of where they end up, the Giants feel the current bullpen group will be better down the stretch. Sabean noted that the pecking order was out of whack when Romo went on the DL, and he said “we knew that (Josh) Osich and (Hunter) Strickland would have growing pains.

“When you don’t have that second guy and somebody like Casilla can’t pitch or he falters, you don’t really know where to turn,” he said, adding that manager Bruce Bochy turned to the matchups. “Having said that, I think things have a chance to settle down.”

Listless Giants roughed up by Pirates in ejection-filled series opener

Listless Giants roughed up by Pirates in ejection-filled series opener

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Pittsburgh Pirates kept clearing the fences, and the San Francisco Giants were left arguing plate umpire Chris Conroy's tough strike zone.

Even Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle understood the beef.

Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run homer and had four RBIs, Gerrit Cole won for the fifth time in six starts, and the Pirates beat San Francisco 10-3 on Monday night.

"I think there was some frustration really all night," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who watched most of the game from his office after an ejection in the second. "I don't think he had a real good night, to be honest, as far as consistency, but that really had nothing to do with what happened tonight. We gave up three-run homers."

Jordy Mercer added a three-run shot of his own in the eighth to further back Cole (8-7), 5-1 in his last eight starts. That lone defeat came June 30 as San Francisco swept the Pirates at Pittsburgh from June 30-July 2 - the Giants' first in the series since 2009.

This time, Pittsburgh immediately jumped on San Francisco starter Matt Cain (3-9), who matched the longest losing streak of his career at eight games - also done from July 28, 2015-May 10, 2016.

Bochy was tossed by Conroy for arguing balls and strikes in support of Cain moments after McCutchen connected, the skipper's second time being tossed this year. San Francisco pitching coach Dave Righetti then got tossed in the ninth.

"It was a tough zone," Hurdle said. "They lost two people on their side thrown out of the game."

Cole allowed two runs on six hits in six innings, struck out four and walked four.

He improved to 4-1 in six career starts against San Francisco. The Pirates won their seventh straight game at AT&T Park and ninth in 10, including sweeps both last year and in 2015.

Buster Posey hit a pair of RBI singles in San Francisco's fourth loss in five games.

McCutchen hit his 18th homer as the Pirates cleared the fences in San Francisco for a sixth straight game. His RBI groundout in the first started things off for a Pittsburgh club that had lost back-to-back games on the heels of a season-best, six-game winning streak, including a 13-3 flop in the finale against the Rockies on Sunday at Coors Field.

Josh Bell and Starling Marte each doubled home a run and Josh Harrison added an RBI single.

"This offense is good, we've shown that," McCutchen said.

Cain matched his second-shortest outing of the year at four innings and is winless in his last 11 starts, the longest by a Giants pitcher since the right-hander went 15 outings without a victory during his previous eight-game skid.

CHEERS TO THE HOME RUN KING:
Former slugger Barry Bonds, who played for both teams, received a greeting on the scoreboard for his 53rd birthday but the career home run king wasn't in the stands.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco, who strained his left hamstring Friday at Colorado and landed on the 10-day disabled list, tested his leg with some straightaway running and was going to do some riding on the stationary bike with the hopes he can hit in the cage soon. Hurdle said he did witness Polanco scurry across a street to avoid being hit by a car, then acknowledged it wasn't that close a call. ... With an off day Thursday at San Diego, the starters will get an extra day of rest.

Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto played catch and said the trouble spots on three of his pitching fingers are greatly improved. He said they aren't true blisters. The plan is for him to play catch again Tuesday and perhaps throw off the mound Wednesday if all continues to go well. ... Closer Mark Melancon had the day off as he recovers from a second DL stint with a strained forearm. He will throw a bullpen session Tuesday, Bochy said, and face hitters this weekend in Los Angeles if ready.

UP NEXT:
Pirates: RHP Jameson Taillon (6-3, 3.08 ERA) is 3-2 with a 2.84 ERA in seven starts since returning from the DL on June 12, just more than a month after surgery for testicular cancer. He seeks his first decision against the Giants in two starts.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 3.57) tries again for his first victory of 2017 in his third outing back from missing nearly three months following a dirt bike accident April 20 in Colorado.

Bruce Bochy ejected in second inning vs Pirates after arguing with umpire

Bruce Bochy ejected in second inning vs Pirates after arguing with umpire

Bruce Bochy's night didn't last very long.

The Giants manager was ejected in the top of the second inning Monday after arguing with the home plate umpire.

The argument came after a three-run homer by Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Bochy appeared to be voicing frustrating with the strike zone.

Bochy came out to argue with Chris Conroy and the home plate umpire threw him out almost immediately.

McCutchen's home run put the Pirates up 6-0 in the second inning.