Urban: Giants' lack of rotation depth makes trade tough


Urban: Giants' lack of rotation depth makes trade tough

June 21, 2011


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Mychael Urban

For those among the Giants' fan base in favor of trading Jonathan Sanchez to address the offensive issues so clearly plaguing the defending champs, the Twins on Tuesday offered a very clear and thoughtful reminder of why it might not be such a good idea.In short -- as opposed to the long and painful parade of well-struck spheres that was the top of the first inning -- the reminder went a little something like this:You might think you have rotation depth, but you don't. Not by a longshot.

That Barry Zito, working at Fresno, had by far the best of his string of four impressive rehab starts on Tuesday night, doesn't represent depth.What Zito represents -- yeah, yeah, yeah; other than a bad contract -- is a reasonable and now very attractive option in the event that what we're seeing from Madison Bumgarner, whom the Twins treated like a pinata, are signs of the fatigue brought on by his career-high-by-a-mile workload last fall.Such fatigue typically doesn't reveal itself early in a season. It shows up after a couple of months -- and look at the calendar, boys and girls. Zito, on the other hand, is fresh and riding a Mavericks-sized wave of confidence, as evidenced by the two-hit shutout (two walks, seven strikeouts, 118 pitches) he spun for the Triple-A Grizzlies on Tuesday.So here's the obvious short-term plan the Giants have to put into play: Rather than wait until June 28, when the Giants need an extra starter for a doubleheader against the Cubs, activate Zito to take Bumgarner's next turn. Give Bumgarner the extra two or three days of rest, maybe an extra bullpen session to figure out what went so horribly wrong against Minnesota, and have him work in the doubleheader. No-brainer.But Bumgarner only threw 25 pitches, you say? True. Did you see them? Twenty-two of them were strikes, most of them just begging to be crushed. It's not always about the pitch count. It's about the pitches themselves, and Bumgarner's pitches screamed fatigue. Flat, high, hittable.What's the corresponding roster move? Hey, leave that for the smart guys with offices at 24 Williie Mays Plaza. But if Guillermo Mota's reward for saving the Giants' week with his 4 23 innings on Tuesday is the loss of a roster spot, something's wrong.Now back to the rotation depth thing. Where were we?Oh yeah. The Giants don't have any rotation depth.They have six starters in the organization that you'd truly trust to a regular big-league role. That's it.Tim Lincecum? Scuffling hard in June before flashing some signs of improvement over the weekend.Matt Cain? Typically steady and solid. You simply count on Lincecum and Cain, whether they're going through a funk or not. They'll be there for you and you know it.Sanchez? Maddeningly inconsistent.Ryan Vogelsong? Heck of a story, but can it last?Zito? He killed Single- and Triple-A hitters. Great. But how will it translate?Bumgarner: see Tuesday's box score.Add it all up and you've got two guys you're pretty sure of, with everyone else something of a question mark. And beyond that, in the minors, you don't have much.Ergo, you can't afford to trade Sanchez. You can't afford to trade anyone in the rotation. What if Zito's foot gets hurt again? What if Bumgarner needs an extended shutdown? What if anything happens to any one of the aforementioned six?Then you're down to five, with no help in sight.

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017


SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.