Roster advice for Brian Sabean

818688.jpg

Roster advice for Brian Sabean

How do you spell relief? Try S-A-B-E-A-N. Giants GM Brian Sabean knows a thing or two about fortifying a bullpen midseason -- see 2010, when he made the under-the-radar but critical additions of Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez. And Im guessing that is once again at the forefront of Sabeans attention, as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches.This year is different than the last two. The Giants arent desperate for a big bat to rescue an anemic offense. To be clear, theyre still far from a juggernaut (12th in NL in runs scored, last in home runs). But as we all as know, with that pitching staff, they dont have to be. And hey, their .261 batting average is tied for fourth in the league. More importantly, the lineup just feels more adequate than it has the last couple of seasons.Could it use more thump? Of course. But theyd likely settle for a reasonably-cheap, reasonably-productive, reasonably-right-handed bat. Im talking Chris Denorfia. Or Jonny Gomes. Not Carlos Beltran. That aint happenin this time aroundRELATED: Should Giants acquire a closer?
Adding the right piece to the 'pen, however, could be of critical importance for the stretch run. This team plays a whole lot of one-run games, and Bruce Bochy loves him some bullpen fun. He will channel his inner La Russa all summer long, and playing the matchups works a whole lot better when you have a stable of reliable options at your disposal.Let me be clear: I am not suggesting the Giants need a new closer. Not exactly. I think Santiago Casilla will be just fine. I know hes gone through a rough patch recently, but not many closers dont during the course of a long season. And while its easy to peruse the recent numbers and dwell on those four blown saves in six chances, lets not forget that in two of those games Casilla was pitching through blister problems, and in another he fanned the would-be final out -- only to have the batter reach base and the tying run score from second on a play you might never see again.That said, heres my advice to the man who doesnt need my advice: Hedge your bet. Go get a quality reliever who can close if need be, but wont cost anywhere near as much as a bona fide stopper. There are plenty of those guys out there -- Houstons Brandon Lyon, Minnesotas Jared Burton, Baltimores Luis Ayala, to name a few. All having really nice seasons, all with at least some closing experience. And none of whom will cost anything close to a top prospect.Is the bullpen the Giants biggest weakness? Clearly not. On the contrary, you could argue its their biggest strength. Doesnt mean its not a priority for the guy in charge of making a good team better. Like World Series better. Kinda like two years ago.

Down on the Farm: Crick continues to impress as River Cats' closer

crick-kyle-us.jpg
USATSI

Down on the Farm: Crick continues to impress as River Cats' closer

Long before there were Giants pitching prospects like Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, Kyle Crick was the talk of the town and for good reason. 

San Francisco selected Crick with their sandwich-pick in the Compensation A Round, No. 49 overall, as a power-throwing right-handed Texas high school arm in 2011. Quickly he showed his immense potential on the mound and seemed to be on the fast track to The Show. 

In Crick’s first full season of minor league ball, he posted a 2.51 ERA to go with 128 strikeouts in 111.1 innings pitched for the Augusta GreenJackets at just 20 years old. One year later in 2013, he upped his game, pitching to the tune of a 1.57 ERA over 14 starts for the San Jose Giants and continued striking out batters at a high rate with 95 in 68.2 innings. 

But then, control issues hampered Crick, outweighing his high-90s fastball and ability to make batters whiff. He fell completely off prospect lists and saw plenty of other Giants pitchers leap him and make it to San Francisco. At one point, Crick even contemplated quitting. 

“When you are in those dark places and those tough spots, it’s hard to find the confidence,” Crick told the San Francisco Chronicle in March

Despite his struggles, the Giants’ front office still saw the potential in Crick and formed a new plan. Crick toyed with relief duties while also serving as a starter in 2015, but then started all 23 of his appearances the next year. Before the 2017, there was no more messing around. Crick is now a full-time reliever in Triple-A for the Sacramento River Cats, and as he’s able to rear back and fire his blazing fastball in no more than two innings at a time, he is thriving once again on the hill. 

Crick converted his fifth save of the season for the River Cats Thursday night in a 5-3 win over the Memphis Redbirds at Raley Field. With the game on the line, Crick didn’t make it easy loading the bases, but once again turned to his knack for the strikeout and struck out the side to preserve a River Cats victory. 

Over 16 games this season, all out of the bullpen, Crick is enjoying career reinventions. He owns an 0-1 record with a 3.20 ERA, his lowest since that eye-opening 2013 campaign. And Crick has struck out 28 batters in 19.2 innings pitched during the 2017 campaign. The power righty leads all Pacific Coast League relievers with his career-high 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings. 

Most importantly though, Crick’s control issues are long gone so far in his new role. 

Crick has only eight walks on the year. Just once, back on May 1, did he walk more than one batter in a game. From 2012-2016, Crick’s walks per nine innings went like so: 5.42, 5.11, 6.08, 9.43 and 5.53. As a reliever this season, that number has dropped down to a career-best 3.66. 

This is now Crick’s sixth full season in the minors and his first crack at Triple-A after three tries at Double-A. None of that matters. What does matter, is Crick’s young age of 24 and that the numbers show his confidence may finally be back.

In an age where we want everything right now, including top prospects performing in the bigs, the key to Crick’s potential may have been patience the whole time. 

Around The Horn

— Chris Shaw made his Triple-A debut for the River Cats. He went 1-for-4 including an RBI double and played left field. Here’s what Shaw had to say about his promotion: "It was exciting. That's definitely something that I was glad to hear and something that every player wants to hear. I'm getting a chance to play at the next level and get a step closer to the goal.”

— Jae-Gyun Hwang is swinging a hot bat the last two games in Sacramento. Hwang has five hits in his last nine at-bats with five RBI.

— Matt Krook, the Giants’ fourth-round pick last year, won his first game of the season in his eighth start for San Jose. The big lefty is seen as someone with huge upside but has struggled mightily with his control, walking 31 batters in 29 innings this year.

Dusty chooses son's graduation over Nationals game against Padres

dusty-darren-us.jpg
USATSI

Dusty chooses son's graduation over Nationals game against Padres

WASHINGTON — Dusty Baker will miss the Washington Nationals weekend series against the San Diego Padres to attend his son Darren’s graduation.

Baker said he will rejoin Washington when it begins a three-game series in San Francisco on Monday, near Baker’s offseason home. Bench coach Chris Speier will assume managerial duties against the Padres.

Baker’s son Darren is graduating from Jesuit High School in Carmichael, California. He’s committed to play college baseball at Cal.

As a 3-year-old bat boy, Darren was rescued from a potential home plate collision by J.T. Snow in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series between Baker’s Giants and the Angels.