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SAN FRANCISCO – The Giants didn’t need any rotation depth when they won the World Series in 2012. But they weren’t so lucky last season.
They ended up throwing Chad Gaudin into the breach, and when healthy, he did an admirable job.
But the Giants won’t be able to rely on Gaudin this year. They didn’t show much interest in bringing him back, so the right-hander signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Phillies that includes an invitation to major league camp.
Gaudin, who turns 31 on March 24, was in a similar spot last spring. He pitched well enough for the Giants to purchase his minor league contract and stick him on the opening-day roster as a long reliever.
It’s a role that wasn’t so important in 2012, when five pitchers combined to start 160 of 162 games. But their luck didn’t hold last season. Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong, especially, got knocked out in the early innings and Gaudin came in to stabilize the situation. When Vogelsong fractured his hand in May, Gaudin jumped into the rotation. He ended up going 5-1 with a 3.53 ERA in 12 starts.
But Gaudin was hurting, too. In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome that ended his season Aug. 16, he also quietly pitched with a fractured big toe after dropping a dumbbell on it. And he was smoked on the right elbow by a line drive in a start June 20.
X-rays were negative, but Gaudin wasn’t as effective after that.
“Thank you SF Giants fans for your support and kind words! I really enjoyed my time there,” Gaudin posted from his Twitter account.
Thank you SF Giants fans for your support and kind words! I really enjoyed my time there.— Chad Gaudin (@ChadGaudin57) January 21, 2014
Do the Giants have enough depth to plug rotation leaks this season? They think so, even though they are bringing back the same crew (minus Barry Zito and plus Tim Hudson). Yusmeiro Petit, who pitched well down the stretch and came within an out of a perfect game, is expected fill Gaudin’s role as the long man and spot starter. The Giants are banking that left-hander Edwin Escobar, a 21-year-old who hasn’t pitched above Double-A, will be ready to contribute if needed. And of course, they are banking on Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum to be more dependable than last season. They’re also banking on Hudson to make a full recovery from the fractured ankle he sustained last July.
In addition to Gaudin, the Giants lost another potential fill-in arm when left-hander Eric Surkamp was claimed off waivers by the Chicago White Sox.
Gaudin was important in more ways than one. He proved to be a fast friend and mentor to Lincecum, helping him make the transition from a high-velocity thrower concerned only with his own stuff and mechanics to a crafty pitcher who studied hitters’ weaknesses and sought to exploit him. (If you missed that story, you can find it here.)
The Giants hope that Hudson, another undersized right-hander, will be a similar help to Lincecum this season.
If Gaudin makes the Phillies in a swingman role, it’ll be his 10th big league club. He broke in with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and his road took him to the Blue Jays, A’s, Cubs, Padres, Yankees, A’s again, Yankees again, the Nationals, the Marlins and the Giants.
He’d have to make a few more stops to catch right-hander Octavio Dotel, who holds the record after playing with 13 different teams in 15 seasons.
Gaudin’s stay with the Giants was brief but memorable for a few reasons. In one of the more bizarre news events, police charged Gaudin in July with one count of open and gross lewdness stemming from an arrest in January, 2013, for allegedly fondling the breast of a female patient as she lay on a gurney in a Las Vegas hospital. Although police said he was intoxicated, Gaudin's attorney contended that his client was disoriented because of a kidney disorder.