After another round of cuts this week saw Andrew Susac, Gary Brown, Chris Dominguez, and Adam Duvall reassigned, the San Francisco Giants active roster is now down to 38.
While a few positions remain up for grabs – second base comes to mind – the bullpen is the biggest area of competition right now.
So far, the young Giants have been impressive in Spring Training. One who sticks out with a fighting chance to make the Opening Day roster is Heath Hembree.
Hembree essentially spent the last four years as the Giants minor league closer. During that span, he’s converted 87 of 97 saves and held a 315 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.
As a September call-up for the Giants last season, he pitched 7-2/3 innings, allowing four hits, two walks, and striking out 12 while not giving up a run.
Did that time in San Francisco help him grow as a pitcher?
“It was big. It kind of motivated me this off-season to start working out and getting after it. I saw what it was like to be there, and it just made me want to work hard to stay there.”
In previous off-seasons, Hembree could be found playing in the Arizona Fall League. This year, however, he spent time resting and then hitting his workouts with more intensity.
It’s no secret that San Francisco has a colorful, well-loved, successful closer in Sergio Romo.
Since taking over the closer role halfway through 2012, Romo has converted 52 of 58 saves, and last season he had an impressive 1.07 WHIP. During the 2012 World Series run, he was a perfect four-for-four in save opportunities and allowed only one earned run.
Despite his position already being taken, Hembree told SFBay he’s happy to help out the team in whatever way he can:
“I think every situation I take with the same mind-set, so I don’t think I’m more comfortable in one role or the other. I take the seventh inning as I’d take the ninth inning, usually, every game out.”
Hembree and Derek Law were two young arms that both General Manager Brian Sabean and Manager Bruce Bochy expressed excitement in seeing back in January, before anyone had even reported to Spring Training.
Hembree says it didn’t add any extra pressure to the situation, though:
“It’s Spring Training. We’re just here trying to get ready for the season. We’re having fun. All the guys trying to get the last couple bullpen spots, it’s just fun competition. So, we’re just out there getting ready to have fun with it right now.”
Despite stiff competition for the remaining couple of bullpen spots, Hembree told SFBay he’s not worrying about it too much:
“ The more you think about it, the more the pressure will build up. We just go out and play baseball. We’ve been doing it all our lives.”
Not only is Hembree trying not to worry about it, but he’s feeling confident:
“I feel really good right now. It’s still kind of early in the Spring, but right now I feel good and just ready to get through Spring Training.”