2016 Giants: Rotation could provide big results

Here we go. Even year.

The even year hoopla is a tired narrative, yet undoubtedly ignites a little excitement in even the most skeptical fan. Superstitions aside, the upcoming season should have Giants fans feeling giddy.

Spring has sprung, so let’s look at the performances we missed in Arizona and what to expect on Opening Day.

After spending $90 million on one Jeff Samardzija — nicknamed “the Shark” due to his high velocity fastball with a big bite — and another $130 million on Johnny Cueto, the Giants expect instant improvement.

And on paper, they’ve gotten there. Here’s a look at the upgraded rotation and possibly improved bullpen.

Pitchers

LHP – Madison Bumgarner
RHP – Johnny Cueto
RHP – Jeff Samardzija
RHP – Jake Peavy
RHP – Matt Cain

RHP – Chris Heston
RHP – George Kontos
RHP – Hunter Strickland
RHP – Cory Gearrin
LHP – Javier Lopez
LHP – Josh Osich
RHP – Sergio Romo
RHP – Santiago Casilla

Nothing too surprising here. The property worth fighting for this Spring seemed to be the fifth man/long man spot. A healthy Matt Cain and Chris Heston had these slots to lose.

Cain had a cyst removed from his throwing arm in February and had an uneven two starts before his 90-pitch outing against the Class-A Cubs on Monday. Heston gave up 12 hits and nine runs in 14-⅓ innings of work this Spring, but he also struck out 14 batters.

Clayton Blackburn pushed his way onto the roster’s cusp, topping his title-worthy 2.85 ERA garnered last year in Sacramento with a decent Spring (6.23 ERA in 15-⅓ innings).

Blackburn’s got big-league value as a location pitcher, said pitching coach Dave Righetti before Blackburn’s final start against the Dodgers in Arizona:

“He’s got pitchability. He’s got location. He’s got four pitches and a nice touch on his curveball. …What he’s done is he’s stayed in the strike zone a lot. If you get hit here I don’t really care so much. I care if they start running from the bat.”

Jake Dunning had a stealthily strong Spring. Dunning was drafted by the Giants back in 2009 and was signed to a minor league deal this Spring. He pitched 2-⅓ innings without giving up a hit this Spring. He could be next in line to creep into the relief squad.

Some other names to keep in mind as the season progresses: Ty Blach dealt a 6.23 ERA in 13 innings this Spring, and could cushion a shallow lefty crew within the bullpen. Righty Chris Stratton pitched 10 innings and sustained a 1.80 ERA. Ray Black can throw a 100+ MPH fastball despite four surgeries in his throwing side (including Tommy John and shoulder surgery).

The Giant are carrying 13 pitchers, like last season, due to a potentially rough first month. But that could change as the season starts rolling and another outfielder could make his way up.


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