An unlikely candidate emerging in San Francisco Giants bullpen

Published: Wednesday, Mar. 5, 2014 - 9:00 pm
Last Modified: Thursday, Mar. 6, 2014 - 12:43 pm

SCOTTSDALE -- When it comes decision time on the final spots in the Giants’ bullpen later this spring, manager Bruce Bochy said the criteria will be fairly simple: "Best arm."

There are probably two spots up for contention in the bullpen, with Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla the sure things, and Yusmeiro Petit a probable long man. While there are certainly more experienced candidates for those spots, such as Jean Machi, George Kontos, Jake Dunning and Heath Hembree, another reliever making a case for himself early in spring is little-known left-hander Jose De Paula.

De Paula, a 26-year-old lefty whom the Giants claimed off waivers from the San Diego Padres last November, made his second appearance of the spring in the Giants’ 3-2 win over the Angels on Wednesday and threw two scoreless innings. He showed a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a good breaking ball, and afterward drew some praise from Bochy.

Bochy admitted he didn’t know much about De Paula prior to camp, but that "he’s been the talk around camp right now with his early success." De Paula was a starter in the San Diego organization last season, spending the year at Double-A San Antonio and going 4-6 with a 3.86 ERA and 57 strikeouts and 11 walks in 14 starts.

"Good arm, good breaking ball, pounding the strike zone both sides," Bochy said. "We didn’t know a lot about him coming from San Diego, but he’s really opened up some eyes here."

Bochy said the "best arm" philosophy means the Giants wouldn’t necessarily lean either way on De Paula just because he’s left-handed (they already have two lefties with Lopez and Affeldt). Dan Runzler is another left-handed candidate, and Bochy said Runzler has "looked like a different guy this spring and very determined."

Hembree, meanwhile, had a nice bounce-back outing Wednesday following his last one, in which Bochy said he "covered every box with screw-ups, walking a guy, balk, missing a ground ball and wild pitching a guy in." Hembree saved the win over the Angels with a perfect ninth inning.

"Great job of bouncing back off what would be hard to find a tougher outing than what he had," Bochy said.

* Matt Cain made his spring debut in the win, throwing three shutout innings, which along with the success of the Giants’ starters so far this spring is the top of tomorrow’s print notebook in The Bee. Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson, Ryan Vogelsong and Cain have thrown 17 innings and given up one run on nine hits. They’ve walked one batter.

Cain said the starters haven’t had discussions about setting a tone early in spring, but: "I think we all just kind of know that’s what we need to do.

"We didn’t carry the load that we needed to last year and we know that if we get out to a good start, that’s going to help."

Tomorrow’s main print story is on Jesuit High School graduate Andrew Susac, who’s in his third spring training with the Giants since being drafted in the second round in 2011. Susac, who spent last season in Double-A Richmond before an impressive 17-game stint at the Arizona Fall League, is honing a tweak to his swing suggested by minor league hitting instructor Steve Decker designed to quiet Susac’s hands and give him a consistent path to the ball (a la Buster Posey).

* Marco Scutaro was targeting this weekend for his spring debut, but Bochy said today that "might be pushing it." The Giants are bringing Scutaro along slowly this spring after his injury-riddled 2013 season, and while Bochy said Scutaro hasn’t had any setbacks on the injury front, he spent the team workout session Wednesday in shorts.

Bochy said the design right now is still to have Scutaro hitting second and playing second base when the season starts. After that, he said the lineup is still murky. A combination of Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval in the 3-6 spots seems the likely look, but Bochy said that could change from day-to-day depending on the handed-ness of a pitcher and how those hitters are performing. Michael Morse could also push his way up the lineup.

Mark Minicozzi, whose unlikely path to camp we’ll tackle in the coming weeks, started at first base Wednesday and continued his hot spring at the plate, going 2-for-4 to bring his Cactus League average to .556. It’s not likely Minicozzi will make the 25-man roster out of camp, but Bochy said the 31-year-old non-roster invitee "should feel good about how he’s playing.

"He’s done a real nice job at first base, playing first and letting the bat go," Bochy said. "It’s early in spring, but he’s in camp because we feel he deserved this and he’s taking full advantage of it."


Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

Read more articles by Matt Kawahara



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