Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
The San Francisco Giants have had many interesting positional battles this spring heading into the new season, arguably the long reliever battle has been the most intriguing. Early in spring, Edwin Escobar, a talented rookie southpaw propelled onto the scene and made a serious claim to grab the long relief role. With favourite Yusmeiro Petit struggling, Escobar rightly became strongly tipped to win the vacant bullpen spot. However, after Petit proved he is ready to return to form again this year after he threw a shutout against the Oakland Athletics, all signs now point to Petit winning the long relief spot.
Thus far in spring, the two compare quite similar in terms of stats. Over 12 innings, Petit has compiled a 5.26 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP, 11 strikeouts and one walk allowed. Escobar on the other hand has totalled: 8.1 innings, a 5.19 ERA, a 1.61 WHIP but has struck out only three whilst walking eight batters. In terms of statistics this spring, the two are neck and neck, but the contractual position of Petit, and the future of Escobar makes Petit the favourite.
Petit is completely out of minor league options, hence if he is optioned to AAA Fresno at the start of the season he would be exposed to waivers. Given the so called epidemic of pitching injuries that have occurred this spring, Petit would most definitely be taken by another team and given how marvellously Petit filled in for the injured Vogelsong last year, the Giants would be reluctant to let him leave. The only way to prevent Petit leaving the Giants via waivers is to keep on the major league roster, and hence make him the long reliever.
The Giants aren’t in favour of rushing prospects in any context, especially in the case of lefty Escobar. With Vogelsong and Hudson reaching the end of their illustrious careers, Edwin Escobar and Kyle Crick are the early favourites to fill the voids that will be left in a few years. Having not pitched above AA class Richmond, the Giants aren’t likely to rush Escobar to the big leagues and will not want to shape him into a reliever when he is likely to be an integral part of the rotation in the years to come.
These two key factors will secure Petit a place in the bullpen in the coming season. David Huff, who joined from the Yankees earlier in the offseason will likely start the season in AAA class Fresno. With Petit starting to regain form, look for him to earn a spot on the 25-man-roster.