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San Francisco Giants’ plan for Hunter Strickland? Say adios, Sergio

By Mark ONeill
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Hunter Strickland, fire-throwing relief pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, never pitched above the Double-A level, before being called up to the parent club in the September call-ups of 2014. He arrived at a time when the Giants were desperately trying to make up ground on the Los Angeles  Dodgers, so as to avoid the dreaded, one-game showdown in the Wild Card game. San Francisco went 14-12 in September, with Strickland making nine appearances, and pitching seven innings, giving up no runs, on five hits, with nine K’s and no walks.

The postseason, however, revealed a different picture of Hunter Strickland, the pitcher, and one that rocked the Giants’ fan-base right off its equilibrium, as the righty served up six lollipops, each of which ended up on the wrong side of the outfield wall. What was Bruce Bochy thinking, fans collectively asked each other? What does Hunter Strickland have that makes Bochy think he can keep sending him out there, even though the opposition keeps hitting his pitches out of the park?

Alex Speier, who writes for Baseball America, described Hunter Strickland, after being drafted by Boston in 2007, as making a “highly favorable impression on the Red Sox, though that impression was based as much on his personality and competitiveness as it was stuff.”

Kevin Boles, currently the manager of the Red Sox’ Triple-A affiliate in Pawtucket, had Strickland as a player in 2009. “He’s one of the brightest guys-a straightforward, shake-your-hand, look-you-in-the-eye guy,” Boles said. “He’s one of the top five guys I’ve ever had, make-up wise.” At the time, Boles said Strickland was hitting high 80’s, low 90’s, velocity-wise.

Wait a minute; high eighties? Low nineties? That’s a far cry from 100 MPH. In late July, 2009, Strickland was dealt to Pittsburgh, where a subsequent rotator cuff injury shut him down for the 2011 season. In 2012, he made enough of an impression, when shifted to the relief corps, partly because his velocity had picked up to 95MPH, that the Giants claimed him off waivers and put him on the 40-man roster.

Seemingly finding himself in his new role of reliever, Strickland continued to impress, pitching out of the stretch, and continuing to improve on his velocity, until he blew out his elbow in May of 2013. Obviously determined to get back into the groove, Strickland worked hard, and it was evidenced by what he brought with him to the table in the playoffs.

Mar 14, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland (62) looks on during the national anthem before facing the Colorado Rockies at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

What I see is a guy who has everything managers look for in a relief pitcher, except experience. Even being able to continue answering the call, despite his poor results in the recent playoffs, shows resolve, and his emotional outburst toward Salvador Perez, must be looked at as just another example of a guy who has a lot of passion, and just needs to learn how to control it.

The complete circumstances of Hunter Strickland’s ascension to the big leagues, extraordinary route and all, bodes well for San Francisco. He has made a significant impression, everywhere he has pitched.

Does Hunter Strickland’s presence on the team mean the end of Sergio Romo?

The question would appear to be, does it mean that

Sergio Romo

is now expendable?

Let’s see now. If Sergio were to sign for anywhere around five million, be it a one-year deal, or multiple years, the Giants would feel as though they were getting a good deal. Well, Strickland is not even eligible for arbitration yet, so he will get paid what the Giants want to pay him.

Will that difference in pay matter to Brian Sabean when it comes to making a decision? Money always matters and so does the fact that Bruce Bochy obviously likes what he sees in Strickland, even if Giants fans do not like Strickland’s penchant for giving up home runs at inopportune moments.

As I review Hunter Strickland’s route to the big leagues, his rejuvenated arm, the confidence shown in him by manager Bruce Bochy, and his rate of pay, I must conclude that there is a method to Brian Sabean’s madness.

Say adios, Sergio Romo.

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