SF Giants News

San Francisco Giants: Infusion needed until Tim Hudson returns?

By Mark ONeill
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In attempting to keep the home fires of the San Francisco Giants blazing brightly, Around the Foghorn has endeavored to supply an ongoing series of posts, designed more than anything to simply keep those topics of relevance to the Giants on the front-burner, in order that anyone who has something to add, may do so in a climate of “cohesive camaraderie” down below in the comments section.

Currently under discussion in the land devoted to even/odd number equality (2015 deserves equal consideration for success as its odd-numbered counterparts), is the recently-revealed news that Tim Hudson has undergone recent surgery to remove bone spurs from his previously-injured right ankle. Yesterday’s uninspiring piece on Dillon Gee, as a possible replacement for Hudson, produced a total of one response.

Clayton Blackburn gives Jeff Arnold of the San Jose Giants, the creamed-pie look as Kate Scott reacts.  Photo by Denise Walos

However, in taking the time to express a perspective, reader Carmot, as always, packed much into his comment. He mentioned three prospects in particular, Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach and Chris Heston, that he felt deserved inclusion on any discussion concerning the starting rotation for 2015. Additionally, he added the name of one more player, Ryan Vogelsong, currently engaged in discussions with the Colorado Rockies, to the list. Noting that a pitcher from the farm system would work well for Brian Sabean in terms of salary structure, I took a quick glance at the three prospects and here is what I found:

Right-hander Clayton Blackburn has a win/loss record of 23-17 over the course of four professional seasons, hurling 395-and-two-thirds innings and compiling a 2.98 ERA, primarily as a starter.

Unlike Tim Lincecum’s complex delivery, Clayton Blackburn’s is economical and creates the impression of durability.

He weighs in at 260 pounds and he uses his six-foot-two inch frame effectively, pitching with such little effort that his fastball appears quicker than its 89-93 mph velocity might otherwise be.

He has superior command, having racked up 405 strikeouts over his four seasons with 76 walks; that’s more than nine Ks per nine innings and fewer than two walks per those same nine innings. His repertoire includes a sinker, curve, slider and change-up and he is expected to shine when it comes to being able to command those pitches effectively.

Southpaw Ty Blach made the Single-A California League All-Star team his first pro season in 2013, and was named the league’s Pitcher of the Year, going 12-4 in 22 games with a 1.090 WHIP and a 117-18 K/BB ratio, in 130-and-a-third innings.

In his second season with the Richmond Flying Squirrels at the Double-A level, Blach’s record evened out at 8-8, but his 3.13 ERA and 1.284 WHIP, with 91 Ks and 31 BBs in 141 innings, still made it a successful year. He is a contact pitcher who does not necessarily go after Ks. He has a two-seam sinking fastball and four-seam fastball that is clocked in the 92-94 mph range, along with a change-up and a slider.

Jul 18, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner (40) throws during the first inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. The Giants won, 9-1. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Like Madison Bumgarner, Blach does not get rattled on the mound and has good presence, and with his control a strength, he does not hurt himself by giving up an abundance of bases on balls. His likely workplace in 2015 will be Fresno unless he dazzles Bruce Bochy and the Giants coaching staff during spring training and wins a job outright.

Righty Chris Heston has spent two seasons at the Triple-A level, and made his major league debut in 2014, starting a game against San Diego, September 28th, pitching four innings and allowing three runs on six hits, in a game the Giants went on to win handily, 9-3. Had he been able to make it five innings, he would have garnered a win; as it was, Tim Lincecum picked up the victory in two shutout innings of relief.

Whereas Heston could still benefit from more seasoning in Fresno, he could keep his name right at the top of the list of possible temporary replacements for Tim Hudson at the start of the season, by having an eye-opening spring training. Someone will most likely have to fulfill that role and Heston has already spent two seasons in Fresno, so he could very well make a definitive enough statement to get the opportunity.

And then there is Ryan Vogelsong. A couple of weeks ago I did a tribute to Michael Morse, but I could very well have also done one for Ryan Vogelsong, a true all-time Giant with his historic performance in the 2012 Postseason. No one who has followed the Giants will ever forget his malevolent sneer, certainly one of the best looks since that of Will Clark’s “Nuschler Look,” back in the eighties.

Will Clark, also known as The Thrill

There has been no indication that the Giants have communicated with Vogelsong’s camp and that seems puzzling. He made five million dollars in 2014 but one can’t help wondering whether the opportunity to continue pitching in the friendlier confines of AT&T Park, might weigh in on the decision if the other option were located in Colorado.

Whereas, pitching for a team that always creates havoc in short bursts, but fizzles over the course of an entire season, might be fun, it probably would not be as inviting as re-upping for another stint with the Orange and Black.

Keeping our heads conveniently planted in the sand for just a moment when it comes to the delicate issue of salary structure, let’s just look at the inevitability of addressing Hudson’s unavailability at the start of the season. With last season’s torrid start the only reason that San Francisco was able to survive the mid-season skid, it would seem imperative that they attempt to replicate that launch to the 2015 season.

Vogelsong’s credentials are well-established in terms of a back-end rotation pitcher, and what he has lost in ability, he more than compensates for with tenacity and grit. The guy should not have to prove anything to anyone.

Is Vogelsong the optimum choice for Brian Sabean? Over James Shields or Cole Hamels? No. But without disrespecting the Mets’ pitcher, Vogelsong would certainly be a choice that most would prefer over Gee.

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