As an extra measure of insurance for its ailing staff, San Francisco brought back former Giant Kevin Correia, but not to replace an injured Matt Cain in Wednesday’s series finale with the Diamondbacks. Instead, youngster Chris Heston will get the nod after a last-minute call-up, with Correia filling Heston’s vacant rotation spot with the Rivercats.
Neither pitcher is likely to make a lasting impact on the Giants in 2015, but with men donning the Orange and Black dropping like flies, let’s take a look at what each does for this already injury-ravaged ball club.
The Correia signing is oddly reminiscent of the Giants giving forgotten man Ryan Vogelsong a second chance. Like Vogey in 2011, Correia is a former top draft pick that never quite panned out in the organization, is in his mid-30s after bouncing around with several teams, and is restarting his journey with the team’s Triple-A affiliate.
The major difference is that Correia has faced big-league bats in recent years, including a 2014 season he would just as soon forget. In 23 starts for the Twins, the right-hander sported a near-5.0 ERA, but more memorable—at least for Giants fans—was his lackluster performance in a late-season cup of coffee with the Dodgers (22 ER in 24.1 IP), including two ugly outings against his former team (6 ER in 2 IP). His short-lived Spring Training with the Mariners wasn’t much better (5 ER over 2.1 IP).
On the plus side, Correia has been pretty durable over the course of his career, meaning he can serve as an innings-eater for the Giants if he rounds into form with the Rivercats. He does have a couple quality seasons on his resume, with one of them—2011 with the Pirates—going down as an All-Star campaign after a strong first-half.
All things considered, I wouldn’t be surprised see Correia do enough in Triple-A to make a couple spot starts or long-relief appearances for the G-Men somewhere down the line.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.
First up is Heston, who was pretty darn good in Spring Training (2.40 ERA, .73 WHIP, 10 K in 15 IP) and last year in the always hitter-happy Pacific Coast League (3.38 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 125 K in 173 IP).
The kid wasn’t overly impressive in his five-plus innings for San Francisco last September, but considering that two of his three outings were his first big-league appearance and his first big-league start, you have to chalk some of it up to jitters. Much more relevant are his improved physique and pure stuff that were on display in the Cactus League, per Alex Pavlovic of CSN Bay Area, particularly against a D-Backs offense that has officially woken up, scoring 10 runs in its last 11 innings.
Still, I can’t help but feel like the Heston start is a stopgap when a better option exists with Yusmeiro Petit. The Giants made a point to carry 13 pitchers into the season, so why not let their long-man loose?
Even though he was much more effective as a reliever in 2014 (1.84 vs. 5.03 ERA as a starter), it’s hard to follow Bruce Bochy’s logic here, as my colleague Jacob Fagan boldly pointed out. The skipper could also have played a hand in the Correia signing given their well-documented family friendship, but that’s a tad bit speculative given the lack of difference-makers in the minor-league/free-agent pitching pool—all due respect to Barry Zito and Co.
Regardless of the impetus behind these decisions, there’s one thing that’s painfully clear: The Giants’ backend starters need to step it up if the team wants to avoid digging itself an early hole in an uber-competitive NL West. After Heston, San Francisco will trot out the Tims and possibly Peavy, per Pavlovic, at San Diego. If Peavy can’t go, I’d put my money on Petit to get the call versus the Padres, with no other viable options in sight.