Oct 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Hunter Strickland throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the 6th inning during game six of the 2014 World Series at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
If there was a negative take-away from the 2014 San Francisco Giants postseason, it was the rise and fall of Hunter Strickland. Lucky for him, his performance during the Fall Classic did not cost him his career, but I was personally believed that was going to be the last we saw of the 26-year-old flame-thrower:
The near meltdown he had after giving up the home run to Omar Infante was the boiling point of a postseason that yielded unsavory numbers including a 7.56 ERA and six home runs in 8.1 innings. It was enough to make my own mother cringe each time he emerged from the San Francisco bullpen.
Still, confidence never seemed to be an issue with Strickland, and though numbers don’t lie, it was hard to ignore his high-90s fastball and sharp slider.
He showed some progress in Spring Training, but not enough to make the roster. However, the reliever from Thomaston, Georgia (90 minutes from Buster Posey’s hometown) recognized that if he could master his control, he could earn his way back to the bigs.
In Sacramento, he went off, earning five saves in five opportunities. Batters only managed a .187 average with Strickland on the bump, and he kept runners off the basepaths with an impressive 25 strikeouts in 21.2 innings.
And he did all of this while never allowing a home run.
It was only a matter of time. With the San Francisco bullpen needing some help, and the Giants designating Casey McGehee for assignment, Strickland was primed to seize the moment, and he did not disappoint.
In two appearances over the three-day weekend, Strickland pitched 4.1 innings and allowed just one hit, no walks and struck out six. His control was excellent, and his secondary pitches looked good. Kruk and Kuip were convinced that he has proven his worth:
For the time being, it appears that Strickland will be sticking around. And if he continues to light-up the stat sheet, as well as the radar gun, not even my mom can convince me he doesn’t belong in the Giants bullpen.
Time will be the true test for Strickland, but don’t be surprised if you see this youngster vying to move up the ranks as the season wears on.