The SF Giants are entering the 2023 campaign with six veteran starters under contract. They cannot pitch all six of them out of the rotation to start the year, so which one is likely to begin the year in the bullpen?
Which starting pitcher begins the year in the bullpen for the SF Giants?
The Giants have a few starting pitchers with experience out of the bullpen. Ross Stripling and Alex Wood have experience in both roles. Sean Manaea and Anthony DeSclafani could find themselves in the bullpen at different points in the year.
Logan Webb and Alex Cobb are the two top starters in the rotation. I have a hard time believing either one of them would be slotted in the bullpen at any point in the year. However, you could make the case that any of the other four could pitch out of the bullpen at some point.
This could be a product of a few factors such as who is performing well at the moment or how the rotation looks from a health standpoint. The Giants could even use the bullpen as a way to manage a pitcher's workload.
For example, DeSclafani made only five starts in 2022. Perhaps, they do not want him making 30 starts in 2023 as that might set him up for future injury, so they control his workload by working him out of the bullpen for a period of time. On a different note, it is hard to ignore that the veteran starter has looked better than just about every pitcher in camp.
That leaves Manaea, Stripling and Wood. Manaea has only made three appearances out of the bullpen in seven seasons, so I do not think that is likely. Plus, the left-handed hurler's sinker has experienced a noticeable uptick in velocity that I think the coaching staff will be motivated in seeing how it plays against major league hitters.
Stripling is coming off of a career year on the mound. He has a lot of experience out of the bullpen, but he has does a lot of what the Giants like in a pitcher in terms of being able to command his repertoire.
The right-handed pitcher has a 6.75 ERA with 12 strikeouts and no walks in the Cactus League so far. I doubt anyone on the Giants is putting any weight whatsoever into the results, but the process is sound as Stripling is consistently hitting the strike zone.
That leaves Wood. I think a move to the bullpen is an inevitability at some point for the 10-year veteran. He has put together a strong career, posting a 3.69 ERA in the majors. That said, it has become increasingly noticeable that Wood is unable to pitch deep into games.
He rarely made it to the third turn through the lineup in 2022. And, when he did, he was hit extremely hard. The left-handed hurler still does a lot of good things on the mound as he recorded a 9.0 K/9, 4.37 SO/W ratio, and a 48.2 percent ground ball rate last year.
However, a role as a bulk innings reliever or piggyback starter makes a lot of sense and is an area where he has had success in the past. It is a small sample of 57.2 innings, but Wood has posted a 2.81 ERA out of the bullpen in his career.
The 32-year-old is still going to make a lot of starts this season. However, beginning the year in the bullpen might be best for his durability, especially considering that he missed the final month of last season with a shoulder injury.
There is a case to be made for Stripling, DeSclafani, and Manaea as well. That said, placing Wood in the bullpen feels like a move that best puts every pitcher's strengths to use.