Kapler: Starting staff ‘most encouraging' part of Giants camp


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It was exactly five years ago at this time that the Giants received a reminder you can never have too much starting pitching. Madison Bumgarner was hit by a line drive in his last start of the spring, and a few days later, Ty Blach got a surprise Opening Day assignment

When a team comes into camp feeling it has more pitching than it initially needs, something always happens to clear out some of the excess. Except here the Giants are, eight days from their opener, with the knowledge that they don't even need a fifth starter on their season-opening six-game trip and that all six of their starters are still healthy and on track to be ready March 30. The biggest challenge early might be getting everyone enough work to stay sharp. 

"It's a little bit of a puzzle early on," manager Gabe Kapler said on Wednesday morning. 

It's one the Giants already have figured out, although they're being coy about their final plans. Kapler has named Logan Webb his Opening Day starter and Alex Cobb the No. 2, but he doesn't want to go any further than that. On Wednesday, the main nugget he offered was that the New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox are both heavily right-handed with their lineups, which means the Giants may prioritize their right-handers early on.

That would give an edge to Anthony DeSclafani and Ross Stripling, and maybe even Sean Hjelle, who has been as good as anybody in camp as he has pushed for a bullpen job. Someone like Hjelle or Jakob Junis could be valuable in a bulk innings role early, but if all of the starting options are on the initial roster, the Giants will also have to find the right spots for Alex Wood and Sean Manaea. 

"Guys have to pitch," Kapler said. "We're going to have to get guys innings."

Those innings could come in a different way. The Giants have talked often of "piggybacking" starters and have done it all spring, with one starter getting his work in and then another taking over. It's possible there are times this season when someone like DeSclafani goes five innings and then is followed by Manaea for the rest of the game, or most of it, but that's a little difficult to map out. 

With two off days in the first five days of their season, the Giants may not even have that much work to go around. If the weather cooperates, they could bring Webb back on an extra day of rest to pitch the second game of the second series of the year. That would mean the ace is starting twice in the first five games for a team that needs to get off to a fast start. 

No matter how it works out, Kapler said he's not worried about egos. "This is not a group of 'it has to be my way' kind of guys," he said. The manager also knows this is a great problem to have, especially given how many injuries the Giants have had to deal with on the position player side. 

"Probably the most encouraging thing in all of camp is we're seemingly headed into the last couple of days of camp with a pretty healthy pitching staff," Kapler said. "We always talk about we have some injuries, other teams have some injuries, but I don't think there are many teams that can say that they have the pitching depth that we have."

Other notes from Giants camp:

-- The Giants likely will also face a lot of right-handed pitching on the first road trip, and Kapler said he's leaning towards Michael Conforto batting second or fourth in those situations. LaMonte Wade Jr. is expected to lead off. Kapler also now expects Conforto to primarily be a right fielder. 

-- With a week to go, the Giants still haven't settled on their two catchers. "We, believe it or not, still have more to see," Kapler said, adding that figuring out the catcher situation has been the most challenging part of camp. 

After a hot start, Blake Sabol has slowed a bit, but he still has a 1.174 OPS for the spring. Roberto Perez is 4-for-18 with a homer and hasn't differentiated himself defensively as much as the Giants expected. Austin Wynns has three hits all spring but all have cleared the wall. It's still pretty wide open in terms of finding a partner for Joey Bart. 

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-- Brandon Crawford returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing time with knee discomfort. The Giants once again have all six projected infielders -- Crawford, Wade, David Villar, Thairo Estrada, Wilmer Flores and J.D. Davis -- healthy. 

-- Cole Waites (lat strain) will make his spring debut on Thursday night. Waites had a decent shot at making the Opening Day roster before he got hurt, but he has flown through the rehab process and now should be an option for the Giants in early April.

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