Mason Black

Should Giants call up Mason Black to fill troublesome rotation hole?

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While Blake Snell threw a bullpen Wednesday at Fenway Park, Giants manager Bob Melvin had to have been crossing his fingers and searching for four-leaf clovers in the outfield grass, looking for any luck necessary to get a win out of his makeshift pitching plan. 

The Giants instead lost 6-2 to the Boston Red Sox, falling to 14-17 on the season and 5-10 on the road. 

Melvin turned to his bullpen to begin the game. His hope was left-hander Erik Miller could make way with the Red Sox’s top of the order, since their first two batters also are lefties, before giving the ball to right-hander Daulton Jefferies. Miller made it hard on himself at first, walking both lefties, but quickly escaped – producing a strikeout and double play in the next five pitches. 

Jefferies had a prime opportunity for redemption after his ugly start in San Diego one month ago. This time, he walked back to the dugout in the fourth inning with outside observers wondering if Jefferies will get another chance in a Giants jersey. 

“He’s normally a strike thrower. Walked a couple and gave up some hits, but got behind in some counts and he was missing low with quite a few pitches,” Melvin said to reporters after the loss. “Took him a while to find the strike zone, and when he did, he was behind and they got some good swings off him.” 

Like Miller, Jefferies walked the first batter he faced. He then got behind 3-1 pitching to the next batter he faced before striking him out. Jefferies’ first inning was a scoreless one, but beginning with some bad Green Monster luck in the third inning, the wheels came off in a hurry. Melvin’s assessment was spot-on. 

The first three batters Jefferies faced all began with a ball. Six of the first eight batters did so, too, and seven of the 15 total batters that came to the plate against him. In only 2 2/3 innings, Jefferies gave up four earned runs on five hits and two walks, striking out three. 

Yet again, even though Jefferies wasn’t the starter in Boston, the fifth spot in the rotation wound up being a black hole for the Giants. 

“On this particular turn, yeah, it hasn’t been good,” Melvin said. “We win half those games, it’s a little different at this point.” 

Jordan Hicks has a 1.59 ERA through six starts as one of the best offseason signings in all of baseball. Logan Webb, aside from Tuesday night’s rough outing, has been lights out in seven starts. Keaton Winn in his last four starts has allowed only five earned runs in 23 innings, and 22-year-old Kyle Harrison (4.09 ERA) is coming off his best start of the season after tossing six scoreless innings last Friday where he struck out seven. 

Signing the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has resulted in Snell being 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA in five starts before landing on the 15-day IL due to a strained adductor muscle. Melvin has started an opener twice this season and has been rewarded with two scoreless innings. But the bullpen in those two losses has allowed 14 earned runs in 15 innings. 

The Giants really liked Jefferies coming out of spring training. He has overcome a mountain of injury adversity. Jefferies also has given up 14 hits and 13 earned runs in 4 2/3 innings this season. 

Is the answer to the Giants’ problem, one they believe is short term, in Sacramento?

On the same day where Melvin watched Jefferies struggle, Mason Black hurled four scoreless innings where he didn’t allow a hit in Sacramento. Black’s ERA on the season in Triple-A is down to 1.01. He has started six games this season and only has allowed a run to score in one of them. 

Snell threw around 20 pitches in his bullpen and “felt good” after, according to Melvin. The hope is he only has to miss two more starts, meaning there’s a possibility the Giants piece together two more games as they did Wednesday. They also can’t waste any more time. Or as former Giants pitcher and NBC Sports Bay Area analyst Shawn Estes said in the postgame show, “Strike while the iron’s hot.” 

Who gets knocked off the 40-man roster when Alex Cobb returns from the 60-day IL? The same goes for when Robbie Ray comes back, too. Those are questions the Giants’ front office will have to face. Black isn’t on the 40-man right now, but he is 24 years old and now has started 19 career games in Triple-A.

The last thing the Giants want is a Wade Meckler situation where he was expedited up last year, now has to be on the 40-man and might not even see Oracle Park this season. The Giants should know by now, though, thinking small isn’t going to get them anywhere. 

Nobody has taken firm control of the NL West early this season. The Los Angeles Dodgers simultaneously are heating up and can bury their nemesis in no time. Even if Black were to start just a game or two, there’s no doubt he could be highly useful in a thin bullpen as the season wears on. 

There’s an empty spot in the Giants’ rotation that will need to be filled next Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Who better to fill it than the Pennsylvania native Black, sparking a wave of urgency this clubhouse shouldn’t resist.

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