SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It looked just like Matt Carasiti envisioned. Just like the Giants envisioned.
There were real, legitimate major leaguers on the other side — A.J. Pollock, Kike Hernandez, Matt Beaty — and there was an approach that trimmed all the frills. His changeup and cutter were gone. He buzzed in four-seam fastballs and splitters repeatedly. With the necessary caveat that it was the spring opener, three Dodgers weapons — including Pollock, from Carasiti’s home state of Connecticut, a boyhood idol of his — stepped up, and three Dodgers weapons returned to the dugout.
Striking out the side is a pretty simple way to stand out in a wide-open competition for bullpen spots.
“It’s cool to see my stuff get a guy like [Pollock] out,” Carasiti told KNBR from Scottsdale Stadium on Sunday, a morning after the game. “Not that I don’t have the confidence, but it’s good to see it actually work.”
At 28, Carasiti is an older experiment, having bounced around in a career that includes just 30 big-league games, 19 with Colorado in 2016 and 11 for Seattle last season. There also have been stops with the Cubs and in Tokyo, the righty volleying between the rotation and bullpen, adding and dropping pitches in a search for the right combination that would get him and keep him in the majors.
The Giants did their homework on an arm that carries a mid-90s fastball. Before he agreed on a minor league deal, they sold him on boiling down his repertoire to just his splitter — “my best and favorite pitch” — and four-seamer.
“That’s the big reason why I signed here, because they wanted me to pitch that way,” said the St. John’s product, the same school that produced Joe Panik, who’s a friend. “They broke down the data for me. If you throw this, these are your strengths, these are the opponents’ batting averages and comps. I was just like, ‘Yeah. I’m all-in.'”
He called the data “eye-opening,” having never seen his stuff laid out before him in that way. He had given up too many hits “on not my best pitch,” wanting to keep hitters guessing instead of attacking with his best stuff.
It’s been an evolving professional life since being a 2012 draft pick, not just from team to team but from pitch to pitch.
“I think I’ve learned a lot about myself. Had a lot of downs and not so many ups. Haven’t really gotten a chance somewhere. I feel like this is a good spot,” said Carasiti, whose career ERA is 7.46. “All the crap that I’ve gone through up to this point is culminating with me hopefully becoming the pitcher I should be.”
It’s the pitcher the Giants think he should be, too, Gabe Kapler shouting out his “pretty impressive inning” after Saturday’s game. Carasiti is close with pitching coach Andrew Bailey, a relationship that dates back to when Bailey was with the Angels and Carasiti would work out with Ty Buttrey, an Angels pitcher, and Bailey would show up at the workouts.
Carasiti didn’t even realize Bailey was his new pitching coach until Bailey called — he showed up on Carasiti’s phone as “Andrew Bailey, Angels pitching coach” — but it only reinforced the notion that he had found the right fit.
Tony Watson and Trevor Gott can be penciled into the Giants’ Opening Day bullpen, and that’s where the list ends. Saturday represented one game, but it was the first chance to gain separation.
“Sometimes it just takes longer for guys to come along and have that a-ha moment,” Carasiti said. “Hopefully that’s happening now.”