PEORIA, Ariz. — The Giants have preached endlessly about competition bringing out the best in players, pitchers not just battling hitters but one another for their baseball livelihood.
Thursday was a good start to the most intriguing battle in camp.
Tyler Beede was dominant in a pair of scoreless innings, buzzing 98 mph with his fastball and 82 mph with a curveball that struck out J.P. Crawford, while Logan Webb showed flashes of more raw stuff in the Giants’ 5-4 win over the Mariners in front of 4,108 at Peoria Sports Complex.
Beede, whose arsenal teased for so much of last season, looked strong — he said he’s put on 10 pounds (and credited his wife’s cooking) — en route to allowing just a walk as his only baserunner, while striking out a pair.
He set a tone that Webb, his competition for the No. 5 spot, tried to match. Webb, whose stuff is more of a work in progress as he hones a cutter and what last year was a curveball and this year is more a sweeping slider, broke a few bats and sat at around 93 mph with his fastball.
He got hit in his second inning of work, in all allowing a run on three hits and a walk while striking out two. He said he was overall happy with the way he threw, though he “felt a little rushed, think I was a little excited” in his spring debut.
Handicappers would give Beede the (very) slight edge on Feb. 27, an edge that is assuming the Giants would carry five starters to begin the season. So much will be in play, including tag-team starters, as they try to limit both exposure and inning counts.
The 23-year-old Webb, who threw just 103 professional innings last season after a suspension for testing positive for a PED, acknowledged the Giants have talked to him about curbing his workload this season, which he did not sound thrilled with but understands.
For Beede, who will not have the same restrictions, pitching fewer innings at a higher-octane level would seem tempting for the team. He said the increase in velocity — his average fastball was 94.3 mph last season, according to Fangraphs — was more a function of his bigger body, feeling better and just throwing fewer fastballs than usual. The Giants want him to emphasize his offspeed stuff, Gabe Kapler saying, “We want that macho feeling about secondary pitches as well.”
“I feel like I can sustain [the velocity],” said Beede, who showed terrific glimpses last year but finished with a 5.08 ERA. “… If I’m going to lower the usage of my fastballs, I want the intent on the fastballs that I do throw to be at a higher level.”
Both Beede and Webb indicated they would prefer starting, Webb being a bit more forthright — “I’m a starter,” he said.
Webb is a project of the new pitching minds, especially pitching director Brian Bannister’s, and has worked with Matt Daniels, the team’s coordinator of pitching sciences. His two-seamer and new cutter broke several bats in his limited time on the mound, but he has work to do to make sure he’s getting his tweaked array of pitches in for strikes. He was bothered by his third-inning walk of Shed Long, who stole second and then scored on a single.
“I feel really strong and explosive out there,” said Webb, adding he wants to “just do my best to show that I can pitch every five days this spring and keep going, keep doing that throughout the season.”
Beede said he would help the team however he could, but “I’d love to be a starter. I feel like my stuff plays as a starter, and that’s where I hope I’ll end up.”
Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly appear to have spots locked in, at least to begin a season that should get much different around the trade deadline.
Injuries could strike at any point, and the Giants could get creative with their young arms. But the competition for that fifth spot is on.