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Like everything else, Giants’ pitching situation is going to get weird

Drew Smyly. Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth in a six-part series that previews the upcoming season for a team we haven’t heard much from in over three months. Here is a look at the outfieldersmiddle infielders, corner infielders and catchers. Who are these guys?

The Giants set out this offseason to acquire flexible, low-cost pitching talent, filling their fridge with plenty of interesting dishes to try, even if filet mignon was not among them.

In the midst of a pandemic, having the cupboards full of potential meals will prove crucial.

San Francisco is fairly well-positioned to handle the rigors of a 60-game season that will begin with a rushed spring training 2.0, which will not allow starters to properly stretch out their arms. Seven-inning outings were going to be rare for Giants starters this year anyway; now, they will be an impossibility for the better part of the season.

Johnny Cueto is still expected to get the ball Opening Day and should be followed by some order of Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly. Logan Webb will enter summer camp as the odds-on favorite for the No. 5 slot, but it’s very much possible Tyler Anderson, a pickup from Colorado who is now ready to go after knee surgery last year, can be the No. 6.

Maybe Anderson will go three innings, followed by Trevor Cahill piggybacking three innings of his own. Baseball in 2020.

The Giants are more loaded with possibilities than aces, which could mean a lot in a season that will take place alongside a pandemic and test depth like never before. Their ostensible rotation impressed in February and March, Gausman in particular showing the stuff that made him the fourth-overall pick in 2012. Giants starters went 21 innings to begin the Cactus League without allowing an earned run. They cannot heavily rely on those arms at the onset, though.

“We’ve prepared our players for this, so we’ve asked them to [simulate game action] and create as much intensity as possible in their bullpen sessions and at home,” Gabe Kapler said on a Zoom call Monday. “And I think players have taken that directive pretty seriously. So we think they’re going to come in built up. But … there’s a high likelihood that when we break camp, these guys are only prepared for three innings, maybe three-plus, so we’re going to have take down games with a starter and then some bulk options.”

If it existed, Bulk Options would be Farhan Zaidi’s favored grocery store. The Giants are comfortable enough with their depth in the rotation (or what passes as a rotation) and bullpen that interesting righty fliers like Tyson Ross and Nick Vincent were released last week. On the swingman hierarchy, Ross was behind Cahill and Andrew Triggs, capable veterans who can eat up a few innings. Also in that mix could be Andrew Suarez, Trevor Oaks, Shaun Anderson, Dereck Rodriguez, Rico Garcia and perhaps Enderson Franco, who was outrighted this weekend but figures to be a potential pool add.

The advantage of depth is the options it creates, but the Giants will not have the luxury of experimenting much with who can nail down innings. They will have to be comfortable with each pitcher, a challenge with as many fliers as they have taken. Kapler said Monday he can envision either camp-standout Tyler Rogers or a now-healthy Tony Watson closing games, though it’s possible the Giants won’t use a set ninth-inning man, believing a guy like Rogers could be more valuable in a high-leverage seventh inning, for example.

Behind those two will be Trevor Gott, whose stuff tantalizes, and a sea of unproven talent. Carlos Navas, a 27-year-old righty still yet to make his MLB debut, looked great in the spring, as did Wandy Peralta and Jarlin Garcia. Sam Coonrod‘s stuff is major league-ready, as he showed last year. Dany Jimenez is raw, but as a Rule 5 pick he figures to stick around. Sam Selman‘s slider is difficult for lefties, and Tyler Cyr will hope to make a camp 2.0 statement. Looming is Reyes Moronta, the fireballer who’s rehabbing from shoulder surgery but could return in September.

If the list seems overwhelming, that is part of the plan for the Giants. In a season when so little is guaranteed, options will be mandatory.

“I think COVID is showing us that we need to be prepared for anything,” Kapler said.

Tomorrow: DH


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