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Another reason Giants want Kevin Gausman back: His quiet mentor role



Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

For the Giants, losing Kevin Gausman would be losing their best and most consistent pitcher.

For Logan Webb, it would mean losing a mentor. A catch partner. A fantasy football co-owner.

Yes, the Giants want Gausman back for his upper-90s fastball and devastating splitter that anchored their staff this season, leading to the club sticking him with a qualifying offer that Gausman must decide upon today. But for some of the same reasons the Giants are seeking an experienced reliever to guide their bullpen, the Giants want the eight-year veteran back for some intangibles that are appreciated.

“Kevin was an amazing guy for me to try to follow and see how he goes through his daily stuff,” Webb said on a phone call this week. “… He helped me out a bunch. I had my struggles this year, and he was always the one that helped me out and told me what he saw and how he feels. He’s a professional, and getting to watch him do his daily stuff was good for me throughout this year.”

Webb watched as Gausman’s routine, from off-days to build-ups to game days, never changed, insisting he follow the same set of steps to maintain consistency. Gausman took less a step and more a leap forward this season, turning stuff that always tantalized into a solid, at times overpowering abbreviated campaign in which he posted a 3.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings. Webb, 23, has been trying to break out and establish himself as a major league starter, his stuff also intriguing but the results (5.47 ERA in 54 1/3 innings) still awaiting that leap.

Tony Watson was so valued in the bullpen not just for his dependability this season but because he was the lone graybeard in a unit of mostly no-beards. Watson, once a starter who learned and thrived in a bullpen role, mentored arms like Caleb Baragar and Sam Selman, who fit the same mold.

A lot of the same teaching was done in the rotation. Webb referenced leaning upon Buster Posey and Stephen Vogt in 2019, neither of whom was back for 2020. While there were plenty of helpful voices in his ear, one coming from a former fourth-overall pick stood out.

“Just telling me, ‘Hey, man, you’re nasty,’” Webb remembered, Gausman trying to work on his confidence. “Trying to make me think that way and feel that way. That’s big for me because I’ve never really struggled like that. Having him there and a couple of the other guys, it was really cool.”

Webb said he’s still in contact with Gausman, though the roster he’s been concerned with is his fantasy football team’s, not the Giants’. (The two are co-owners in the team’s league.) Today, Gausman will have to decide whether he’ll be around his fantasy football buddies for at least another season; the qualifying-offer deadline is at 2 p.m., when he will formally accept or reject the Giants’ $18.9 million tag.

If he rejects it and signs elsewhere, San Francisco would bring in a draft pick but lose the best piece of their rotation. He also could reject it and reach agreement on a multi-year deal with the Giants, with both club and player professing they want to stick together. Or he could take the one-year payday and run it back.

Gausman is the lone undecided or unannounced case; four rejected the offer and the Mets’ Marcus Stroman accepted it.

If the 29-year-old latches on elsewhere, he would leave a rotation that contains just Johnny Cueto and Webb as near certainties. Tyler Anderson will be an arbitration decision, Tyler Beede hopes to return at some point from Tommy John surgery, and the Giants will have plenty of starter shopping to do.

“When you’re playing catch with a guy, you see everything he does,” said Webb, spending his offseason training in Arizona. “You know when it’s not right or when it’s right. I think he kind of knew when I was off. And he would kind of remind me or help me out on the next throw. It was more mental [help] than anything, but also physical stuff as well.”

The Giants’ rotation would not be the only void Gausman leaves if he gets away.