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Giants’ bullpen is coming together as Kapler ‘challenges’ potential closer

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

As the Giants’ bullpen takes shape, Gabe Kapler wants an important piece of it to be in top shape next season.

The Giants had a clear need to add some righty arms to their stable after their lefties far outshown them last season, blowups from righties (Trevor Gott and Sam Coonrod) costing them games in a season in which they missed the playoffs by one victory.

They have responded by adding Matt Wisler, who emerged in the shortened 2020 campaign as a force by essentially only throwing his slider, and selecting Dedniel Nunez from the Mets in Thursday’s Rule 5 draft.

The Giants’ minor league signings with invites to major league camp thus far include eight righties, from fireballing Melvin Adon to 2020 option Rico Garcia to guys with more major league experience like Dominic Leone and Silvino Bracho.

Yet, the most important may be an in-house add.

Reyes Moronta had the stuff and feel of a closer before his Aug. 31, 2019, horrors, crumbling to the ground after throwing a pitch and needing surgery on a torn right labrum. He recovered in time to at least be on the Giants’ radar this past season — he was throwing around 95 mph in Sacramento, his fastball having lived around 97 mph in ’19 — but was never called up. Perhaps his conditioning was a factor.

“Andrew Bailey, our pitching coach, and I just had a really important heart to heart with Moronta on Zoom of course — he was in the Dominican Republic — where we challenged him to come to camp in his peak physical conditon,” Kapler said on the Giants’ YouTube show last week. “We challenged him to come to camp dedicating himself to potentially being an important late-inning, high-leverage reliever for us. He’s going to have opportunities to take control of a role like that. We’ll see what he looks like in spring training.”

The 27-year-old Moronta was listed last season as 5-foot-10 and 265 pounds. Johnny Cueto, who lost 20 pounds after Tommy John surgery in trying to return to his peak form, would be a good person for Moronta to reach out to.

If Moronta is again a weapon in 2021 — in his three Giants seasons, he has a career 2.66 ERA and 1.200 WHIP with 160 strikeouts in 128 1/3 innings — he would be an immediate candidate to get a role no Giant had in 2020. Gott was the ostensible closer for a few weeks, but his run of three straight collapses opened a door that went unentered.

Gott and Coonrod will be back competing for spots, as will Tyler Rogers and Shaun Anderson. From the more-stable left side, Jarlin Garcia, Caleb Baragar, Sam Selman, Conner Menez, Wandy Peralta and Andrew Suarez will be in the mix. Yet-to-debut prospects now on the 40-man roster in Camilo Doval, Kervin Castro and Gregory Santos will hope to impress enough for early-season big-league jobs. Beyond that, perhaps the Giants could add another big-league arm but probably not two established ones.

Kapler repeatedly has stated he is not principally against having a closer, but that no one stepped up and grabbed the job last season.

“It’s on the pitchers,” the manager said on the show. “We are asking them to step up and take control of roles and make it unequivocally clear that they are the right man for the job.”

For Moronta, the resume-building for the closer job is starting now and not in February.


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