SCOTTSDALE — Caleb Baragar is back to where he feels most comfortable.
The former minor league starter has his eyes on becoming a major league starter after debuting last year — successfully — as a reliever during the shortened season.
It was a serious learning process for a young lefty who hung on Tony Watson’s every word, figuring out how to be ready day after day after day after day. His MLB debut was a two-inning appearance, he next threw 1 2/3 innings, then didn’t get more than four outs at a time for his next 22 games.
He adjusted well and became a middle-inning weapon for Gabe Kapler, posting a 4.03 ERA with 19 strikeouts and a 0.985 WHIP in 22 1/3 innings. Now he’s going to try to become a different kind of weapon.
After the season, Baragar met with Farhan Zaidi and GM Scott Harris, who were seeking feedback.
“I just kind of expressed my feelings of, ‘Hey, [starting] is something I would like to do down the road, whether it becomes next year or whatever,” Baragar said Saturday. It became this year.
Baragar will get his first look of the spring Monday, when he is set to follow Nick Tropeano’s start, but Baragar will get starts of his own this spring. The 26-year-old is thrilled just to be in major league camp — which he wasn’t last year, impressing from afar enough to get the nod for camp 2.0 — but he wants to prove himself as he gets stretched out to make a bid for a rotation spot at some point.
He will have to mix up his pitches more than last year, when he threw an effective fastball three-quarters of the time. Baragar has been honing two breaking balls, and Kapler recently praised his slider.
“This year I’m just trying to separate both my curveball and my slider with different shapes and make sure they’re distinctly different,” said Baragar, who pitched well in live batting practice against righties Wilmer Flores and Austin Slater on Friday. “Because sometimes they have a tendency to blend together and become just one pitch.
“Talking with [director of pitching] Brian Bannister and some of our other pitching guys, it’s going to be really helpful — if I do end up starting down the road — if I have three pitchers as opposed to two pitches.”
A year ago, he was working out away from the major league club, without an invite to camp. It’s possible he is now passing up a potential bullpen spot on Opening Day — although the Giants have plenty of options — to chase a starting job he excelled in most recently with Double-A Richmond in 2019.
The pitchers expected to follow Tropeano and Baragar on Monday: RHP Kervin Castro, RHP Dedniel Nunez, LHP Anthony Banda, RHP Silvino Bracho.