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Thomas Szapucki called up to spell taxed bullpen

© Kelley L Cox | 2022 May 25

Thomas Szapucki’s one MLB appearance this year came against the Giants, and it didn’t go well. 

The left-handed pitcher lasted 1.1 innings and allowed nine earned runs on seven hits. Joc Pederson, Mike Yastrzemski and Evan Longoria each took him deep. It’s not often you see a pitcher with a 60.75 ERA on the season. 

But Szapucki and his mind-blowingly high ERA arrived in San Francisco and was called up in favor of righty Yunior Marte Friday. Given the state of the Giants’ taxed bullpen, he’ll likely get work Friday, if not this weekend. 

It’s a bit surreal that this team, the one that shelled him in May, is the one that traded for him.

“I thought it was very funny,” Szapucki, 25, told reporters. “I got a good laugh.”

The Giants acquired Szapucki in the four-for-one trade that sent Darin Ruf to the Mets. Szapucki’s locker in the Giants’ clubhouse is right next to his former teammate J.D. Davis. 

In that blow-up outing in Citi Field, the Giants clearly saw something they could exploit. When asked about it Friday, Giants manager Gabe Kapler was cagey. Perhaps Szapucki was tipping pitches. 

“There were some things about that outing that we recognized, that we were able to take advantage of,” Kapler said. “We feel like we’re past that with them. He’s in a space now where if that happened again, it wouldn’t be the same results…We feel like we have the ability to help him.”  

Szapucki has been a starting pitcher his entire career, and just a few weeks ago transitioned to a bullpen role. He said he’s throwing a bit harder as a reliever and is working on saving his energy in different ways for the shift in job description. 

The Giants didn’t give Szapucki anything specific to work on when they acquired him. Though Farhan Zaidi told reporters he thought Szapucki could contribute for the big-league club down the stretch, he said nobody gave him an indication that he’d join the Giants soon. 

Szapucki isn’t a lefty specialist, although the Giants’ bullpen desperately needs one. Jarlin García is the most reliable southpaw in San Francisco’s bullpen, though Tyler Rogers has also historically had success against lefties. The rest of SF’s bullpen is occupied by righties. 

Giants relievers posted the lowest ERA among all bullpens last year, but rank 24th of 30 clubs this season. 

“This isn’t something that he’s been doing for very long,” Kapler said. “At the same time, he’s got kind of an explosive fastball that really carries in the zone at the top. And he can get it there. He’s got a nice curveball to work off of that. It’s not the easiest pitch to pick up. That combination gives us confidence and is encouraging enough to want to use him in a big spot tonight if the opportunity presents itself.” 

  • Joey Bart tweaked his ankle on a swing in San Diego and has been unavailable since, but the Giants are optimistic that he’ll be ready to start behind the dish this weekend. Bart declined to speak with reporters pregame. 

  • Padres superstar Fernando Tatís Jr. was suspended 80 games without pay for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. San Diego just took two of three from the Giants, and although the news swept through the Giants’ clubhouse, it doesn’t change how Kapler views the playoff race. 

  • The Giants are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the 2012 World Series run on Saturday. Though Buster Posey and Tim Lincecum won’t be in attendance, two other key contributors don’t have a choice.

    “The most important factor for us is that we still have two of those players, in Craw and Belt,” Kapler said. “Just means those guys have been playing at a really high level for a really long time.” 

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