SCOTTSDALE — The $220-million spending spree on starting pitchers will solidify the two rotation spots behind Madison Bumgarner, and it could end up having just as big of an effect on the final two spots.
The Giants chased Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto in part because the two are dependable innings-eaters, locks for 200 or more when healthy. Madison Bumgarner is, too, and as manager Bruce Bochy plans out his rotation, he knows that a well-rested bullpen could lead to big things for the oldest pitcher on staff.
Jake Peavy took the main field at Scottsdale Stadium on Sunday and worked on finding a balance in terms of effort level, with the hope that he can mix some easier innings early in games and have the needed stamina in the late innings. But Peavy said you also have to know the “effort level for each occasion.”
Here’s one such scenario the Giants hope to see often: Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija go deep back-to-back-to-back, leaving a fresh bullpen for Peavy (who had trouble later in games last season) and Matt Cain (who has had trouble staying healthy). What would that lead to?
“I’m emptying the tank for six. Emptying it for six,” Peavy said of that situation. “There are going to be times like that and also times where you know they need innings.”
The Giants didn’t get enough outs from their starters last season, and Peavy, who used to consider his night a poor one if he didn’t get through at least seven, often pushed to give Bochy an extra frame regardless of how he felt physically. The 34-year-old said he has learned to adjust his mindset. He doesn’t care what the line looks like in the box score as long as there’s a ‘W’ in the all-important column.
The numbers show that a scaled-back Peavy could be incredibly effective behind the new Big Three. In 19 starts last year, Peavy gave up just 22 runs during his first 75 pitches of a game. From pitch 76 through 100, he gave up 22 runs. Put another way, Peavy had 3.58 ERA for the season but it was just 2.43 ERA through the first five innings. The trouble almost always came late.
“He’s had a little history (with that) recently. It’s something to think about,” Bochy said. “He’s probably the one guy we’re not looking at to get us deeper into games.”
Reliable innings from the new guys would give Bochy additional options if he feels Peavy has hit a wall, but Peavy isn’t going to go into the season thinking that way. He worked Sunday on lowering the intensity a bit, and that’s something he believes could help him. If he can dial it back in the first couple of innings, he’ll have more gas for the finish. This is admittedly a big adjustment.
“It’s really hard to find that balance to where you’ve dialed it back, so to speak, on effort,” Peavy said. “When you pull back you sometimes don’t feel like you’re going as hard as you can, and it’s tough to get beat that way.”
If Cueto and Samardzija are as good as the Giants — and Peavy — think they will be, balance won’t be needed. Others can leave it all on the field, and nobody does it better than Peavy. On Sunday, when he was supposedly a bit “dialed back,” Peavy drew laughter from coaches when he yelled at himself after a pitchout at the end of his live BP session.
“That’s Peav,” Bochy said. “He’s not going to change that. That’s what’s impressive about him. He’s hard on himself. These guys have to get their work in and get better. They don’t get complacent.”
STOCK RISING: Man, Hunter Strickland looked just about untouchable while facing hitters today. This seems a good time to remind everyone that Strickland gave up just a .190 average and .543 OPS to hitters last season. He’s going to close here eventually.
THE SOUNDTRACK: Nothing gets the juices flowing like “Larger Than Life” by the Backstreet Boys blasting through the park for the start of BP. That was followed by Rihanna, Pink, NSYNC, Ellie Goulding and Keisha. It was Brandon Crawford’s “sneaky awesome” mix that previously had been reserved for the clubhouse. On a possibly related note, the coaches have had Crawford’s group take BP on the back field (without speakers) since about the same time he took over DJ duties. Ron Wotus may be getting the last laugh.
Speaking of the Brandons, I highly recommend Belt’s Oscar picks.
HEALTH UPDATES: Hunter Pence (Achilles tendinitis) and Gregor Blanco (flu) missed the workout. Blanco was sent home for a second straight day.
QUOTABLE: “He’s a strong kid, man. He just punishes the ball.” — Bochy on Mac Williamson, who had a very loud BP session on the main field.