MESA, Ariz. — Giants manager Bruce Bochy said on Monday that he isn’t ready to name right-hander Chris Stratton to the five-man starting rotation, but he left little doubt about that outcome.
Bochy said Stratton has done everything he’s supposed to do following an outing in which the 27-year-old starter pitched four innings of one-run, two-hit ball with a walk and three strikeouts in a 6-5 Giants win over the A’s at HoHoKam Stadium.
“I thought he threw the ball very well,” Bochy said. “He was very sharp today. Good stuff. It was a good outing for him. We’re getting him where we want him to go. It’s a day he should feel good about.”
The Giants have spent the spring trying to build out the rotation behind Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Stratton, Ty Block, Tyler Beede and even non-roster veteran Derek Holland have been in the mix for the last two rotation spots.
But Stratton has had a terrific spring with a 2.25 ERA in four appearances – three starts – 14 strike outs, four walks and only three runs on nine hits in 12 innings. Considering the light desert air, those are pretty impressive numbers.
That’s why Stratton, 4-4 with a 3.68 ERA in 13 appearances – 10 regular season starts last year – seems to be a no- brainer for the fourth spot in the rotation.
“We’ll have a little bit of time here. We’ll whittle it down in about a week or so,” Bochy said. “We don’t have to have something in stone right now. But you have to like the way he’s throwing the ball.”
The Giants lost 98 games last year and one of the prime reasons was the failure of an injured-riddled pitching staff. Bumgarner missed a good portion of the season after injuring his shoulder in a dirt bike accident. Cueto was never himself.
The Giants starting pitching was 15th in the Majors with a 4.58 ERA. They scored a 29th in the league low 639 runs, 3.94 runs per game. In 2012 and 2014, both World Series-winning seasons, the Giants’ starters had a 3.73 and 3.74 ERA respectively. The Giants scored 4.43 runs a game in 2012 and 4.10 runs in 2014, and that was the margin of difference.
While the Giants have bulked up their offense with the offseason additions of Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, and Austin Jackson, the pitching is ultimately still going to be make them or break them.
“I feel good right now where we’re at,” Bochy said.
How the rotation plays out in April may determine the entire season.