In final start, Stratton shows he deserves to be in Giants' 2018 rotation

In final start, Stratton shows he deserves to be in Giants' 2018 rotation

SAN FRANCISCO — You would have a hard time finding a starter in Major League Baseball who dealt with weirder pre-game distractions than Chris Stratton. He had 20 minutes notice one day because Johnny Cueto was a late scratch. Before one home start, Stratton was delayed several minutes by a long pre-game ceremony, and another night was scuttled by a rare lightning storm around AT&T Park. On Friday night, the first pitch was delayed six minutes because of the Willie Mac Award ceremony. 

The wait for Stratton’s next start will be a long one, but it’s going to be much easier to handle. 

Stratton will enter the offseason as the favorite to be the No. 5 starter in next year’s rotation. Anything can happen of course, from a surprise free agent addition to a trade to a spring injury, but the Giants believe they have a contributor in the 27-year-old right-hander, and Stratton did nothing but bolster his case on his final night of the season. He went into his offseason on a high note. 

Stratton has pitched well, but he hasn’t gone particularly deep into games. He wanted to do so Friday, and he pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings before leaving to a standing ovation. The Giants crushed the Padres 8-0. Stratton finished his rookie year with a 3.68 ERA, and he was 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA in his final eight starts. During that stretch, he had 39 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings. 

“He’s made a really big statement, I think, if you look at his body of work,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Just watching him pound the strike zone, he’s got two good breaking balls and a changeup. He’s locating well and he finished up on a good note tonight. It’s nice to have a young man like this come up and make some noise, where he wants to be in the rotation next year. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but he certainly did his part.”

The Giants, for much of the last two years, have gotten similar performances from Ty Blach. But many of the organization’s decision-makers believe the lefty can be a more dangerous weapon in a bullpen that lacks a reliable southpaw. Blach will surely get a chance to compete with Stratton next spring, but it has been the right-hander who has gotten the starts down the stretch. For his part, Stratton said he expects it to be competitive next March. His mindset is that he still has a job to win. 

“All I’m trying to do is help the team win,” he said. “Hopefully they can see that I can help them out.”

That’s been crystal clear in a down year. Friday night’s win assured that the Giants will not lose 100 games, but it’s been a devastating year nonetheless. On top of the traditional struggles, the Giants have been stunned by the number of injuries to young players. Other youngsters have flamed out. 

Stratton was an exception, and he credited two veterans with helping him break through at the highest level. He said Tim Federowicz forced him to throw his four-seamer up in the zone more when they were together in Triple-A. Nick Hundley did the same in the big leagues. 

“They’re trying to get me to ride that four-seamer up in the zone,” he said. “(People) always preach down, every pitching coach says to pitch down in the zone (but) we’ve been really trying to ride (the four-seamer) up and it’s been successful so far.”

Throw in an elite curveball that rates as one of the best in the game by spin rate and you’ve got a pretty good repertoire. Stratton had the Padres off-balance all night. He had just one regret. 

“I would have liked to go a little deeper,” he said. “I had hoped I could get seven complete (innings), but I’m glad they gave me a chance there.”

With the way he pitched this year, he’ll get plenty of chances to go deep in games next season. 

Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster


Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster

LOS ANGELES — Shortstop Corey Seager has been left off the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster for the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers announced Seager's surprise omission due to a back injury on Saturday, several hours before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from its roster. Infielder Charlie Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson were added.

Chicago made only one change from the last playoff round, adding reliever Hector Rondon and removing reliever Justin Wilson.

Seager complained of back soreness during the Dodgers' NL Division Series clincher in Arizona on Monday, and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year didn't participate in team workouts this week. Still, manager Dave Roberts said Friday that he was very optimistic that Seager would play in the NLCS.

Seager was an All-Star selection this season while batting .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs as a key part of the top of the Dodgers' lineup.

Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Culberson all worked out at shortstop Friday for the Dodgers. The versatile Taylor was the Dodgers' center fielder during the NLDS, but he made 96 appearances in the outfield this season and 44 in the infield, including 14 games at shortstop.

Pederson is batting .071 with no homers since July, but the Dodgers could need him in center field if Taylor plays shortstop.

Culberson famously homered to clinch the Dodgers' NL West title in announcer Vin Scully's final home game last season, but the infielder spent most of this season at Triple-A, appearing in only 14 games for the Dodgers.

Rondon was the Cubs' closer in 2014 and 2015, but moved to a setup role last season after Aroldis Chapman's arrival. He appeared in 61 regular-season games this year, going 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA in an up-and-down campaign.

Chicago acquired Wilson in a trade with Detroit on July 31, adding a veteran left-handed reliever who had 13 saves for the Tigers this season. The Southern California native wasn't great in his two months with the Cubs, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 23 appearances.

Manager Joe Maddon chose Wilson for the NLDS over Rondon, only to switch it up against the Dodgers.

Bochy, Giants issue statement following manager's heart procedure


Bochy, Giants issue statement following manager's heart procedure

Bruce Bochy's minor offseason heart procedure went as planned, the team announced Friday afternoon. 

In a message passed along to beat reporters, Bochy said "the procedure went extremely well and I'm feeling better. I'm grateful for the doctors and want to thank everyone who has reached out with well wishes."

Bochy, 62, had an ablation procedure to help him deal with heart issues that have plagued him in recent years. The operation was his second of the year, but it was considered minor enough that it could be pushed back to the end of the season.

Cleveland's Terry Francona had a similar procedure this year and returned to manage, and Bochy has left no doubt about his future. 

“I don’t want anyone to think this has an effect on my work, or ability to work,” Bochy said last week. “This is something that is not uncommon.”