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Kapler assesses how new pitchers in camp fit with Giants

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Nick Tropeano pitching for Pirates

If you have trouble keeping track of all the pitchers the Giants have added to camp, you're not alone. 

"We ask everybody to wear their jerseys for, like, the first five days of camp," manager Gabe Kapler said earlier this week. "It's hard to put all the faces to names."

It's hard to stay caught up, too. 

Just this week, the Giants added Nick Tropeano and Luis Gonzalez (not that one) on minor league deals and agreed to terms with veteran starter Aaron Sanchez, although that deal hasn't been announced by the team yet, keeping Kapler from discussing him publicly. 

Even without Sanchez they're at 70 players (teams are allowed 75 this spring because of COVID-19 protocols), including 29 pitchers who are in camp as non-roster invitees. When Farhan Zaidi said in his introductory press conference two years ago that no move is too small, he was giving a road map. That's seen every time the Giants take the bullpen mounds at Scottsdale Stadium, and that's where Kapler spends most of his time. A lot of the players he watches -- like Tropeano -- are options to start or relieve.

"The roster will tell us what we need once we get to the end of March," Kapler said.

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Tropeano, 30, has made 49 big league appearances, just 10 of which came out of the bullpen. But all seven of his appearances last season with the Pirates were in relief, and he had a 1.15 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings. On the surface, he potentially looks like this season's Trevor Cahill. 


"The great thing about Nick is he's open to either (starting or relieving). We'll certainly give him an opportunity to get stretched out and also to continue to work on his arsenal," Kapler said. "But I think Nick just wants to find a way to compete to be on our opening day roster and that's what we're going to encourage. It might be that he turns out to be a great option for us to start games, but it also might be that he takes down multiple innings out of the pen. He's a really competitive guy, Andrew Bailey knows him well and flagged that for me and for others."

The other addition, Gonzalez, is much lesser known. He's a lefty reliever who spent 2019 in the minors with the Orioles, and while the overall numbers didn't stand out, he did have 66 strikeouts to 17 walks in 48 1/3 innings. Gonzalez pitched in Japan in 2020. Kapler said the Giants saw him have success there and in winter ball and noted that Gonzalez "threw a lot of strikes and had a really high punch out rate" the last time he was in the minors.

---  Tropeano is far from the only one in camp who can start or relieve, and there was a surprise name added to that list this week. Kapler said Caleb Baragar, who was such a big part of the bullpen's success last September, will work as a starter this spring. Baragar was a starter throughout his minor league career. 

"We're going to give him a chance to get stretched out," Kapler said. "He has asked for that and earned the opportunity to be evaluated as a starter."

The Giants don't have a rotation spot open right now and there's a good chance they get to the end of March and see Baragar as a late-innings option for them, but for now starting will allow him to continue working on his secondary pitches, including a breaking ball he's altering. 

--- As you might remember from last spring, Kapler often begins his media sessions by highlighting guys who stood out in the bullpen. Among the guys mentioned this week was Sam Long, a 25-year-old lefty from Northern California who is in camp as an NRI despite never having pitched above A-ball. 

"He was kinda lighting it up," Kapler said after watching Long. "He was throwing strikes all over the plate."

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Kapler said Long has a good changeup and curve and liked the way the fastball came out of his hand. Like Sam Selman, he might be one of those guys who has taken huge steps with his offseason work: 

--- A couple of right-handers on the initial camp list aren't around. Melvin Adon had surgery to repair a torn labrum after getting hurt in winter ball. Raffi Vizcaino was diagnosed with a right elbow sprain over the offseason. Both will be rehabbing in minor league camp this spring.

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