Rookie Dereck Rodriguez proving to be a workhorse for Giants rotation

Rookie Dereck Rodriguez proving to be a workhorse for Giants rotation

SAN FRANCISCO — When setting a rotation for the second half the of the season, a manager will often slide a rookie between a couple of veteran starters, knowing that the experienced pitchers can help make up for any innings the bullpen might have to soak up in the rookie’s starts.

The Giants brought Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija back this week and they slid Dereck Rodriguez, a 26-year-old, between the two reliable innings-eaters. But Rodriguez is flipping the script. 

Cueto’s return on Thursday night was shaky, and the Giants, for all their optimism, don’t quite know which version of Samardzija will show up at AT&T Park on Saturday afternoon. But when this slice of the rotation comes back around next week, they can be pretty comfortable with the young right-hander pitching between two of the highest-paid pitchers in the game. 

Rodriguez was dominant into the seventh Friday night, shutting down a Cardinals lineup that whacked Cueto a night earlier. He did not get the decision in a 3-2 win over St. Louis, but he tightened his grip on his rotation spot, lowering his ERA to 3.09 with 6 2/3 strong innings. 

The Giants will keep a close watch on Rodriguez as the summer wears on. He is, after all, a converted outfielder who has never thrown more than 143 innings in a season. But he also has the look of a workhorse. 

“We’re going to keep an eye on him with his workload,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “But he’s a strong kid and he maintains his stuff late in the ballgame. He can maintain his stuff and command, and he’s got strength and stamina to be one of those guys. When he goes out there you have confidence he’s going to get you late in the game.”

Rodriguez threw 99 pitches and seven innings two starts ago. His last time out, it was 6 1/3 innings on 102 pitches. On Friday night, he went 6 2/3 on 90 pitches before Bochy pulled the plug. He was able to get deep because of a change in gameplan, but not a conscious one. 

Rodriguez said he has long been a fly-ball pitcher — “oh yeah, by a long shot,” he said, smiling — but he got 13 outs on the ground Friday, repeatedly feeding an infield that took a blow in the fourth inning. Joe Panik was pulled with a left groin strain and will go on the disabled list Saturday, with Alen Hanson taking over at second and Austin Slater getting most the time in left. Hanson better be warmed up the next time Rodriguez pitches, because he kept the guys behind him busy Friday. Rodriguez was talking about that defense when he paused and looked back at a reporter. 

“How many — 13?” he said of the groundball outs. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more than 10 in my life.”

The Cardinals kept pounding it into the dirt, but they did get to Rodriguez twice. Hanson overran a two-out pop-up to left in the second inning and Rodriguez was saddled with a tough-luck run. He cruised from there, but Bochy saw signs of fatigue in the seventh and had Reyes Moronta warming. Paul DeJong singled with two outs and Kolten Wong pulled a double off the bricks, with DeJong scoring easily when the ball took an odd bounce. That was it for Rodriguez, who yelled into his glove as he walked off the mound. The crowd didn’t seem to notice. Rodriguez got a raucous ovation. 

“Yeah, I thought it was a good pitch (to Wong) and he put a good swing on it,” Rodriguez said. “Unfortunately the ball took a bad hop when it hit the wall.”

It might have cost Rodriguez a win, but it didn’t cost the Giants. Andrew McCutchen drove Hunter Pence in a few minutes later and Tony Watson and Will Smith closed it out. The Giants snapped a four-game losing skid. 

“Right now we’re not clicking offensively,” Bochy said. “We’re going to have to throw the ball well and find a way to score runs.”


Manny Machado is a Dodger, so Giants must be better at being the Giants


Manny Machado is a Dodger, so Giants must be better at being the Giants

As Comrade Pavlovic explains here, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ acquisition of Manny Machado is a gaudy rental that only slightly narrows the San Francisco Giants’ path to a surprise postseason berth.
In short, the rich got richer, and the Giants continue to mind the tax line.
There is, of course, no fun in that position. The A’s aren’t selling for a change, which makes the Giants seem weirdly conservative in comparison to the noisy neighbors they never seem to notice. The Warriors, who move in down the street in a couple of years, are burning money like it’s a college football pregame bonfire, which also makes the Giants look uncharacteristically thrifty.
But Machado is the only real jewel in the trade deadline crown (the Mets have pitcher Jacob deGrom, but nobody expects the Mets to do anything other than standard Met-ism), and not only would he find a way to beg out of any trade to San Francisco on religious grounds (he does not worship in a power-restrictive park), the Giants already have a shortstop in which they are exceedingly proud.
In short, the Giants weren’t in the Machado race, and they don’t look like they will be in many others, either. This is their year of stasis, in which they will either win as they are or lose as they are.
Indeed, the Giants are operating outside their usual shopping norms. They would need to shave salary to acquire salary, which means there will be no 2010 Summer Of Love (Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, Javier Lopez, Jose Guillen). And their prospect bin is running pretty low, so they can’t toss young’uns into the wind to see what veteran difference-makers they can attract.
Thus, the Dodgers improving their lot is of little consequence to the Giants, save that corner of the fan base that believes the Dodgers always must be monitored. The Giants need to be more concerned about what the Diamondbacks and Rockies and Phillies and Nationals and Braves and Brewers and Cardinals do, which means there probably are too many teams to keep track of down the stretch.
Indeed, the simplicity of the task before the Giants is clear. Their path to salvation is through a rehabilitated Evan Longoria, and a revitalized Johnny Cueto, and a transformed Jeff Samardzija, and an offense that doesn’t regard seeing its own players on base as evidence of plague. The Giants have to be better at being the Giants, and there is no guarantee of that based on the evidence of not just the past 98 games but the 230-some-odd before that.
But if it helps, someone will enjoy the trade deadline. It just isn’t going to be the Giants. They are, for one of the rare times since they moved from Candlestick Park, a team likely to do almost nothing of consequence this July.
But maybe they can get DeMarcus Cousins to throw out the first pitch at one of the Pirates games in August. I mean, if you can’t be in the market, you might as well enjoy someone who is.

How Dodgers' trade for Manny Machado affects Giants' NL West chances


How Dodgers' trade for Manny Machado affects Giants' NL West chances

SAN FRANCISCO — With every move they’ve made over the last nine months, the Giants have been careful to stay under the competitive balance tax, eager to jump headfirst into this offseason’s loaded free agent class. Unfortunately, they’ll now get an up-close look at the best all-around player scheduled to be available this winter. 

After weeks of rumors, and an awkward All-Star Game, shortstop Manny Machado finally was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon. The Dodgers sent five prospects to Baltimore, a package highlighted by Yusniel Diaz, an outfielder who was the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect, per MLB Pipeline. The other four prospects are not considered top-20 guys. 

There’s no sugarcoating this. The Dodgers, despite an extremely slow start, finished the first half atop the National League West, half a game ahead of the Diamondbacks and four up on the Giants. An L.A. lineup that already has eight hitters with double-digit homers added a player with 24 homers, 65 RBI and a .963 OPS at the break. Machado was far and away the best player available at the trade deadline, and he now might give the Dodgers the best position player in the division. 

Shortstop wasn’t exactly a position of need for the Dodgers. Chris Taylor has done a nice job filling in, but he’s no Machado, and the 26-year-old provides a perfect second-half fill-in for Corey Seager, who was lost earlier this year to Tommy John surgery. 

The Dodgers beat out the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Yankees, Brewers and possibly a few others for Machado’s services. After hoarding top prospects for years, L.A. made its move, adding to a team that has a sense of urgency after falling in the World Series last year. Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his deal this offseason, too, and this move certainly shows the ace that there is a commitment to winning at all costs. 

Machado has just 48 at-bats against current Giants pitchers -- nearly half of those against Derek Holland, who spent his prior seasons in the American League. The Giants will get their first look at him in about a month, when they visit the Dodgers on Aug. 13. The Dodgers come back to AT&T Park for the final series of the regular season. 

Until that first meeting, where does this leave the Giants? 

Their road to a division title just got a bit steeper, and it’s unclear how they’ll counter. General manager Bobby Evans has said he’s not under orders to stay under the CBT line, but it’s not hard to read between the lines. The Giants just shipped a decent prospect to Texas to ditch Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin’s contracts, a move that was made specifically to get further away from the tax line.

Before the Machado trade, it was hard to see the Giants going away from their plan and adding a significant piece. The same holds true today. Any countermove won’t exactly have the Dodgers shaking.

Some Giants fans might take solace in the fact that the Dodgers paid a decent price in prospects to acquire Machado. But Diaz plays a position where their organization is loaded, and the unfortunate truth is that the Dodgers’ system today still is better than most. 

The Giants still would like to bolster their lineup, with a glaring need against left-handed pitching. Another bullpen arm always is helpful, although Ray Black might fill that hole internally. If the Giants do want to add, they’ll need to find a way to dump a bit more salary, and perhaps they can get creative, as they did with the Rangers deal.

They will not however, be able to go move-for-move with the team atop the division. Machado was the best player out there, and he’s now a Dodger.