'Something has got to change' for Chris Stratton after latest rough outing

'Something has got to change' for Chris Stratton after latest rough outing

PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes you miss your ace at the strangest times. At Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, the middle innings might have qualified. 

Chris Stratton has been forced into the top role thanks to injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, and ineffectiveness for Jeff Samardzija, but as he walked three in the fifth, the Giants got a reminder that he’s probably not ready to be the stopper on the staff. In the sixth, they got a reminder that having to plug holes in the rotation can leave some big gaps in the bullpen. 

The result was an ugly 11-3 loss to the Phillies, the third straight after a sweep of the Braves. Stratton gave up five earned and walked four. Pierce Johnson, a late addition to the staff this spring, but one who has pitched well, compounded the damage and was charged with six earned. Derek Law, called up Tuesday because the Giants simply don’t have healthy arms on the 40-man roster, couldn’t stop the bleeding until the game was well out of hand. 

The Giants were not winning this one given the way Stratton pitched and the lineup failed to hit early, but sometimes you can make a charge in the late innings in a small park. All too often, two or three-run deficits have turned into blowouts. 

“Those guys have got to hold them there to give you a chance to come back, but they keep tacking on,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s hard for everybody.”

It won’t get any easier. Bumgarner isn’t due back for another month or so. Cueto will be at least two to three weeks behind him, and that’s if neither suffers a setback. They’ll need to find a way to pitch through this, and it’ll have to start with Stratton. There aren’t other options, really. 

Stratton got off to a scorching start this season but has given up 14 earned runs in his past three starts and pitched just 12 innings. 

“Overall I didn’t do a good job of commanding the fastball today,” he said. “I’ve got to do a better job in the first inning. The last three starts I’ve given up some runs in the first. I don’t know if I have to change my routine or have a different mindset, but something has got to change in that first to set the tone for the rest of the night.”

The lineup could have set a different tone, but Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria struck out against Nick Pivetta with two on in the top of the first. It was all quiet from there. The Giants struck out 11 times. 

The Giants’ pitchers also struck out 11, but they walked seven, too. Six of the Phillies who walked came around to score. 

“The walks have killed us,” Bochy said. “You look at all these rallies, there’s a walk involved. We just don’t seem to get away with those walks, and that’s got to get better.”

Acquiring Drew Pomeranz checks off many boxes for Farhan Zaidi, Giants


Acquiring Drew Pomeranz checks off many boxes for Farhan Zaidi, Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — When asked Wednesday afternoon about some of the bigger names that remain on the free agent market, Farhan Zaidi said he won’t talk about specific players.

But the new president of baseball operations at Oracle Park has been open about some traits he specifically is looking for in free agents, and in that respect, Drew Pomeranz checks off a lot of boxes. 

Pomeranz, a 30-year-old left-hander, was signed to a one-year, $1.5 million deal Wednesday that could guarantee him as much as $5 million if he hits incentives, according to The Athletic. He will be plugged into the rotation, and the Giants feel they have found their 2019 version of Derek Holland, a veteran lefty who rebounded last year in a new environment. 

Holland returned last week on a one-year deal that similarly fit what the Giants are looking for as they take a step back in the roster-building process. Here’s how Pomeranz fit that mold, too:

--- Look at the track record: When discussing guys like Mike Gerber and his Rule 5 picks, Zaidi has talked about the importance of going a few years back in a prospect’s profile. The same holds true for Pomeranz. He had a 6.08 ERA in 2018, but a year earlier he posted a 3.32 ERA while making 32 starts for an American League East club. He had a 3.32 ERA in 2016, too, and it was 2.47 for the Padres before he was traded to Boston. 

Pomeranz’s 3.32 ERA in 63 games across those two years ranks sixth among left-handed starters, behind Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Madison Bumgarner, Alex Wood, and Chris Sale. Zaidi worked with three of those pitchers in Los Angeles and now has two in San Francisco, and given that Pomeranz is just 30 years old, it’s not unrealistic to picture him getting back to that production. 

“You go back to 2016 and 17, he’s one of best left-handed starters in baseball,” Zaidi said. 

Zaidi later went way further back than 2016, repeatedly mentioning Pomeranz’s pedigree. 

“Drew’s got a pedigree dating back to his college days,” Zaidi said. “Team USA, and being a top-five pick in the draft.”

--- Take advantage of the ballpark: Pomeranz’s wife is from the Bay Area and the former Athletic met her here. He mentioned repeatedly that he likes San Francisco, and threw in how the ballpark can help starting pitchers. 

“The big thing for me was opportunity,” Pomeranz said. “My big thing for me was getting back on track and doing what I can do and just being myself again.”

Zaidi has made no secret of the fact that he’s using Oracle Park as a selling point for pitchers in need of a bounce-back, and he’s even open about how helpful it may be for them financially. He said Pomeranz’s side pushed for a one-year deal.

“It was important to get a one-year deal and reposition himself in free agency,” Zaidi said. “We’re certainly hoping we can give him that kind of platform to have him have a really strong year and re-enter the market or stay in San Francisco if it works for both sides.”

It’s a win-win. Pomeranz gets a shot to rebuild some value and cash in next winter, and if he does pitch well at Oracle Park, the Giants get a good starter … and a good trade chip. 

[RELATED: Will moves be made closer around Spring Training?]

--- Short-term deals: Zaidi inherited the worst future payroll situation in the league, and it has become clear that the Giants do not want to further dig that hole before a season in which they are not expected to contend, even though Zaidi said there’s no mandate for short-term deals. All three additions thus far — Pomeranz, Derek Holland, and Pat Venditte — have come on one-year deals, and the Giants have not been seriously in on any of the big names in the market. 

--- Versatility: Pomeranz has made 74 relief appearances in his career and allowed just a 3.00 ERA when coming out of the bullpen. He was signed to be a starter, but like Holland, he should be able to seamlessly move into the bullpen if needed at some point. 

“We value guys who have that flexibility, but where we are as a staff, with our depth in the bullpen and need for innings and more of a veteran presence on the rotation side, our plan is for him to be in the rotation,” Zaidi said.

Giants part ways with first player Farhan Zaidi added to roster


Giants part ways with first player Farhan Zaidi added to roster

SAN FRANCISCO — The first player Farhan Zaidi ever added to the Giants roster is no longer on the roster. 

To clear a spot on their 40-man roster for Drew Pomeranz, the Giants on Wednesday designated Mike Gerber for assignment. Gerber, a 26-year-old outfielder, was claimed from the Detroit Tigers on the first day of the Winter Meetings in December.

Pomeranz signed a one-year deal on Wednesday. 

Gerber looked headed for plenty of spring training time in an outfield that is lacking big-league talent. When the Giants picked him up, they talked up his minor league track record and the fact that Gerber can play all three outfield spots. 

The move leaves the Giants with just five outfielders on their 40-man roster, including one — Rule 5 pick Drew Ferguson — who was added three days after Gerber and outlasted him. None of them have been regular starters in the big leagues, although Steven Duggar is expected to be that guy in center field this season.

Currently, Austin Slater leads Giants outfielders in career plate appearances, and he’s at just 352. 

Zaidi has said repeatedly that he expects to add at least two outfielders to the mix before the season, perhaps guys who fit the short-term mold displayed by the Pomeranz signing.