Shaun Anderson

Why Shaun Anderson, Steven Duggar were optioned as Giants hit pause

Why Shaun Anderson, Steven Duggar were optioned as Giants hit pause

The coronavirus shut down the sports world, but for baseball executives who were days away from finalizing an Opening Day roster, the action didn't fully come to a halt.

On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi revealed that Tyler Beede was having Tommy John surgery and also that the staff had made a couple of minor roster moves. Shaun Anderson and Steven Duggar were optioned to Triple-A, taking them out of the mix for Opening Day, whenever that is.

"We had a meeting to go through the roster and we just approached it from the standpoint of, on our 40-man roster, which guys did we think would have a real chance to make the Opening Day roster," Zaidi said. "That was how that determination was made."

Zaidi said the staff felt both players needed more time in Triple-A. The moves bring a bit more clarity to races that were starting to crystalize when spring training was shut down last week.

Duggar came to camp fully healthy but was a long shot from the start because of the depth the Giants feel they've accumulated in the outfield. Mike Yastrzemski is expected to play somewhere in the outfield just about every day and Hunter Pence and Alex Dickerson should split the starts in left field. Mauricio Dubon might play a lot of center field and Jaylin Davis and Austin Slater remain in the mix. When camp was shut down, the Giants still had several non-roster outfielders vying for time, including Billy Hamilton, who is somewhat similar to Duggar. 

[RELATED: Beede posts update after undergoing successful surgery]

The Giants said early on that Anderson, who moved from the rotation to bullpen last summer, would be stretched back out. At the very least he figured to have a strong shot to win a job as a reliever, and possibly be the closer when Tony Watson's shoulder flared up, but Anderson had a rough spring. The right-hander gave up 10 runs in four appearances and the staff started working on a different grip for his fastball. 

The moves shouldn't have an immediate financial impact for either player since they're on the 40-man roster. It's also possible that the Giants revisit before their actual first game. There's a chance MLB increases roster sizes to account for a shortened and frantic season, and several veterans who were in camp have opt-out clauses that will come into play before Opening Day. 

Why Giants might not name their closer before end of spring training

Why Giants might not name their closer before end of spring training

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants finally will play a baseball game Saturday, getting Gabe Kapler one step closer to the day when he'll have to make quick decisions in the late innings of a close game. Kapler is replacing the man who did that better than anyone, and he'll be at an immediate disadvantage. 

Bruce Bochy had a Core Four for a while, but even in his final year he entered the season with Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Reyes Moronta and Mark Melancon set as late-innings options. Watson still is here. After that, it's rookies, non-roster invitees and a collection of starters who may only be able to make this club as versatile relievers. 

The Giants plan to lean into that, and there's a chance the Opening Day bullpen primarily is made up of guys who can go three innings at a time. But you still need a closer, someone who will take the ball with a one-run lead in the ninth. You still need that one person that everyone else works to get the lead to.

Right?

Maybe not. 

"If somebody grabs hold of that position and makes it unequivocally clear that that person is the right player for that role, sure, I think there's some value in naming a closer," Kapler said. "If it doesn't work out that way, it's interesting -- flexibility works both ways. We have to be flexible enough to say right now we don't have to name somebody a closer. I think that decision will be made for us as we go through camp."

The Giants have one obvious candidate, Watson, who saved 30 games for the Pirates but has not done it in two seasons in San Francisco. Shaun Anderson got a taste late last year and has expressed an interest in closing, but the Giants are stretching the former top prospect out as a starter right now. Trevor Gott is making interesting adjustments this spring and was a closer in college and the minors, but he has just one big league save.

The Giants want Gott to be versatile enough to pitch at any time, too, and they could find that Anderson and Watson, or other incumbents, are best used in higher-leverage spots. For years, teams have talked about the fact that it doesn't really make sense for your best reliever to be kept on ice until the ninth. The Giants could be poised to actually go all-in on that method.  

[RELATED: Why Giants brought in ASU football coach Herm Edwards as guest speaker]

Regardless, team executives quietly are optimistic about the group. They believe they've put together a collection of good arms, and Andrew Bailey, Ethan Katz and Brian Bannister have received strong early reviews for the work they're doing in altering pitch mixes and grips. A young bullpen doesn't necessarily have to be a bad one. It also doesn't have to be one with a set hierarchy. 

"I think the game is changing dramatically and relievers know that there are fewer of those surefire 'you're the seventh, eighth and ninth (inning) guy' throughout baseball," Kapler said. "Those are actually more rare now than anything else. I do think players in general like to know their role and in a perfect world we can lay that out for them. We don't have relievers in our 'pen that are married to any role and I think that's fun and unique about our camp. We don't have one reliever that has to pitch in any particular role."

Giants spring preview: Relievers competition wide open for 2020 season

Giants spring preview: Relievers competition wide open for 2020 season

SAN FRANCISCO -- For a team that's had so much trouble at times closing out games, the Giants have generally known what their plan was for the ninth inning. Whether it was Santiago Casilla or Sergio Romo or Mark Melancon or Will Smith, Bruce Bochy always had options. Sometimes they weren't great options, but he had a pretty good idea on the first day of every spring what his ninth inning should look like.

Gabe Kapler has his preferences right now, but as he follows in the footsteps of one of the game's all-time great bullpen managers, Kapler certainly has a much more wide-open field. 

Tony Watson has 30 big league saves, but he wasn't as sharp as usual last season and doesn't have the power stuff you generally see from left-handed closers. Shaun Anderson was a closer in college and got a brief shot late last year, but there's a very limited professional track record as a reliever. 

Sometimes we overstate how many competitions there truly are in spring training, but there's no doing that with this bullpen. Even Anderson, a 25-year-old with minor league options, is not a lock. Watson is the veteran and Trevor Gott will have an inside track if he's fully recovered from a UCL sprain, but with Reyes Moronta on the shelf for most of the year and the rest of the group mostly made up of young pitchers and non-roster invitees, there's a lot of uncertainty here for Kapler and new pitching coach Andrew Bailey. 

"As open as it is, that'll start to reveal itself during camp, but I think competition is good," Bailey said on The Giants Insider Podcast last month. "We don't know how many actual spots are open or what have you, but I think guys that find themselves in that competition or in that competitive environment and get opportunities and take advantage of them, they can really make a name for themselves."

Over the last couple weeks, we broke down catchers, first basemen, second basemen, shortstops, third basemen, outfielders and starting pitchers, but good luck coming to any consensus about what the race to fill the eight-man bullpen looks like. Here, look at how some of the buckets of players look ...

Young starters who might be in the bullpen: Anderson, Andrew Suarez, Dereck Rodriguez, Conner Menez, Luis Madero, possibly Tyler Beede or Logan Webb

Veteran starters who might end up in the bullpen: Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, Tyler Anderson, Burch Smith

Inexperienced relievers who showed flashes in 2019 but also could start the year with Sacramento: Tyler Rogers, Sam Coonrod, Jandel Gustave, Sam Selman

That doesn't even cover all the relievers on the 40-man roster, or get to the ones who will be in camp as non-roster invitees. It doesn't include Wandy Peralta, a hard-throwing lefty who was picked up in September, or Melvin Adon, a prospect with the triple-digit fastball and power slider to move very, very quickly. It doesn't include Dany Jimenez, a Rule 5 pick who will get every opportunity to make the club, or Nick Vincent, who is back after making last year's Opening Day roster. That doesn't factor in the very real possibility that the Giants use an opener. 

It's going to be a wild competition, one that likely results in dozens of bullpen roster moves during the year and potentially multiple closers. Watson seems the easy choice right now, but Anderson has the equipment and mindset to elevate to that role and Gausman could be the wild card in the ninth if he doesn't stick in the rotation. 

[RELATED: Alyssa Nakken earned her way to history on Giants' staff]

Bailey, a former All-Star closer himself, said he doesn't feel the Giants need to have the pecking order set in the late innings. Teams have talked of doing that for years, but few have the guts to actually try it. Perhaps this coaching staff, young and innovative and facing an impossible climb in the NL West this year, will take some chances. 

"I don't feel the necessity to have a set seventh, eighth, ninth-inning guy," Bailey said. "I think you look at leverage, you look at where we're at in the lineup, a lot of different things. Although I do believe that guys have their routines down in the bullpen and they're used to coming into certain situations, but at the end of the day they're used to leverage, they're used to the atmosphere, the environment, the adrenaline. That's kind of what they're used to."