SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – Some pitchers have the opportunity to jump into spring training and compete against role-players or smaller players in their first few games in the Cactus League.
Others, like Logan Webb, are getting the best of what the reigning World Series champions have to offer.
Webb was only supposed to throw one inning in the Giants 1-1 draw with the Dodgers, but when pitching coach Andrew Bailey sent him the opposing line-up card, he saw the names Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and A.J. Pollock on the order.
« It’s hard, » said Webb. « But you have to see it as a different opponent. »
Betts is a former MVP, Seager was the Dodgers World Series MVP, and Pollock, the least successful of the three, has an All-Star Nod and Gold Glove award on his resume.
Webb struggled with command issues in a frustrating rookie season last year and spent the off-season determined to be more consistent by throwing each of his pitches on strikes. The early returns, though limited, suggest his efforts are paying off.
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The 24-year-old right-handed man had unbalanced Betts during a bat game, which resulted in a pop-up for catcher Chadwick Tromp. Against Seager, October’s hottest baseball player, Webb showed a change that the Dodgers shortstop whistled against for a strike.
« I’m pretty comfortable and secure right now when I blame someone (the switch), » said Webb.
Webb’s matchup with Pollock didn’t go nearly as well as the Dodgers left fielder made an offer from the Giants starter to the left of the 430-foot mark on the midfield wall at Scottsdale Stadium. Luckily for Webb, midfielder Mauricio Dubón chased the ball and ended a successful 1-2-3 inning for a pitcher who wanted to prove he could regain a spot in the Giants rotation this spring.
Early math doesn’t look particularly good for Webb, who is behind Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Aaron Sanchez on the Giants’ rotation depth map. It doesn’t help that the Giants see more accomplished free agents Scott Kazmir, Shun Yamaguchi and Nick Tropeano as minor league starters this spring.
And while Webb might even pull or even outperform some of these pitchers in the eyes of Giants reviewers, there are options for smaller leagues available to him. A spot on the opening days list might not look realistic to Webb right now, but with a few more forays like the one he had against the Dodgers, the Rockliner-born can make a compelling case for a job.
Giants executives Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris had a busy off-season as they completely rebuilt the team’s rotation, added a new leadoff hitter in Tommy La Stella, and with free agent signers like Matt Wisler and Jake McGee gained depth in the bullpen.
The former Cubs and Padres prospect has never played a day with a big league ball, but the Giants gave him a major league contract and a spot on their 40-man roster in one of the winter’s more surprising deals .
Against the highly competitive Dodgers right-handers Walker Buehler and Dustin May, Vosler gave fans a glimpse into why the Giants were relentless to pursue him.
The left-hander, who completed 20 home races with Triple-A El Paso in 2019, drilled a pair of doubles on Tuesday and tied a ball on the left field line against Bühler before pitching into the left midfield gap in May. Even when both pitchers sat with their fastballs in the mid to late 1990s, Vosler had no problem turning the offers around and making the most difficult contact the Giants made in the first three days of spring training.
The only disappointing attack for Vosler was his third attack when he had a chance to give the Giants the lead against new Dodgers aide, leftist Alex Vesia. With two runners in goal position, Vosler fell 2-0 down and cleared up a few places before sticking the third goal into catcher Stevie Berman’s glove.
With a long list of seasoned infielders who have clearly defined roles and a left in La Stella blocking his way to the squad, Vosler seems to have a ticket to the season at Triple-A. It may take an injury or a trade before Vosler has a realistic opportunity to play at Oracle Park before the all-star break, but he doesn’t have to face the caliber of a pitcher he saw Tuesday for his stats replenish and convince the giants, he deserves a chance.
If anything was made clear in the first three days of the Cactus League game, the Giants have an excess of quality weapons that can form a dominant bullpen.
A parade of talented helpers followed Webb against the Dodgers on Tuesday when Matt Wisler, Tyler Rogers, Sam Selman and Wandy Peralta made their spring training debut list.
All four are in a good position to secure the squad spots on opening day, but if any helpers struggle this spring, prospects like Kervin Castro, Dedniel Nuñez and Camilo Doval seem poised to take on roles. After Castro and Núñez impressed against Rangers in Surprise on Monday, Doval pitched for the first time on Tuesday, hitting two strikeouts in a goalless sixth inning.
The right-handed man, who entered the 40-man squad in the off-season, was able to command his slider in the strike zone and blow a fastball that hit a steady 96 mph and the 97 after a couple of Dodgers thugs Peak reached.
The Giants plan that Jake McGee, a top contender approaching the season, will make his spring debut Thursday against the Royals.
It’s possible the front office isn’t ready to expand the bullpen mix, as MLB Network tweeted in Jon Heyman on Tuesday that the team is signing a deal with veteran left-hander José Álvarez. The South Paw posed for manager Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia in 2019 and has a career of 3.59 ERA in 359 career games.
With more than 30 guns in stock this spring, the Giants opening day prediction feels like a fool’s hunt at this point. It can be just as difficult to predict a few days before the start of the season.
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