In tabbing Chad Gaudin for a Sunday start against the Cardinals, it could be a matter of time before the Giants are forced to look outside the organization for pitching help.
Not that the journeyman right-hander isn’t capable of bridging the gap until Ryan Vogelsong returns from right-hand surgery. Gaudin has started 75 games in his major league career. However, he hasn’t started a big-league game since 2009 – the last time he worked five or more innings was his last career start on Sept. 28 of that season – so, looking to him as the stopgap the Giants so desperately need is a tall order.
This is precisely the haunting Giants fans were afraid of when the team dealt prized pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the Mets for Carlos Beltran at the 2011 trade deadline. Wheeler, who is currently starting at Triple-A Las Vegas, is on the verge of breaking into the big leagues. If he was still with the Giants, he would have almost certainly been Tuesday’s starter in Oakland. End of story.
But he isn’t. So, the Giants have been forced to scramble, and scramble some more, to fill the injury void. Mike Kickham’s call-up was a romantic experiment, but it was evident in Tuesday’s loss that the southpaw is not equipped for a big-league rotation. Until he develops a fastball that can claim the inside of the plate against right-handed batters, Kickham is destined for a career as a left-handed relief specialist.
The return of reliever Ramon Ramirez has been a promising addition. Whether Gaudin returns to the pen sooner or later, Ramirez has shown the stuff to stay with the big club. But that is a bullpen issue. And the immediate question is: Who is best equipped to give the Giants six quality innings every fifth day?
Other internal minor-league options include: Chris Heston, Justin Fitzgerald, Chris Gloor, or a handful of journeyman options at Triple-A including Shane Loux and Boof Bonser. In other words, if Gaudin doesn’t work out, the Giants will need to seriously consider trading for viable big-league arm.
Continuing with the romanticism, there are two options with local roots, either of whom could make for a strong addition. Scott Feldman of the Cubs is enjoying the best month of his career while in a contract-year for a last-place team. And Greg Reynolds has quietly put himself back on the map as a quality arm with Reds Triple-A affiliate Louisville.
Feldman is a Burlingame product who was drafted out of College of San Mateo by the Rangers in 2003. The 30-year-old veteran is sporting a 5-1 record through May in his first year with the Cubs. When asked recently if things could get any better, Feldman responded short and sweet by saying: “If I could hit a home run.”
In Feldman’s next plate appearance – his first at bat against the Reds on May 24 – the left-handed hitter drilled the first home run of his big-league career. So if the Giants are looking for someone who has his mojo working, they can hardly do better than Feldman.
But Reynolds is a tempting option, if for no other reason than he is currently not on the Reds 40-man roster. Translation – he could likely be gotten on the cheap, as he doesn’t have nearly as much trade value as a current big-league starter like Feldman.
Reynolds is a Pacifica native who graduated from Terra Nova before accepting a baseball scholarship to Stanford. The right-hander was the second-overall pick by the Rockies in the 2006 draft, but injuries derailed his top-prospect status. Soon to turn 28, Reynolds’ prospect days are behind him. But experience makes him an intriguing mark. He has appeared in 27 games over parts of two seasons with Colorado.
Thursday night, Reynolds earned the win in Louisville to up his season record to 5-0, and now ranks in the International League top 10 in wins, ERA (2.92), and innings pitched (71).
Louisville pitching coach Ted Power recently stated he believes Reynolds is ready to pitch in the big leagues again. But with a depth of pitching that also includes Mark Prior and Armando Galarraga in the Triple-A mix, Power wondered if Reynolds will get that chance this year with the Reds.
“I don’t know if it will be with the Reds because of, if they have a need,” Power said. “But I think the work he is doing here is definitely getting attention…. If something should happen, I think he’s ready to go up there and pitch for them. It’s always tougher when you’re pitching for … a team that is competing for a pennant. If it was another team that was out of the race, he’d probably already be there.”
Not that Gaudin emerging as a viable starter isn’t a romantic notion in and of itself. And of course there are other pitchers available around baseball. But San Francisco could hardly find hotter big-league-ready talent than Feldman or Reynolds.