The Giants' rotation depth

Rich Pilling

Everyone on the Giants will stay healthy because we're spoiled and have expectations. But who would the Giants stick in the rotation if they needed an emergency starter?

Neat little tidbit: For the first time since 1963, the Giants have a chance to use the same starting pitchers to open consecutive seasons.

Whether by injury or roster maneuvering, the Giants have never opened consecutive seasons with the same starting five. In both '62 and '63, before the advent of the five-man rotation, the Giants used Jack Sanford, Juan Marichal, Billy O'Dell, and Billy Pierce to start both seasons. The 2013 Giants could do it with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong.

And I know what you're thinking, you superstitious ass. There's no such thing as a jinx. I'm just wearing the same boxers from November because they're comfy and I like the rocket ships on them, not because of superstition. And the point isn't to congratulate the Giants on something they haven't accomplished yet, but rather to highlight just how hard it is to keep a major-league rotation together. The Giants had five pitchers with 30 or more starts last year, which is just the ninth time in MLB history that's been done. None of those teams did it in consecutive years, though the 1980 A's and 1993 Dodgers didn't get a chance because of strikes.

The point of this isn't to breath hot Eeyore onto the back of your neck. Heck, neither the 1987 Giants nor the 2003 Giants had a single pitcher crack 30 starts, and they both won the West. But it's worth mentioning how unlikely it is for all five pitchers to make 30-plus starts again. It would be historically unlikely. With that in mind, let's take a look at the starting pitchers in a glass case. Here are your potential sixth, seventh, and eight starters for 2012:

On the 40-man roster
Edwin Escobar
Chris Heston
Yusmeiro Petit
Eric Surkamp

Escobar was 20 and in Low-A last year, so he's exceptionally unlikely to make the jump to the majors this year. Petit actually made a start last year, so the Giants have actually used him on purpose. Surkamp is still recovering from Tommy John. Chris Heston is a command soldier from Planet Suppan, and probably the one with the brightest immediate future of the group.

Off the 40-man roster
Boof Bonser!
Ryan Sadowski!
Chad Gaudin
Justin Fitzgerald
Shane Loux
Michael Kickham
Brad Penny

There are players who could be snipped from the 40-man, as there aren't any Alex Hinshaw-like cornerstones to protect at all costs, so it's not like these players are all long shots because they aren't on the roster. I expect Gaudin to make the team, and he could get a couple spot starts. But if there's a long-term issue, I doubt that he would be the player to fill the hole. Also, note that Brad Penny isn't really with the organization anymore, but he's been sleeping in the clubhouse since November because he can't find his car keys, so he's not completely out of the picture.

Edit: I forgot Mike Kickham. This is a note acknowledging the existence of MIke Kickham, who is currently the #5 prospect in the system according to Baseball America, and unlike a lot of the other pitchers on this list, Kickham actually has a fastball. He'll be in Triple-A, and the BA writeup on him mentioned Jeremy Affeldt as a comp.

Is it a great group of starting pitchers? No. Of course not. No team has an extra half-dozen quality pitchers on hand. The Rays came close to it last year. So did the Braves, yet by the time the middle of the season rolled around, they had to sign Ben Sheets.

But as an emergency kit, it'll do nicely. Heston has the kind of control numbers that make you think he could be at least acceptable for a while, especially considering that he's something of a groundball pitcher. Petit is a great guy to have around in, but he's also out of options, so he'll have to pass through waivers to get back to Fresno. I have no idea what kind of demand for Petit's services there would be.

After Heston and Petit, Bonser and Sadowski have experience in the majors. But as interesting/amusing as the Sadowski return would be, note that he had a 98/69 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 150 KBO innings last year, so he's probably something of a last resort. Bonser hasn't been fully healthy since 2008, and he's had both rotator-cuff and Tommy John surgeries, so I'm curious to see how hard he throws. You might say that I'm "waiting" to see how hard he throws. /studio audience whoops and hollers

A minor problem, a doubleheader, or some extra rest needed? Gaudin's my guess. After that, Heston. But don't count out Brad Penny. He's starting to stir, and it only takes a few cups of coffee to get him right back to where he was.

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