"Scott, you have a call. It's from a Kim Munter."
"Kim's on the phone? I'll be right there!"
several minutes later:
Scott Munter and Dan Ortmeier were sent down, and their replacements are pending. Ortmeier's spot might be filled by Fred Lewis, Travis Ishikawa, or Todd Linden, but it really doesn't matter. A few months down the road, they'll find the replacement in a room filled with pine tree air fresheners, tied to a bed. Felipe will want to know in August if the poor guy is ready to finally start a game, and the response will be, "Even if didn't chew his tongue off, which he did, his brain turned to mush months ago." And it will all happen to Jason Ellison first, too. I've never seen a National League team use less of its bench. This is as good a place as any to point out I really hate it when people refer to that movie as Se7en.
The extra reliever; now that's something to ponder. Merkin Valdez has big-league experience, but the experience was about 35 innings worth of baserunners crammed into two innings. He wasn't lighting the world on fire in Fresno either.
Jack Taschner has steadied himself somewhat in Fresno, and is a possibility to take Munter's place. Taschner's K/BB ratio has been excellent since going down, with a 15/2 mark in 13 innings. He is, of course, an absolutely boring choice. That's not passing judgment on him at all. It's just that we've seen him before. We know what his success looks like, and we know what his struggles look like. That's not exciting. He's probably the most logical choice, and is certainly the safest.
Jonathan Sanchez appeals to whatever chemical in the brain makes people want to skydive, bungee jump, or use Greyhound toilets. Every team hopes to catch K-Rod in a bottle or, to a lesser extent, vintage Yhency Brazoban. Sanchez is disemboweling AA hitters as a reliever, and he's doing it with strikeouts and control. The temptation to bring him up is there.
But Brazoban is a good name for the tempering of expectations. He came out of nowhere, had some dazzling performances, regressed the next season, and then suffered a serious injury. That's the ultimate fear when a prospect is rushed. Sanchez really doesn't have much experience above A-ball, and it isn't wise to put a whole lot of stock into his first 30 innings of this season. A lack of a clearly defined role can be a problem for some young pitchers, and even Sanchez's catcher mentioned he's getting away with pitches in AA that could be moon shots at a higher level.
A counterexample to Brazoban could be Jeremy Accardo. Accardo had about 100 professional innings under his belt and, as a converted position player, hardly any collegiate pitching experience. He also hit .333/.381/.492 in his final year at ISU, which gives the Giants a 23rd option at first base preferable to Jose Vizcaino. Accardo was rushed like few other pitchers in the past decade, and he's still around to tell the tale. Even better, he's improving before our eyes.
The ultimate goal is for Sanchez to be a starter, and an initial turn as reliever shouldn't discourage that. There is a school of thought that even recommends this sort of development path, pointing to the smooth transitions of graduates like Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana. Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, and formerly of Baseball America, is a huge proponent of the idea.
One thing I'm not worried about is a loss of confidence if he gets pounded. Sanchez is 23; if he doesn't have to confidence to rebound from rookie struggles at 23, he isn't going to swallow a magic confidence bean when he's 25. If shattered confidence turns out to be a problem, it likely would have been regardless of the call-up date. An additional season in the minors might cushion the initial struggles, but every rookie is going to run into a few obstacles.
I'm in favor of giving Sanchez a shot. I didn't go back and add up the pros and the cons of such a move. I didn't factor in service time, or research the successes and failures of players in similar situations. The deciding factor is simply that I wanna watch him pitch, I wanna watch him pitch right now, and I'm willing to throw a tantrum to get what I want. I made similar threats about Cain last year, and the Giants wisely conceded. The prudent course of action would be to let Sanchez try AAA, and bring Taschner up. But while Taschner has a chance to succeed, Sanchez has a chance to dominate. It might only be a 10% chance that he approximates his AA performance in the majors, but it could be just the thing for a moribund bullpen like this one.