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Guessing the September call-ups for the Giants

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Rosters are about to expand, which will finally give Bruce Bochy a chance to make a couple mid-inning bullpen moves.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Albert Suarez is currently in the starting rotation, and the Giants’ best reliever is hurt. Hello, this is second half, please open the door or I come through the window.

There should be some help on the way, though. The rosters will expand on Thursday, allowing the Giants to call up anyone from their 40-man roster. They’ll pick up another catcher (who will have to be added to the 40-man) and some more bullpen arms, but can we nail it down more than that?

Probably not. But we can make irresponsible guesses, which is just as effective! The first step is to check with the postseason hopes of the Giants’ two teams in the upper levels of the system. The Sacramento River Cats are in last place in the PCL Pacific Northern division, and they’ve already been eliminated. The Richmond Flying Squirrels are in fifth place in the Eastern League Western, which is a fun division name to say. Also, they’ve been eliminated. So the Giants should have a full complement of players at their disposal right away, without needing to worry about the postseason hopes of their affiliates.

Here are the players on the 40-man roster who aren’t on the 25-man roster, with the possible callups in bold:

  • Ty Blach
  • Ray Black
  • Clayton Blackburn
  • Kyle Crick
  • Joan Gregorio
  • Chris Heston (if healthy)
  • Steven Okert
  • Josh Osich (if healthy)
  • Matt Reynolds
  • Chris Stratton
  • Kelby Tomlinson
  • Mac Williamson (if healthy)

That’s 10 players, though two of them are currently on the DL and one is rehabbing. This list doesn’t include the inevitable third catcher — either Miguel Olivo or Tony Sanchez — and it also doesn’t include Austin Slater, who deserves a call-up on merit. The Giants will definitely make a move to get the extra catcher on the roster, but I’m not sure if they’ll do the same for Slater, even if he’s hitting for average and power in Triple-A. And if Slater has a shot, that means that Joe Nathan has a shot, even if it will be tricky to get him on the roster, too.

Perspective: The Giants usually call up three to five players every September 1. Last year they recalled Cody Hall, Hector Sanchez, and Nick Noonan. The year before that, they called up Hunter Strickland, Chris Dominguez, Mike Kickham, Juan Perez, and Guillermo Quiroz. So if you think all of those bold names are coming up, be prepared for disappointment. It costs money to bring these players up and fly them around the country.

That written, this might be the season to bloat the roster, considering the injuries to the rotation and Derek Law, as well as the desire to stop grinding the bullpen arms into a fine powder. I could see four or five pitchers, just to make sure the tired relievers in the current bullpen don’t have to throw innings in a game like Sunday’s against the Braves. Also, those games are totally going to happen all the time now, I can feel it.

So we’ll sort the call-ups into three categories: The givens, the possibles, and the surprises.

The Givens

Ty Blach might not start a game for the Giants this season, but he’s sure as heck coming up. The 25-year-old left-hander is having a career season in Triple-A, with three strikeouts for every walk and a top-10 ERA for starters in the PCL. He’s not much of a strikeout pitcher, which makes me skeptical about his ability to survive in the majors, especially as a starter. But he’s almost certainly coming up, so we’ll get to see first hand.

Steven Okert is coming up because he’s already on the 40-man roster and he’s a left-handed arm. He struck out 60 and walked just 11 in 46 Triple-A innings, which are some pretty numbers for a pitcher who walked 4.3 per nine innings in Sacramento last year. If/when Josh Osich is healthy, he’ll be back, too.

Kelby Tomlinson is coming back because he was hosed by a numbers game all season, getting sent down because of his options, not his performance.

There will be a catcher. I’ll guess Tony Sanchez, if only because I’m still weirded out that Miguel Olivo took a chunk out of another dude’s ear last year. An extra chunk of catcher power might be more appealing to the Giants, though, so Olivo is definitely a possibility.

The Possibles

Chris Stratton and Clayton Blackburn are both in the same boat, in that they haven’t exactly earned a call-up with stellar play, but they still might get one if the Giants are determined to overstuff the bullpen. If there’s an Operation Kitchen Sink to help limit the bullpen workload, both pitchers are possible.

Joan Gregorio is also in that group, except his power sinker might give the Giants a chance to dream on his bullpen potential, so he might called up for a reason that extends beyond Operation Kitchen Sink. It would be a minor surprise if he got up before Blackburn, but it makes a certain amount of sense.

If Chris Heston is healthy, though, he’ll be the designated extra arm, I’d guess. Knows the clubhouse attendants by name, and all that. He'll have to be re-added to the 40-man roster soon anyway because you can't just stash a 60-day guy in a rehab assignment forever.

I’m not sure where to put Matt Reynolds, considering that he makes sense on the active roster, yet has one of the roster spots the Giants might need to reclaim to make room for Sanchez or Olivo. He’s just as likely to be designated for assignment as get the call-up he probably deserves.

The surprises

We know that Joe Nathan is going to have a tough time cracking the Giants’ roster, but that might have changed with Derek Law’s injury. If Law has to go on the 60-day DL, I’d put several nickels on Nathan being his replacement. If the news on Law’s elbow is good, that would leave long odds for Nathan.

If the odds are against a bullpen veteran like Nathan, you know they’re against a 23-year-old rookie who isn’t on the 40-man roster, either. Austin Slater has hit more home runs in his 65 games in Triple-A this year as he had combined at all levels over the rest of his professional career. He’s hitting for power and contact, and he’s taking walks, while minimizing the strikeouts. These are all good signs.

But he’s a right-handed outfielder, and I’m not sure if the GIants will need another one of those if Mac Williamson comes back. At least, not enough to take someone else off the roster and expose them to waivers. I’ll guess that Williamson and Slater have a similar dynamic to Nathan and Law, in that the health of one affects the status of the other.

My predictions of the call-ups

  • Ty Blach
  • Tony Sanchez
  • Kelby Tomlinson
  • Steven Okert
  • Joe Nathan

Then add Mac Williamson and Chris Heston when they’re ready. It’s not exactly Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey from 2009, but it’ll do.

It’ll have to, at least.