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Giants set 25-man roster, put Neil Ramirez in bullpen

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Ty Blach is the only lefty in the bullpen. That is not a sentence I was expecting to type

Cleveland Indians v San Francisco Giants Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Giants have unofficially officially set their roster before Friday night’s game, and there aren’t any major surprises on the bench. Compared to last week. Compared to February 1, there are a whole bunch of surprises! “What’s a Chris Marrero?” you might have said. But this is the lineup and bench the Giants were hinting at, and it’s the lineup and bench you’re gonna get.

The bullpen makes up for that, however! Ty Blach won’t start the year in the rotation, but he’ll still have an important job, as the only left-handed reliever on the roster. Steven Okert, who had a great spring, was sent down to make room for right-hander Neil Ramirez, who also had a dominant spring, was planning to opt-out of his contract if he didn’t make the roster, so Okert became an option casualty.

Ramirez has pitched in the majors over the last three seasons, with his best season coming in 2014, his rookie year, when he posted a 1.44 ERA and 10.9 K/9 in 43⅔ innings for the Cubs. Since then, he’s struggled with injuries, throwing just 20 innings in 2015 and 24 innings in 2016.

If healthy, though, Ramirez is one of them freaky slider-and-mid-90s late-inning guys that the Giants have lacked for a few years. Here’s a table that compares his fastball to Sean Doolittle’s in glowing terms. Ramirez struck out 19 batters in 11⅓ innings this spring, walking four. The Giants wanted at least an extra month to see if they’ve stumbled backward into the next Hunter Strickland, and I can’t believe that they’re doing it.

It’s not that I’m against the move. Heck, no. This is mighty intriguing, and I’ve been fascinated by Ramirez all offseason. It’s just that I can’t believe the Giants are actually going with one left-hander in the bullpen. And he happens to be the long reliever, at that. If last year’s problem was the unsettling tendency to over-manage in search of platoon advantages, they’ve, uh, found a creative workaround.

The rest of the bullpen: Blach, Cory Gearrin, George Kontos, Hunter Strickland, Derek Law, and Mark Melancon. Yet again, it’s a bullpen that makes me think, “Yeah, that guy should be solid-to-great,” when going through the individual names, but collectively scares the bejeepers out of me. There has to be a German word for that.

Matt Cain is the fifth starter, as expected. This was the obvious move once Will Smith got hurt, with Ty Blach going to the bullpen in some sort of hybrid Jeremy Affeldt/Yusmeiro Petit role. In the off chance that Cain struggles*, Blach will already be on the roster to help out.

* Matt Cain is an American hero, but Ty Blach will be starting by June.

The bench will have Aaron Hill as the utility infielder, Gorkys Hernandez as the backup center fielder, Nick Hundley as the backup catcher, Conor Gillaspie as Jean-Paul Pinchit, and Chris Marrero as the platoon outfielder. Kelby Tomlinson will be complaining about options and arcane roster rules in Sacramento with Okert, and Jae-gyun Hwang will attempt to work his way back to the majors as an infielder-outfielder. He’ll just need to learn the outfield part.

This is the 25-man roster:

C - Buster Posey
C - Nick Hundley

1B - Brandon Belt
2B - Joe Panik
SS - Brandon Crawford
3B - Eduardo Nuñez
INF - Aaron Hill
INF - Conor Gillaspie

OF - Jarrett Parker
OF - Denard Span
OF - Hunter Pence
OF - Gorkys Hernandez
OF - Chris Marrero

SP - Madison Bumgarner
SP - Johnny Cueto
SP - Matt Moore
SP - Jeff Samardzija
SP - Matt Cain

RP - Mark Melancon
RP - Hunter Strickland
RP - Derek Law
RP - Ty Blach
RP - Cory Gearrin
RP - George Kontos
RP - Neil Ramirez

It’s a good bunch of baseball men. While the outfield scares the heck out of me and there are some decisions I would have made differently, it’s a good bunch of baseball men. Welcome back, real baseball. We’ve missed you so.