At first it looked like the San Francisco Giants were dealt a big blow when Alex Wood — penciled in to be part of the rotation — started experiencing back soreness. And while it’s certainly not a good thing that Wood is dealing with some physical issues, it’s not quite as tough for the team as it seems at first glance.
Wood recently had a non-invasive procedure for his spine, and while he doesn’t figure to be out long, he’ll likely miss Opening Day.
That’s OK, and not just because Logan Webb is waiting in the wings.
It’s OK because the Giants have no need to use a fifth starter until they’re comfortably settled into the shiny, new season.
The Giants have off days after their first and second series of the season, meaning they won’t need a fifth starter until April 13, their 11th game of the season. And given that they have an off day two days after that, they could get funky and opt for a bullpen game on April 13, and then not need a fifth starter until April 20, their 17th game (they probably won’t do that, but they could!).
Only needing to carry four of their presumed five starting pitchers — Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Aaron Sanchez, and Anthony DeSclafani — means the Giants are afforded an extra player elsewhere.
Who will it be? They’ve certainly got options.
Starter Logan Webb
Webb is making a helluva case for the rotation this spring, allowing just 2 hits and 1 walk in 6 innings, while striking out 10 batters. Exceedingly small sample is exceedingly small, but of the 39 pitchers to take the mound for the Giants during the Cactus League, Webb has been the best.
Gabe Kapler has already made it clear that the team is comfortable with Webb in the starting rotation, so he’ll almost surely get the nod if Wood is out for an extended period of time. But there’s also a possibility that the Giants ignore their days off, and use a five-man rotation from the get go, with Webb included.
Reliever Logan Webb
While Webb has pitched well enough to earn a spot in the rotation, there’s a decent chance that, if the team were fully healthy, he’d start the year in the Minor Leagues. The Giants would probably rather have him pitching starter innings at a lower level than wasting development time in the bullpen.
I’m not the Giants, and I don’t know what they think. Perhaps they would rather Webb be in the bullpen, helping them win games. They surely don’t feel comfortable about their four healthy starters pitching deep into games, and being able to turn to Webb early in a game and have him keep the score competitive has a lot of value.
A ninth reliever
Bullpens are generally capped at eight relievers, since teams are only allowed to carry 13 pitchers. But if a team only needs four starting pitchers, then suddenly they can have a ninth reliever, and you bet your butt that excites the Giants and their love of bullpen arms.
The Giants have so, so, so many arms vying for bullpen spots, and not all of those arms have options. A four-man rotation could be just the ticket to get a player like Shun Yamaguchi on the Opening Day roster.
A defensively-sound outfielder
In addition to starting the season with a four-man rotation, the Giants are starting things off on the road, against an American League team. That means they get to use a designated hitter for the first three games.
They could end up using Evan Longoria — who is hitting the stitches off of the ball this spring, but has yet to play in the field due to plantar fasciitis — but they’re optimistic that he’ll be ready to man third base.
Which brings us to the outfield. Right now the team’s outfield looks to be Mike Yastrzemski, Mauricio Dubón, Alex Dickerson, Darin Ruf, and either Austin Slater or LaMonte Wade Jr. Ruf and Dickerson are nothing to smile at defensively, so the team could use them as DHs, depending on the handedness of the pitcher, and keep both Wade and Slater for defensive purposes. That also gives them the luxury of delaying a decision between those two.
So who will it be?
Who takes Alex Wood’s spot on the Opening Day roster?
This poll is closed
5th starter Logan Webb
Reliever Logan Webb