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The Pitcher-in-a-Pinch

Carlos Martínez is the kind of pitcher that will help fill in the gaps and get the Giants through this season. Of course, he’s got to make the team first.

St Louis Cardinals v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

It’s clear that during the lockout Farhan Zaidi made pitching the scratch to itch before the start of 2022 season.

With the signing of starting pitcher Carlos Rodón over the weekend, the 2022 San Francisco Giants starting rotation is ostensibly complete, but unsurprisingly, the front office has continued to add depth and flexibility to its rotation today with the signings of Carlos Martínez and Jakob Junis.

Expect more of these moves all season.

Both Martínez and Junis have experience starting Major League games and were picked up with the hope that they’d fill in—along with Tyler Beede, Sammy Long and Sean Hjelle potentially—when the established rotation is not at 100 percent.

This will inevitably happen in 2022 because it happened in 2021 and every other season for every other team in baseball history. Pitchers miss starts. It is still incredibly unnatural to make your body throw a 95 MPH fastball. Pitching 200 innings is becoming a rare feat.

The Giants in 2021 used 13 different pitchers to start a game (including openers). Four of the five 2022 Giants starters have had injury issues in the past.

Alex Cobb hasn’t pitched 150 innings in a season since 2018. He’s also 34. Alex Wood logged 138 innings for the Giants with two different stints on the IL in 2021, and pitched only 58 innings over the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Logan Webb is only 25 and we have no idea how his body is going to respond to his first full season in the Majors. Carlos Rodón, as we all know now, has yet to shake his injury shadow. Even after posting career numbers in 2021, his workload slowed down later in the season, a full week passing between his starts.

162 games is a lot of games and about a million and a half things can throw a wrench in someone’s season. Whether its as normal as a shoulder strain or a baby being born, or as bizarre as ham-and-cheese sandwich knife attack, or as idiotic as trying to perform a Superman on a dirt bike—one of these things in some form or another will happen to a pitcher in 2022 and the Giants need to be prepared for it.

Though Zaidi ultimately made the big deal for the top of the rotation player, his philosophy to pitching has not changed. It is about having options, flexibility, and depth so come August, an exhausted Rodón, Wood, or Cobb can benefit from an extra week of rest rather than grind through five lousy innings of losing baseball because their turn in the rotation came around.

Signing cheap, proven, yet worn-for-wear, professionals to fill in those gaps is what helps get a team to the end of the season. They are the cans of chicken noodle soup in the back of the pantry. Not filet mignon, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Farhan has made it a pet project of his to dig through the dollar bin for these kinds of “pitchers-in-a-pinch.” Which is why last May after Logan Webb went to the IL with a shoulder strain, Giants fans found themselves googling images of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays to confirm that the guy on the mound really was the same Scott Kazmir.

Kazmir was in no way a revelation—but he was there when Kapler opened up the pantry after Webb’s injury.

Carlos Martínez is exactly this kind of pick-up. He was an All-Star in 2015 and 2017, with 205 IP and 212 strikeouts in 2017, yet his numbers have exploded in recent years. But he’s only 30 and has a large pitch selection with a lot of natural movement. The talent is there, maybe, potentially. Stuff tends to linger.

More importantly, he’s cheap.

If he’s willing to sign a Minor League deal with Major League incentives that means he’s got a chip on his shoulder. He’s got something to prove.

Martínez might not ever play in San Francisco; or he might find his stride again and give meaningful days off to Giants starters; or he might find value as a long reliever out of the bullpen. He might. He might. He might. What Zaidi is doing is not an exact science by any means. It’s not really a science at all—but a philosophy dictated by a proverb: Many hands make light work.