Brandon Belt

Giants notes: Who Pence and Ishikawa might replace … and is Vogey back?

Ryan Vogelsong San Francisco Giants

Just like we can’t count the Giants out as a team, we’ve seen too many moments where Ryan Vogelsong pulled himself out of the baseball abyss to give up on him in April or May. That’s why, unlike several frustrated fans during his horrible start against the Dodgers when he allowed four homers, I didn’t call for the Giants to cut the cord.

And look at his last two starts: just seven hits, two walks and a run allowed over 14 innings. His pitches aren’t coming in as flat, he’s throwing harder (every single one of his pitches was over 1 mph faster on average during Sunday’s game than his disastrous outing in L.A. — except his cutter, which was only 0.19 mph faster).

What does it mean? Probably just that as the Giants try to stay at or above .500, they’re going to have to weather several inconsistent seasons from the members of their rotation. Madison Bumgarner has looked both great and just fairly good at times. Tim Lincecum has had fantastic outings and meh starts. Chris Heston is on a good/bad/good/bad cycle that one should probably expect from a guy who was brought up from the minors in the first week of the season. Tim Hudson was masterful last weekend as he went into the ninth inning, then gave up 15 hits on Thursday. Then there’s Vogelsong, who looked like a lost cause until this past week.

Not that I’m breaking any new ground here, but this is why it’s far more likely that the Giants deal for a starting pitcher between now and August instead of another bat. Their only other starter in case one of the current guys flames out is Yusmeiro Petit. The high-minors cupboard is stocked with relievers, but the Giants can’t trust anyone in Sacramento or Richmond to go six innings every fifth day in the majors. Not yet, anyway. That’s why they recently signed Ricky Romero to a minor league deal, but the chances that he’ll become the next Vogey-like success story are slim.

Hunter Pence Yes! Yes! Yes! SF Giants World Series parade

Makin’ room for Pence and Ishikawa

Sacramento is where Hunter Pence (forearm) is playing, and he looks close to being fully ready after a lengthy rehabilitation process. Travis Ishikawa (back) is in a similar situation, and he had a double in four at-bats for the River Cats last night.

Say Pence comes back before Ishikawa. In that case, it’d probably be Hector Sanchez who gets sent down since he has one minor league option remaining (meaning the Giants can send him down and bring him up as often as they like for one season) and Sanchez hasn’t started a game since April 15. He’s hitting .194/.194/.258 in 31 at-bats.

But what if the Giants add Pence AND Ishikawa to the active roster, and no one currently on the roster gets hurt between now and then? The Giants are currently carrying 12 pitchers, a number that most certainly will not go down.

It’s got to be Joaquin Arias, right? I was chastised by a few for daring to note that as a pinch-runner, getting deked by Ichiro on Gregor Blanco’s deep fly ball to right was inexcusable (I called it a “DFA-able offense”), seeing as Arias’ only job was to score from first base on an extra-base hit. OK, his main job was to not get thrown out unnecessarily, but it wasn’t a good look for a guy who’s looked fairly lethargic over the last year-plus.

The guy in charge didn’t sound impressed (via Andrew Baggarly):

“He got me,” said Joaquin Arias, who pinch ran for Susac. “He got me good.”

“I was yelling, `Go Arias!’” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He might have been the only one he deked.”

Blanco told Arias after the game: “Man, you didn’t see how hard I hit that ball?’’

The only reason to keep Arias around is his experience level at every infield position. Despite the fact that he lobs throws from third base and shortstop, he gets the job done more often than not (although he’s been called for two errors as a shortstop in just 16 innings).

Matt Duffy looked a lot better than Casey McGehee at third base, especially in the batter’s box, but it’s not exactly “The Giants Way” to cut ties with a veteran like McGehee, who’s making $4.8 million this year, so early. Unless McGehee’s knee has been stricken with some sort of degenerative condition that will only get worse, or he’s a clubhouse cancer (which seems awfully doubtful), the Giants will probably give him until at least June to figure this out. Wait, it’s almost June.

— Duffy’s spot is safe, because he’s a glue guy who always seems to do the right thing.

— Gregor Blanco isn’t hitting all that well, but he’s barely had any chances. Plus, Blanco has been a valuable player for many years and signed a two-year extension before this season, and he serves as Angel Pagan insurance.

— Justin Maxwell will be the team’s main right-handed power hitter off the bench when Pence comes back.

So my guess is Pence will replace Sanchez, and Ishikawa will replace Arias, opening up a lot of playing time for Duffy as the super-utility guy whenever Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik need rest. The only reason to keep Arias would be if the Giants don’t think McGehee will last the season at third base … hmmm, maybe this scenario isn’t as clear-cut as I’m trying to present.

There’s always the DL option for McGehee, something I suggested over two weeks ago.

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