Brian Sabean

Options may keep two young SF Giants in Sacramento on Opening Day

Matt Duffy Giants World Series Parade

The San Francisco Giants don’t have many intriguing roster-related subplots this Spring. They have seven starting pitchers who aren’t going anywhere, several established relievers (including four who’ve been a part of all three championship teams), as well as a starting lineup that’s set in stone (barring injury).

However, there are two players who face an uphill battle to make the 2015 Opening Day roster, despite being a part of all four 2014 postseason rosters.

1. Matt Duffy

“The infield is going to be a dogfight for the extra spot,” Brian Sabean said a couple weeks ago during media day.

While Duffy certainly has a shot at one of those spots, he doesn’t have service time on his side.

Like the player we’ll talk about in a little bit, Duffy contributed to the Giants’ win in Game 4 of the World Series. Down 4-1 in the third inning, Duffy hit a leadoff single and later scored on a base hit by Buster Posey. He also laid down a key bunt in Game 4 of the NLCS.

Duffy made the jump from Double-A to the majors at the non-waiver trade deadline. After thinking there was a good chance he was getting dealt throughout that day, he stuck with the Giants for the rest of the season. He’s one of those players you just trust (unlike the other guy we’ll discuss) for whatever reason. The moment never seems too big, he’s a heady player … choose your preferred cliche, but it seems like he’s a guy the Giants would like to keep on their bench.

However, Duffy has minor league options. Ehire Adrianza doesn’t, and unless the Giants designate Joaquin Arias (who’s owed $1,450,000 this year) for assignment or let Adrianza hit the waiver wire (he’d get snapped up fairly quickly), Duffy may be the odd man out unless he goes insane in Arizona with the bat and convinces the coaching staff that he can play every infield spot besides first base.

“We saw a snapshot last year of (Adrianza) being a little bit more competitive at home plate,” Sabean said.

“Whatever it’s worth, in Venezuela during the regular season and the playoffs, (his offensive production has) carried on in winter ball. Very talented defensive player and roster-wise, has an inside track because he can really play shortstop. He’s a bonafide backup shortstop. And he still has youth on his side.”

Pro: It might not be the worst thing in the world for Duffy, 24, to play every day in Triple-A. 

Con: Duffy was one of Bruce Bochy’s most trusted bats off the bench when it mattered.

Hunter Strickland World Series

2. Hunter Strickland

Strickland — who pitched a scoreless ninth in Game 4 against the Royals — didn’t get a fair shake in the postseason, seeing as he came off Tommy John surgery and wasn’t even supposed to be there. However, he could’ve handed failure a bit better. Nonetheless, the Giants love his velocity and confidence.

So is there a spot for him? These seven guys are locks:

  • Madison Bumgarner
  • Matt Cain
  • Tim Hudson
  • Jake Peavy
  • Tim Lincecum
  • Ryan Vogelsong
  • Yusmeiro Petit

Same goes for these relievers:

  • Santiago Casilla
  • Sergio Romo
  • Jeremy Affeldt
  • Javier Lopez

So, unless the Giants carry 13 pitchers and/or someone needs to start the season on the disabled list (cough … Hudson … cough), several relievers are fighting for one spot.

The incumbent

  • Jean Machi

No more options

  • George Kontos

Young flame-throwers (all on the 40-man)

  • Hunter Strickland
  • Derek Law
  • Erik Cordier
  • Joan Gregorio
  • Ray Black
  • Cody Hall

If Machi (who went from dominant to pretty danged shaky over the last two months of the season) and Kontos struggle, and Strickland looks as dominant as he did back in September, this could get interesting. But the Giants will probably give the option-less guys a chance to prove themselves in April, regardless of what decisions they make as far as the size of the staff or Hudson’s health.

Pro: If the Giants believe Strickland can be their “closer of the future,” it makes sense to hand him the ninth inning in Sacramento for an extended period of time.

Con: If he’s in the minors when the Giants face the Nationals, that robs all of us writers of an easy story to pound into submission.

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