SAN FRANCISCO — Giants manager Gabe Kapler has an unusual problem seven games into the 2021 season.
His starters have been so good the bullpen isn’t getting enough work.
Johnny Cueto’s 8 2/3-inning masterpiece Friday in a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rockies is the most conspicuous example, with lefty Jake McGee needing only three pitches to record the final out via strikeout.
Even before Cueto’s gem, relievers were finding it tough get in work other than on the side in the bullpen.
In all seven games en route to a 4-3 record, the Giants’ starter has gone at least five innings and given up three or fewer runs — the third-longest such streak since 1901.
Jose Alvarez hasn’t pitched in six days, Caleb Baragar in four and Jarlin Garcia and Reyes Moronta in three.
“We’re thinking about Alvarez right now,” Kapler said Saturday before the Giants faced the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park. “He hasn’t gotten much work. Jarlin Garcia has been a little short to some degree. Most of the time that stuff tends to work itself out. We’re very comfortable with our starters handling as many innings as possible because we know it’s going to be a long season and there are going to be times when we lean heavily on the pen.”
Kapler let Cueto throw 117 pitches with the pen well rested, leaning at least partially on the advice of catcher Buster Posey and a fiery Brandon Belt.
“Buster is fairly measured, fairly objective and in many ways just an additional coach for us and I will lean on his perspective when we’re out there discussing pitching changes,” Kapler said. I just think it’s such a great resource, why not leverage Buster’s knowledge and experience so we can do that more often. What I thought stood out on the mound as much as anything else, was Belt, and everybody on the mound was excited for Johnny to have that opportunity to finish the game.”
LaStella returns to lineup
Tommy LaStella sat out Friday’s opener with back stiffness and hasn’t had an opportunity to get in a groove with Giants facing a run of left-handed pitching.
LaStella is just 1-for-6 with a walk in his last five games but against the right-handed Chi Chi Gonzalez but was back in the lineup in place of Donovan Solano at second base.
“It will be nice to get three or four at-bats and get in the flow of a full game,” LaStella said. “As far as playing time, looking at our roster, as stacked as we are, we’re able to play match up and that’s something you need to do. Using Donnie to handle lefties, I’m on board.”
Third baseman Evan Longoria returned after missing Friday’s game due to symptoms from a COVID-19 vaccination.
2B Tommy LaStella
RF Mike Yastrzemski
LF Alex Dickerson
1B Brandon Belt
3B Evan Longoria
SS Brandon Crawford
C Buster Posey
CF Mauricio Dubon
P Logan Webb
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Author: Jerry McDonald
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