There are two big questions concerning the SF Giants heading into spring training. The first, which I wrote about earlier in the week, is what will happen in left field. The second question is who will be the club's fifth starter? The obvious candidates at this time are Matt Cain and Ty Blach, but number one prospect Tyler Beede could have an outside chance if he dominates in Scottsdale. In all likelihood he'll start the season in Sacramento, which will leave Blach and Cain to battle for the 5th spot, with Albert Suarez acting as the long man in the bullpen.
As a guest on NBC Sports Radio in Phoenix on Monday, I was asked what would happen with that final rotation spot. While I think that Blach is the answer for the majority of the season, I could definitely see Cain getting the call to start the season while he's as healthy as he's going to be and seeing how much you can get out of him. If he breaks down, Blach can slide right in. If he's ineffective, Blach can slide right in. If Cain returns to form, it effectively limits the number of pitches that Blach is throwing early in the season and could lead to him being a more productive member of the club as they gear up for a potential playoff run. Getting as much out of Cain as they can seems like the best course of action, instead of having a $20M mop up option in the 'pen.
At media day, there is an area on one of the suite levels that is cleared for numerous players and coaches to be interviewed for a couple of hours. In different individual suites there are players that more reporters will be clamoring to see. You have your Hunter Pences, your Buster Poseys, and Brandon Crawfords. Then, in one of the open spaces are little two top bar tables set up with just about everyone else. The first player off to the right is Derek Law, whom the club is expecting big things from in 2017. Across from him on the left, one of the new additions in Nick Hundley.
Ty Blach was down the initial row of players and just around the corner to the left, where I bombarded him with questions.
Jason Burke: Did you do anything differently to prepare for this season with a potential spot in the rotation on the line?
Ty Blach: No, I just kind of went about it the same way. I was back home in Denver training. I have a great group of guys that I've been able to work out with. Just getting ready like I would every other year. I'm coming into spring ready to roll and I'm excited for the opportunity.
JB: Are you working out with friends? Big leaguers? Minor leaguers?
TB: There's a group of guys, mostly Triple-A, big league guys that are right about the same level. There's six of us every day working out together, throwing together. It's been a lot of fun.
JB: How will the experience you got last year help you?
TB: I think confidence-wise it gives you a big boost knowing that you can pitch at this level and get guys out. That'll be a big thing for me coming into spring. Just going out there and knowing that you can compete. Just give it everything that you've got, and no matter what happens, just leave it on the line. It'll be fun.
JB: Any tips for anybody else pitching in Colorado?
TB: [Laughs] You just gotta go out there and execute pitches I think. Yeah, the altitude makes a big difference, but at the same time if you pitch scared that's when you're gonna get hurt more often. You just have to be more aggressive and attack the strike zone--trust that defense it gonna make plays most of the time.
JB: When are you at your best on the mound?
TB: I think just getting into a rhythm. Being able to get going with the catcher. Get the ball, get a sign and execute a pitch. The more pitches you can execute in a row, the better you start feeling, the more confident you get.
JB: With someone like Posey behind the plate are you going to shake him off at all, or are you going to go with what he calls?
TB: Buster is tremendous back there. He totally understands the game--really understands the hitters and what they're trying to do every at-bat. You know he's done his homework, so you can trust what he's calling is going to be the right pitch.
JB: If the Giants go with someone else as the fifth starter, would you be open to an Andrew Miller-type role?
TB: Yeah, definitely! Anything to help the team win. I think we're all kind of in that same boat. Yeah, there's some competition, but we all want the team to do well. No matter what happens, I think everyone is excited for the year. Just looking forward to getting the season rolling.
JB: Are there any teammates that you've had down in the minors that you're looking forward to Giants fans getting a look at?
TB: Yeah, I think we've got a lot of young guys coming up that'll be really good. Tyler Beede is coming up. I've seen him a few times in the minors and I think everyone should be excited about his future. We've got a lot of young, talented position players coming up too. It's going to be a lot of fun just to be able to see these guys shine in the spring.
I wanted to thank Ty Blach for taking some time out of his day to answer a few questions, and wish him the best of luck this spring as he looks to crack his first opening day roster!