ORACLE PARK — There was some debate by the San Francisco Giants on Monday about whether to play the scheduled middle game of the Bay Bridge Series, manager Bruce Bochy said, but, ultimately, despite an hour and 47-minute delay, and intermittent showers throughout the night, San Francisco and Oakland did indeed play.
“Nine innings of exhibition baseball in the rain,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said, almost marveling to himself, ensconced in his office after the 5-4 win. “What are you all still doing here?”
The big question on the day, after Melvin announced Frankie Montas as his fourth starter in the pregame, was what exactly Bochy would do with his starting rotation.
Bochy had promised an announcement after Sunday’s exhibition in Oakland, but after a marathon day on Monday, said he’d delay that announcement until the series finale on Tuesday. Shortly after the game, the rotation gained more clarity as the Giants traded Chris Stratton to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Williams Jerez, and optioned left-hander Andrew Suarez to Triple-A Sacramento.
Stratton started five games this spring, and threw 145 innings over 26 starts last summer with a 5.09 ERA — his first full big league season in the rotation. Over his first five starts, the Giants went 4-1, as he struck out 24 and walked 10 in 31 innings with a 2.32 ERA. He was never able to regain that early-season form.
Suarez started 29 games last season, and though he went 7-13, he helped to stabilize a rotation decimated by injuries to Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. He, along with Dereck Rodriguez, were two of the big reasons the Giants didn’t spiral until the very end of the season. This spring, Suarez went 1-0 in five games (two starts), but had a 6.06 ERA over 16.1 innings of work, allowing 11 runs, all earned.
Jerez, a reliever, made his big league debut last season for the Angels, throwing 15 innings in 17 games, with a 6.00 ERA. This spring, he pitched 7 1/3 innings in eight games, with a 2.45 ERA.
The rotation, which has yet to be formally announced, is expected to be led once again by Madison Bumgarner, who will start Thursday’s opener in San Diego, likely followed by Drew Pomeranz (slated to pitch on Tuesday), then Dereck Rodriguez on Saturday, and somewhere mixed in, Jeff Samardzija (also pitching Tuesday) and Derek Holland.
Melvin was decidedly unhappy with having to play the game, given the delay and conditions, but he was happy with what he got out of set-up man Lou Trivino in a 1-2-3 fourth.
Trivino, one of nine A’s pitchers to throw on the day, he used his changeup to great effect, dusting off the pitch from his days as a starter to get three swings and misses on the four times he threw it, getting a called strike, as well. He struck out the side in his one inning.
“He’s got a good curveball and a good changeup, so he’s kind of mixing those in right now, and it creates a little bit more doubt in the hitter’s mind,” Melvin said. “I don’t for a minute think they thought it was coming, and two, it’s a pretty good [changeup]. Next time, advance scouts will see it and know he’s got an extra pitch, and he’s actually got a pretty good curveball, too.”
Ryan Buchter, though, was another story. He gave up four runs on two hits and three walks in a four-run seventh, and didn’t retire a batter. Buchter ends his spring with a 16.20 ERA in 3 1/3 innings over four outings.
“Not throwing strikes,” Melvin said. “He’s getting behind, not throwing strikes. He didn’t have a good spring last year, either. But, he knows he has to pitch better.”
Before the game, the Giants optioned Aramis Ramirez, who was lockered next to Posey. That seemingly confirms the backup job is Kratz’s, at least until former All-Star Stephen Vogt’s shoulder gets healthy enough in Triple-A Sacramento.
Speaking of backup catchers, Nick Hundley, who has not moved residences since trading orange and black for green and gold, didn’t have trouble finding the visitor’s locker room after two years with the Giants.
“I’ve been here a lot more than I’ve been there,” Hundley said, referring to his years with the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres.
Hundley, who pinch hit with two outs in the top of the sixth, got a warm reception from fans, second only to the ovation the grounds crew got when they pulled off the tarp.
The first two extra-base hits came on back-to-back seventh-inning doubles by Chad Pinder and Marcus Semien. Franklin Barreto — who Melvin said will one day be a star for the A’s — pinch ran for Semien at second. A pop fly single by Ramon Laureano brought him home.
“I’ll tell you what; he’s had another fantastic spring,” Melvin said of the 23-year old infielder-by-trade, who hit .364 this spring, while getting his first ever pro experience in the outfield. “His issue is he’s just been blocked here. It’s tough for a younger guy not to play every day but when given the opportunity, at some point in time, I feel like he has a chance to be a starter. We just have not had that opportunity for him yet, unfortunately.”
Though he’s been primarily working at outfield this spring, Barreto ended a wild seventh at second, snaring a liner from Alen Hanson to strand two.
Giants reliever Ty Brach had trouble gripping wet baseball during the four-run seventh, throwing wide of first on a grounder by Austin Beck, and then another roller to the left side of the infield by Hundley. The Hundley roller went for a hit, but the throw allowed Beck to reach third. Neither scored, but Blach looked somewhat mortal.