In his third big-league start Monday night, San Francisco Giants rookie starter Michael Kickham once again struggled mightily, giving up seven earned runs and nine hits over 2.2 innings. Manager Bruce Bochy had said this past weekend that if Kickham succeeded Monday, he could keep his rotation spot and send the returning Chad Gaudin back to the bullpen. With this outing, that statement now looks rather ridiculous.
It shouldn’t really be blamed on Kickham; there was a widespread belief that the 24-year-old lefty was not ready for the major leagues. Yet, with the Giants’ lack of pitching depth, they were forced to bring him up first when Ryan Vogelsong went down, and again after Gaudin was injured. Though he shows some good potential with above-average velocity and very good control, Kickham has proven that he obviously needs more minor league seasoning. It is now a near certainty that Kickham, who will be 0-3 with a 13.94 ERA, will be sent back to Triple-A when Gaudin returns, and possibly before that if the Giants want to take advantage of his roster spot for a few days.
As disappointing as it is to see Kickham fail, it does bring some much-needed clarity to the Giants’ pitching outlook. Now Gaudin will be expected to stick in the rotation for an extended period, and things should settle down as everyone gets used to their roles, especially with the return of setup man Santiago Casilla next week.
In addition, the Giants got some good news earlier Monday, as Ryan Vogelsong was able to play catch from about 70 feet for the first time since his hand surgery in May. Bochy said that he expects the right-hander to be ready in about a month, so he should be able to give the Giants an added boost down the stretch. If Vogelsong can continue on the road to recovery, the Giants may be able to focus their trade efforts on relievers, since they will have a rather steady rotation. They could also still look for a starter and move Tim Lincecum to the bullpen. No matter the case, they will likely have a much more stable situation than they have had for the majority of the season.