As pitchers and catchers prepare to report, position battles will take the stage for the San Francisco Giants in camp. The most notable spring training storyline for the Giants could be the competition between a pair of journeyman pitchers, Ryan Vogelsong and Yusmeiro Petit, for the final spot in the starting rotation.
Petit is seemingly an afterthought even though he stands a terrific chance to make the Giants’ 25-man roster. At 29-years old, Petit has endured the ups-and-downs of baseball to a tee. Petit was a nice surprise for the Giants in 2013, though, posting a 4-1 record with a 3.56 ERA and 47 strikeouts in eight starts.
Petit memorably fell one out short of pitching baseball’s 24th perfect game in September 2013. His rise to respectability in the big leagues has been completely unforeseen, like Vogelsong. Petit’s career gaped three years in between MLB starts from 2009 and 2012. Despite pitching just 48.0 innings in 2013, it was the best season of his professional career.
The Giants avoided arbitration with Petit in January, signing the right-handed Venezuelan native to a one-year, $840,000 contract. Petit’s salary is guaranteed for the 2014 campaign, although his roster spot is not. But he stands a solid chance to at least claim the role of long-man in the Giants’ bullpen. At best, he could earn a rotation spot.
San Francisco’s starting rotation currently features Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum. The fifth spot will be determined in an unofficial competition between Petit and Vogelsong, the clear-cut favorite. Vogelsong was highly ineffective in 19 starts last season, posting a 4-6 record with a 5.73 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 103.2 innings of work. His season was derailed due to an injury on his throwing hand, though.
Steamer projections indicate that Vogelsong will post significantly better numbers in 2014, according to FanGraphs.com. Statistical predictions signify that Vogelsong will record numbers on level with his career averages this season (11-11, 4.34 ERA, 122 Ks in 30 starts), but Vogelsong registered significantly more impressive numbers in 2011 and 2012. He’s owed $5 million in 2014, showcasing the Giants’ belief the 35-year-old veteran will reassert himself as a dependable component of their rotation.
It appears likely that Vogelsong will begin the season filling out the back end of the Giants’ starting five, but a bad showing in camp could create an opportunity for Petit, a low risk alternative. The Giants’ pitching staff was disappointing in 2013 partly because Vogelsong endured a down year.
Vogelsong is surely motivated this spring. He constantly strives to prove himself, especially in the wake of doubt. Now he faces potentially stiff competition from a journeyman formerly boasting similar struggles. The Giants hope both pitchers can hit their stride in camp to help solidify a previously dominant pitching staff.