San Francisco Giants: 13 Pitchers and Four Bench Players...or 12 and Five?

Andy Bensch@@AndyBenschSenior Writer IJuly 5, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 13:  Merkin Valdez #47 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Washington Nationals at AT&T Park on May 13, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

For those of you who haven't heard, the 2009 San Francisco Giants are built on pitching and for the most part, their pitching has been nothing but dominant.

Both the starting rotation and bullpen have been rock-solid all season long, but not without their fare share of weak spots.

One of those weak spots was recently replaced when rookie pitcher Ryan Sadowski took over the fifth spot in the rotation from a struggling Jonathan Sanchez.

The career minor leaguer has won his first two starts and has yet to allow a single run which has endeared him to the San Francisco faithful who already have a nickname for the 26-year-old, "The Big Sadowski."

However, with Sadowski's call up, the Giants have an extra pitcher on the 25-man roster. Instead of moving down to the minors to work on his mechanics as a starter, Sanchez has been moved to the bullpen.

Sadowski's call up was made possible with Rich Aurilia on the bereavement leave but with Sadowski pitching extremely well, and Aurilia back with the club, the Giants sent second-baseman Matt Downs back down to Triple-A.

Therefore with Sadowski becoming the club's 13th pitcher, the Giants are now short a position player with Downs back in the minors.

Currently, the Giants have just four bench players available to pinch hit and spot start when needed. However, staying with just four bench players would severely limit manager Bruce Bochy's options when it comes to pinch hitting late in ball games.

Now there are plenty of Fresno Grizzly (Giants' AAA affiliate) position players deserving of a call up, but the issue is which pitcher on the Giants' roster should be moved down.

Jonathan Sanchez, the former fifth man in the rotation still has an option left to the minor leagues but has thrown extremely well in his first couple of relief appearances since being put in the bullpen.

Sanchez' nasty breaking pitches and plus fastball are a major asset in the bullpen. Add to it the fact that Sanchez is a lefty, the Giants now have two quality left-handed relievers along with Jeremy Affeldt.

Therefore, the most logical scenario is for the Giants to option down reliever Merkin Valdez and call up Kevin Frandsen.

The only issue from keeping this move from being made is that Valdez no longer has a minor league option, meaning that if he were moved down he would have to clear waivers, where all other 29 MLB teams would have a chance to snatch him up.

And clearly, the Giants don't want to make this move because the 27-year-old right-hander throws in the mid-90's and has at times a devastating slider.

However, after Valdez's most recent outing on Sunday against the Houston Astros, the reliever's season ERA has risen to 4.15 and a WHIP of 1.42.

Those numbers would be decent if Valdez were a starter but out of the bullpen those numbers are quite below average.

In the eighth inning of the series finale with Houston, the Giants reliever allowed three earned runs on three hits and a walk.

On the season, Valdez has now thrown 26 innings and given up 22 hits and 15 walks. Not only does Valdez nearly allow a hit per inning, but he averages over a walk per every two innings.

Not a great combination for a relief pitcher.

If Giants GM Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy didn't drool over a pitcher's "stuff" so often, they would realize that Valdez is expendable.

San Francisco rarely uses the right-hander in tight situations, and neither in long relief. In the ideal world of a Barry Zito pitching six strong innings, relievers Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, and Brian Wilson would be the three relievers brought in to close out the ball game.

Plus if not one of those three, relievers Brandon Medders, Justin Miller, and even Jonathan Sanchez are clearly more reliable if needed in close ball games.

The Giants should not be worried if another team picks up Valdez off waivers because the Giants don't really use him anyway.

Hence, if the Giants don't really use Valdez then they might as well replace him with a guy they will use, and that is none other than Kevin Frandsen.

The second baseman is hitting .301 in Fresno with eight home runs and 33 RBI. And despite his poor numbers with the big club this season, (just two hits in 28 at-bats) Frandsen has numerous ways in which to help the Giants.

Frandsen has exceptional range at second base, something the current second-baseman Juan Uribe lacks.

Not only that, but Frandsen has the capability to hit .300 or better in the MLB as he proved during a two month stretch of everyday playing time back in 2007.

Frandsen hasn't had even close to that amount of everyday playing time since, and therefore the Giants still haven't figured out if those numbers were for real or were just a fluke.

But either way, can the Giants really afford to spend the rest of the season with Uribe and Aurilia splitting time at second?

Aurilia is way past his prime and Uribe is too inconsistent of a hitter to play everyday. But as of now, those are the only two options the Giants have at second base.

If Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy want to do what is best for the team, they ought to look past Valdez' "good stuff" and send him down to the minors.

Another bat is going to be without a doubt more useful than a rocket-throwing reliever who is hardly used.


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