Sanchez, Sadowski, Pucetas: A Three-Way Dance for the Giants' Last Spot

Kevin O'BrienCorrespondent IJuly 27, 2009

DENVER - JULY 26:  Starting pitcher Ryan Sadowski #56 of the San Francisco Giants delivers against the Colorado Rockies  at Coors Field on July 26, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. Sadowski pitcher 2 2/3 innings and gave up three runs.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Who knows if Randy Johnson will be healthy for the remainder of the season. At 45-years of age, it isn't a foregone conclusion that he will come back from the shoulder injury he suffered in his last start against the Houston Astros on July 5.

Johnson has never really suffered from an injury like this before, so it is certainly possible that this shoulder injury may derail and perhaps end his illustrious career by the end of the season.

However, if Johnson does come back from this shoulder injury (let's hope that the MRI goes well on Monday) and is able to work back in the rotation, that leaves the Giants with a dilemma:

Who is best suited for the fifth spot in the rotation?

Do the Giants go with the Jonathan Sanchez, the inconsistent, hard-throwing lefty who threw a no-hitter on July 10?

Do they go with Ryan Sadowski, who followed up two great starts with three rather forgettable ones?

Or do they go with the unknown commodity in Kevin Pucetas, who has shone in Fresno, but hasn't proved anything yet at the Major League level?

In some ways, it is the kind of position battle that is similar to an old-school, three-way dance for the title during the glory years of Extreme Championship Wrestling.

All three guys are certainly different, and certainly have their respective talents. Yet like the old ECW wrestlers, each starting pitcher has the kind of flaws that have kept them from being truly great.

Sanchez is similar to a Lance Storm. He has achieved some success at the next level (as evidenced by the no-hitter), and his skill-set is undeniable.

However, his consistency and his struggling mental makeup have prevented him from being a real key cog in this rotation (much like Storm never had the mental fortitude or charisma to be a real serious impact star in ECW).

With a 3-9 record this year, and a 4.92 ERA, no baseball experts or fans are going to be confusing him with top of the rotation aces Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain anytime soon.

Ryan Sadowski is similar to a Tommy Dreamer. When you judge him on looks and skill-set alone he isn't all the impressive. Furthermore, his stats at any level haven't been that awesome either (in Fresno this season, Sadowski was 5-2 with a 4.11 ERA) similar to how Dreamer never really got a lot of titles in his tenure as ECW headliner.

Like Dreamer did for so many years during ECW's existence though, for two straight starts, Sadowski showed something that went beyond physical skills.

He dominated and endeared to the fans with his excellent pitching outings that had people asking themselves "Where the heck did this kid come from?" People started to be alright with Sanchez being regulated to bullpen duty because "We have this kid Sadowski."

Unfortunately, in his last three starts, Sadowski's physical skills and past has caught up with him (as it did for Dreamer during his last couple of years in ECW). Sadowski has gotten shelled and struggled with his control, especially in his last two outings.

Now, Giants fans wonder if Sadowski' two strong pitching performances against Milwaukee and Houston were just flashes in the pan, and not indicative of a bright future like the once thought.

As for Pucetas, one could liken him to Rhyno. Pucetas has been excellent this season in Fresno with a 10-2 record, 3.26 ERA and 1.21 WHIP (and would have been called up earlier instead of Sadowski had he not pitched the day before the scheduled start against Milwaukee).

Pucetas, however, hasn't played at the Major League level and many wonder if he can be successful beyond Triple-A. Stuff-wise, he isn't all that great (according to the Baseball Cube, Pucetas has a K-rating of 61, which stems from only having 70 strikeouts in 121.1 innings pitched).

Rhyno proved himself at the ECW level, but not without some criticism that is eerily similar to Pucetas.

Many wrestling fans wonder how truly great he was as a wrestler, for most of the wrestlers he beat in the twilight years of ECW wouldn't have lasted in ECW's heyday.

Unfortunately, Rhyno never got the opportunity to prove that he was up there in legacy with guys like Dreamer, the Sandman and Raven. ECW folded shortly after he won the title, and he was an afterthought in the WWE.

A similar fate could happen to Pucetas. He has only excelled against Triple-A competition, and with guys like Cain, Lincecum, and Zito instilled firmly in the rotation, Pucetas might not get much of a shot starting at the next level (even though with Sadowski struggling it is plausible to think he will be coming up to San Francisco real soon).

So now that we know which pitchers resemble which wrestlers, who will win this lethal and cutthroat three-way dance for the Giants last spot in the rotation with a NL Wild Card spot on the line?

To be perfectly honest, it could be anyone.

If you have to point to anyone, you have to narrow down the race between Pucetas and Sanchez.

Sanchez obviously has the advantage in terms of the feat achieved earlier this year and stuff-wise. At the same time, if Pucetas can come up and have an impact if called up, the Giants will be hard-pressed to keep him out of the rotation if he is piling up wins during this crucial playoff race with Colorado.

Then again, Pucetas has to prove it at the next level. Sanchez has done it somewhat. Sadowski has done it somewhat. Pucetas, on the other hand, can't say that.

It will definitely be an interesting week for the Giants. Not only will they be dealing with the unpredictability of what GM Brian Sabean will do at the trade deadline, but they will also be dealing with this very crucial rotation situation should Johnson return soon.

Whoever wins, this is clear: they need someone to have an impact and help get the Giants back on the winning track.

In the words of Joey Styles, the three-way dance between Sanchez, Sadowski, and Pucetas certainly will "be...EXTREME!"


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