After losing pitcher Carlos Rodón in the offseason, the Giants headed into the 2023 season with a rotation seeking a fresh start. However, this season has proven even more challenging for the Giants’ roster of pitchers.
With injuries plaguing the rotation in 2022 and now in 2023, the Giants commonly turned to bullpen games and a strategy known as the “opener.” Here, a pitcher starts the game and typically only gets the first few outs. After the opener gets pulled, the manager then turns to a starting pitcher or a long reliever who typically pitches a bulk of the innings.
John Brebbia has been relied on as the team’s main opener dating back to last year, when he started 11 games. This year, however, Brebbia has only started eight games due to a right lat strain, causing him to land on the injured list as of last month. Filling in his role since his stint on the IL has been rookie Ryan Walker.
Walker has started five games this season, three of which were within a six-game span. The rookie has pitched to a 3.13 ERA in 18 appearances this year, solidifying his spot on the big league roster.
Despite using the opener occasionally, Giants’ manager Gabe Kapler still runs the top of his rotation with a dominant one-two pitching punch.
Logan Webb, who signed a five-year, $90 million extension earlier this season, has continued to thrive off of his 2022 career year. So far, in his 2023 campaign, the 26-year-old owns a 3.14 ERA and leads the league in innings pitched with 126.0. The homegrown ace ended his first half with arguably his best start of his career, throwing a career-first complete-game shutout while striking out 10 in the process against the Colorado Rockies.
Alongside Webb at the top of the rotation has been 12-year veteran Alex Cobb. Named to his first All-Star selection this season, the 35-year-old owns a 2.91 ERA through 89.2 IP. Despite a left oblique strain that landed him on the IL in mid-June, Cobb finished his first half strong throwing six scoreless frames and striking out seven against the Seattle Mariners.
One main question mark coming into the season was Anthony DeSclafani. After a career year in 2021, he missed most of 2022 after having to undergo right ankle surgery in July of last year. Despite a return to form in the start of the season, DeSclafani eventually landed on the IL as well, with right shoulder fatigue earlier this month.
Similarly to DeSclafani, Alex Wood has dealt with the injury bug, landing on the IL on two separate occasions this season. In 13 appearances this season, including nine starts, Wood carved out a 4.68 ERA and 1.48 WHIP through 50.0 IP.
Part of the Giants’ offseason free agent signings included a pair of starting pitchers: Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea. Although not injured, both new additions have only contributed to the teams’ pitching woes.
After a resurgence in 2022 with the Toronto Blue Jays, Stripling signed a two-year, $25 million contract with the Giants. In 12 appearances this season, including seven starts, Stripling owns a 6.37 ERA and 1.46 WHIP through 41.0 IP.
Coming off of 2022 with the San Diego Padres, where he produced a career-high 4.96 ERA, Manaea signed a two-year contract worth $25 million with the Giants. A little over a month into his 2023 campaign, Manaea lost his spot in the starting rotation, with his last start dating back to May 10. In 20 appearances, including six starts, he owns a 5.49 ERA and 1.34 WHIP through 57.1 IP.
Despite all of the troubles on the mound for the Giants this season, they are right in the mix for a playoff berth in the NL West. As the second half of the season begins, Stripling and Manaea will have to step up to compensate for the Giants’ injury woes. Other viable options among the pitching depth that may see more action soon include long-relievers like Jakob Junis, Tristan Beck, and Keaton Winn.
For now, Giants fans will just have to count on the opener until the injury bug finally flies away from San Francisco’s rotation.