Home News Rain, injuries, ramp-ups put SF Giants’ pitching situation in flux

Rain, injuries, ramp-ups put SF Giants’ pitching situation in flux


Rain, injuries, ramp-ups put SF Giants' pitching situation in flux

SAN DIEGO — It has been a hair under two years, 676 days to be exact, since Jordan Hicks last started a major-league game.

Slated to debut in the San Francisco Giants’ rotation Saturday, the 27-year-old right-hander may be forced to wait another day. A steady stream of moisture is expected to arrive overnight and provide a rare dreary day in America’s finest city, potentially delaying Hicks’ long-awaited return to the starting rotation.

“We have a good game plan for tomorrow. Hopefully the weather is fine,” Hicks said Friday, before the Giants played their second game against the Padres under the more typical blue skies. “Let mother nature do its thing and then figure out the rest later. But I’m locked in.”

There’s good reason for Hicks to be confident, despite being a bullpen arm — a good one — for the majority of his career. Since signing a four-year, $44 million deal this past winter, Hicks has repeatedly said he has always viewed himself as a starting pitcher — the role he held for the entirety of his amateur and minor-league career — but in his only opportunity, making eight starts with the Cardinals to begin 2022, he completed five innings just once and posted a 5.02 ERA.

The early returns this time around have been far more encouraging.

In five Cactus League starts, Hicks struck out 28 batters over 17 innings while limiting opponents to a 2.65 ERA. Over his final three outings, Hicks struck out more batters (16) than he allowed to reach base (eight) while allowing just one run over 12⅔ innings, culminating in five shutout frames against the A’s in their first Bay Bridge exhibition.

“I think we’re all excited to see him,” manager Bob Melvin said. “The way that he was built up and the success he had in his last outing, I think implanted a lot of confidence going out there.”

Hicks threw 72 pitches in his final exhibition start in Oakland and he doesn’t anticipate any restrictions on his workload.

While he’s proven he has the ability to overpower hitters with a fastball that has sat in the upper-90s and a wipeout slider, the sinking action on his heater gives the Giants hope he can keep his innings short by generating ground ball outs early in the count.

“I came into spring just wanting to fill up the zone and attack with my stuff,” Hicks said. “I feel strong. Stuff feels good. I’m ready to go. Just waiting my turn.”

Jackson to IL

With Saturday and Sunday’s games potentially at risk due to weather, Melvin said the foreboding forecast wouldn’t impact the way he managed Friday night.

The bigger implications for an already shorthanded pitching staff surrounded the loss of Luke Jackson, who landed on the 15-day injured list after leaving Thursday’s season-opener with spasms in his back. Jackson allowed all three batters he faced in what turned into a four-run seventh inning before calling the training staff to the mound.

An MRI revealed a low-back strain, and Melvin implied it could be a longer-term absence. Jackson, 32, missed almost a month last season with a similar ailment.

The Giants recalled Kai-Wei Teng, a 25-year-old right-hander, to take Jackson’s place in the bullpen. Teng didn’t appear in a game in major-league spring training due to an oblique strain early in camp but has been on the cusp of the majors since reaching Triple-A, where he posted a 4.42 ERA in 28 starts last season.

Upon receiving the call Friday, Teng said if his excitement level was measured from one to 10, “it would be a 15.” He phoned his parents back in Taiwan, who were “speechless.” While they weren’t able to make it to San Diego in time for first pitch Friday, Teng’s agent was working on arranging travel for them.

Teng will slide into the bulk role in the bullpen, while Landen Roupp could see work in shorter bursts, Melvin said.

Because they opted to carry a third catcher, Joey Bart, and Blake Snell wasn’t placed on the restricted list — which would have cost him a prorated chunk of his salary — the Giants have only 11 healthy and available pitchers on their 26-man roster, two fewer than the typical number teams carry.

Snell was scheduled to throw four innings in a minor-league game Friday night, potentially the final step before he is ready to join the rotation. More reinforcements should be on the way shortly, with Alex Cobb throwing five innings in a minor-league game Thursday.

“We feel comfortable with who we have today,” Melvin said. “As it goes along, we’ll see where we go.”

Matos called up

After a torrid spring, Luis Matos didn’t have to toil at Triple-A for long.

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