SCOTTSDALE, Arizona – Playing Time: Three hours, 25 minutes.
The Giants lost their spring training opener and went seven innings without a hit to boot. But that’s not what caught gruff manager Gabe Kapler.
“I thought we were working too slowly. I don’t think we attacked the zone enough. We fell behind in many counts. It’s just not the identity of our pitching team,” said Kapler the morning after the 7-3 loss to the Cubs. “It was really slow — painfully slow.”
Since the takeover by Kapler, it has been important to increase the pace. Alex Wood, whose starts routinely checked in under 3 hours last season, “embodies our pitching philosophy,” Kapler said. Logan Webb made the first start of the Cactus League game and also worked fast and stormed through two innings.
But after Webb’s exit, 29-year-old right-hander Bryan Brickhouse began the rest of the night at slow, tedious work, giving up three walks and giving up six of the Cubs’ seven runs. The pitchers mostly kept the Cubs hitters at bay for the remaining duration, but continued to consistently drop in counts.
“The catchers must also be aware of this,” said Kapler. “That’s not how we wanted to start things. But it is also the first game of spring training.”
The focus on pitching tempo has nothing to do with the pitch clock stipulated in the new collective agreement. Kapler sees this as a competitive advantage. He recalls his shots at wily left-hander Mark Buerhle, whose 16.7 seconds between pitches is the fastest pace of any pitcher in the Pitch F/X era (since 2007).
Buerhle was “a guy that made me feel very uncomfortable in the batter’s box,” said Kapler, who faced Buerhle more than any other pitcher in his career and managed just .487 OPS. “Every time I got into my rhythm and got the racquet back up, the court was mine.”
That’s what Kapler wants to see from right-hander Sean Hjelle, who will make his spring debut against the Reds on Sunday. By more aggressively asserting his 6-foot-11 presence on the mound and trusting his stuff inside the zone, the Giants are hoping Hjelle can find more success at Triple-A starting this season than the way he did last Season 10 starts with Sacramento with a 5.74 ERA after earning promotion with a 3.15 ERA at Double-A Richmond.
“Just go on the mound, deliver the field, retrieve the ball, deliver the field,” Kapler said. “Thugs don’t like it; Defenders like it. … Defenders will be better prepared, more alert and won’t feel like they’re standing around for long. … That’s an uncomfortable position for hitters.”
Kapler comments on Webb’s debut
Webb, the highly anticipated starter on the Giants’ opening day, squared off against the Cubs’ newest ace, Marcus Stroman, and looked just like the role. He hit five in two innings of work and threw 30 pitches.
After that, he managed to find an area to criticize.
“I didn’t do a good job of keeping the runners close together,” Webb said.
Kapler agreed and appreciated the self-reflection. After all, Webb wasn’t the problem when it came to pace of play.
“We want to continue to challenge him on the edges and not just be satisfied,” said Kapler. “We’ll always say that Logan has more in the tank and I think last night was no exception. … I don’t think his locations were perfect. I liked the pace. I liked his confidence. … It was a good first outing.”
https://www.thereporter.com/2022/03/19/why-sf-giants-manager-gabe-kapler-wants-his-pitchers-to-push-the-pace/ Why Gabe Kapler wants his pitchers to pick up the pace