Casali catches zeros like no one since 1901

April 20th, 2021

The Giants didn’t post a shutout in Gabe Kapler’s first season as manager, but they’ve had more success shutting down opponents in 2021.

San Francisco secured its second consecutive shutout victory after blanking Philadelphia, 2-0, on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. The Giants now have four shutouts through their first 16 games this season, each of which has been caught by backup , who went 1-for-4 with a double and one strikeout against the Phillies.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Casali became the first Giants catcher to catch a shutout in four consecutive starts since Broadway Aleck Smith on May 6-24, 1901. It should be noted that Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson tossed all four of the shutouts that Smith caught. Casali, meanwhile, has caught four Giants starters -- Johnny Cueto, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood and Kevin Gausman -- during his shutout streak.

“It’s always a point of pride,” Casali said last week. “It’s my job first to catch and take care of the pitchers on the mound. Hopefully one of these days I can contribute from an offensive perspective, but right now I’m happy to be working well with those guys on the mound. All I’m doing is calling the pitches, but they’re executing, and that’s all I can ask them to do.”

Casali started behind the plate for the second consecutive game on Monday because Buster Posey is still nursing a sore left elbow after being hit by a 90.9-mph changeup from Marlins right-hander Sandy Alcantara on Saturday. While Posey has missed two games, he showed enough progress that the Giants felt comfortable optioning Chadwick Tromp to the alternate training site before Monday’s game. Tromp’s stay in the big leagues was brief, as he was brought up on Sunday to give the Giants more coverage behind the plate while Posey was down.

In the meantime, the Giants will have no problem turning to Casali, who joined the club on a one-year, $1.5 million deal in January.

“It’s really similar to what Buster brings,” Kapler said. “It’s experience, it’s savvy, it’s confidence, it’s great relationships with the umpires. All of those things matter when it comes to winning baseball games. He’s a good defender behind the plate, great receiver, good game-caller. [He's an] across-the-board professional and also generally is going to give you a quality at-bat. Big-time positive anytime Casali is in our lineup.”

With Posey and Casali, the Giants have the veteran presence and stability they lacked in 2020, when they were forced to rely on inexperienced backstops after Posey elected to sit out the season. Their Opening Day catching duo -- Tyler Heineman and Rob Brantly -- had a combined 131 games of Major League experience at the outset of the 2020 season, and neither ended up sticking on the roster for the duration of the pandemic-shortened 60-game campaign.

The Giants eventually called up top prospect Joey Bart last August, but he endured offensive and defensive struggles after making the jump from Double-A Richmond to the big leagues. Bart’s growing pains made it clear that he could benefit from more development in the Minors, prompting the Giants to seek additional veteran catching depth over the offseason.

Gausman re-signed with the Giants over the offseason partly because he wanted to work with Posey, but he said he’s also enjoyed throwing to Casali, who was his teammate on the Reds in 2019. 

“He’s a pro’s pro,” Gausman said after tossing six shutout innings against the Phillies on Monday. “He’s caught every pitch you can imagine, from righties to lefties. He caught [Trevor] Bauer last year, and he won the Cy Young. I think he just does a good job of mixing pitches up.

"One thing he did really well tonight was, there were a lot of splits I threw that were really tough pitches to block. That’s a part of his game that he takes pride in. We’re talking constantly, and you see it [paying] dividends. … He just has a bulldog mentality. He wants to win every night. That’s all you can ask for in a backstop, and that’s what you want.”

Bullpen reinforcements arrive
The Giants added a fresh pair of arms to their bullpen on Monday, recalling left-hander and selecting right-hander from the alternate training site. Outfielder Steven Duggar and Tromp were optioned to clear spots on the 26-man roster.

Gott was outrighted off the 40-man roster after being designated for assignment during Spring Training, but the Giants were able to add him back without DFAing another player because they have two pitchers -- Logan Webb and Jake McGee -- on the COVID-19 IL. Players on the COVID-19 IL do not count against the 40-man roster.

Webb and McGee were placed on the IL on Sunday due to lingering vaccine side effects. Webb is still expected to make his start against the Phillies on Tuesday, as there is no minimum stay for players who are placed on the COVID-19 IL. Kapler said the Giants are continuing to monitor McGee, but the 34-year-old veteran is expected to return to action soon as well.

Worth noting
• Kapler said reliever Reyes Moronta (right flexor strain) is “moving right along” and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session at Oracle Park on Thursday.

“He’s feeling a little less tightness, so that’s promising,” Kapler said.

• Kapler said Triple-A Sacramento manager Dave Brundage has been “raving” about the development infield prospect Will Wilson has shown at the alternate training site in Sacramento.

“He’s swinging the bat well and the work is good,” Kapler said of Wilson, who is ranked the Giants’ No. 12 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

• Outfield prospect Alexander Canario has returned to playing in games after undergoing left shoulder surgery last fall, and he announced his return by homering to left field against the Brewers at American Family Fields of Phoenix.

Canario, the club’s No. 9 prospect, spent last summer at the alternate training site, but he injured his non-throwing shoulder while playing the outfield in the final week of fall instructional league in Arizona. Still, the Giants thought highly enough of Canario to add him to their 40-man roster in November, to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.