Crafty Blach continues strong spring

Giants left-hander bolstering rotation bid with increased strikeouts

March 5th, 2018
Ty Blach became the first Giants pitcher to work into the fourth inning this spring. (AP)

SURPRISE, Fla. -- So far, the skeptics and the hitters faces have responded identically to his pitching.

They've disappeared almost noiselessly.

Spring Training information

Blach allowed his first Cactus League earned run Monday in the Giants' 5-4 loss to Texas but otherwise subdued the Rangers while becoming San Francisco's first starter to last into the fourth inning during this Cactus League season. Blach thus strengthened his apparent hold on one of the two vacancies in the Giants' starting rotation.

Blach pitches to contact, relying on hitters to get themselves out by forcing them to overswing at deliveries that look like they should be crushed.

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The flip side of this phenomenon, as well as the baseball cliche, is that Blach doesn't miss many bats, which can spell doom for soft-tossing lefties of his ilk.

Blach struck out 73 batters in 163 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2017. His 4.01 ratio of strikeouts per nine innings was a Major League low.

As crafty as Blach can be, such statistics seldom inspire confidence. But after finishing 8-12 with a 4.78 ERA last year, Blach knew he needed to progress to stay ahead of aspiring starters such as , and . Not to mention Major League hitters.

This spring, Blach has focused on increasing the difference between his slider and his curveball. As a result, he has surrendered one earned run in 8 1/3 innings spanning three starts.

Moreover, Blach has struck out nine batters, averaging roughly one per inning. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has noticed.

"He has more 'giddyup' this year," Bochy said.

Said Blach, "I'm going to try to throw a few bigger curveballs and tighter sliders. That's been the goal every year. Nothing really new. I'm just trying to refine everything."

As long as Blach maintains the disparity, he'll keep opponents confused.

"I think it definitely gives hitters a different look, being able to execute some different breaking balls like that," Blach said. "But it still comes down to pitch execution and locating the fastball. I think that's what's been successful for me so far."