Last season, Anthony DeSclafani leaned more heavily on his slider, transforming the pitch into his most effective weapon. This spring, he’s devoting attention to another pitch in his arsenal.
DeSclafani’s second Cactus League start in Thursday night's 6-3 loss to the Mariners was headlined by an increased reliance on his changeup, a pitch he seldom utilized last season. The right-hander had mixed results with his changeup, but the pitch flashed its potential potency come the regular season.
“I feel really good with it,” DeSclafani said. “Today was so-so. I threw a couple really good ones and some that I yanked a bit. But the emphasis is on throwing it more and more whether it’s to lefties [or] righties.”
DeSclafani’s willingness to spam hitters with changeups is a shift from last season, when he threw the pitch only 7.1 percent of the time.
Not only did DeSclafani generate several swings-and-misses Thursday night, but he was willing to throw the pitch at high-leverage points in plate appearances. On two occasions, DeSclafani forced a weak groundout with a 3-2 changeup.
“It’s going to continue to be an emphasis moving forward,” DeSclafani said.
DeSclafani’s overall performance against the Mariners, much like his feel for his changeup, had some highs and lows. DeSclafani allowed one run and struck out three over his 3 2/3 innings, but he walked two batters and hit Sam Haggerty with an 0-2 fastball. Despite the shaky control, DeSclafani did not yield much hard contact, inducing six groundouts on the night.
"Spring Training for a guy like DeSclafani is all about preparing for the season,” said manager Gabe Kapler said. “I thought we stayed right on track tonight.”
As the regular season nears, it will be worth monitoring how often DeSclafani twirls his slider as well. Last season, DeSclafani upped his slider usage from 24.3 percent to 31.6 percent. That alteration to the pitch bore fruit as DeSclafani held opposing hitters to a .190 batting average and struck out 10 batters with the breaking pitch.
Regardless of specific pitch distribution, DeSclafani’s goal remains bouncing back from the worst season of his career. Last year, DeSclafani had a 7.22 ERA over 33 2/3 innings with the Reds, relegated to the bullpen by season’s end. His 6.68 K/9 and 4.28 BB/9 were the worst marks of his career as well.
Luckily for DeSclafani, San Francisco has become the destination for revitalizing starting pitchers. Last season, Kevin Gausman and Drew Smyly, who both signed one-year deals after struggling at previous stops, turned in bounce-back seasons. In 2018, the Giants transitioned Drew Pomeranz into being an effective reliever following an unsuccessful stint in the rotation.
The Giants are banking on DeSclafani returning to his 2019 form, when he had a 3.89 ERA and had a career-high 9.02 K/9 over 31 starts. Aaron Sanchez and Alex Wood, who both signed one-year deals with the club, are aiming to find a second wind as effective starters as well.
Giants claim Goudeau off waivers
The Giants announced a pair of roster moves on Thursday, claiming right-hander Ashton Goudeau off waivers from the Orioles and transferring right-hander Dedniel Núñez to the 60-day injured list with a right elbow sprain.
Núñez, acquired by the Giants from the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft, was in the mix to make San Francisco’s Opening Day roster. The reliever flashed a 96-97 mph fastball, as well as a “ridiculous” slider, as described by backup catcher Curt Casali.
The right-hander exited his last outing early after experiencing what was described as right wrist pain. An MRI subsequently revealed posterior inflammation in his right elbow, which led to the detection of an ulnar collateral ligament sprain. The Giants have not announced whether Núñez will undergo Tommy John surgery, but his placement on the 60-day IL means he will be sidelined through at least June.
Goudeau debuted last season with the Rockies, but he struggled in limited appearances, allowing seven earned runs in 8 1/3 innings as a reliever. The 28-year-old impressed in 2019, logging a 2.07 ERA over 16 starts for the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate.
• Mauricio Dubón continued to showcase his plate discipline and speed, drawing his team-high ninth walk of the spring and stealing second base.
• Donovan Solano remained hot as well, smacking an opposite field, two-run double. Solano was also part of San Francisco’s finest defensive play of the night, a 5-4-3 double play to end the third inning.
While the Giants had that defensive highlight, they also committed their league-worst 20th error of the spring, the latest being on a misplay from right fielder Heliot Ramos.
• Silvino Bracho had far and away the most impressive outing of any Giants pitcher, striking out the side in his one inning of work. The non-roster invitee now has 11 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings this spring. As a unit, eight Giants pitchers combined for 13 total strikeouts.
Aaron Sanchez is slated to make his spring debut against the Reds on Friday at 7:05 p.m. PT at Scottsdale Stadium.
Sanchez threw three innings in a simulated game on Sunday, sitting around 92-94 mph. The right-hander had a clean first two innings, but allowed a pair of hits and a walk in the third.
Sanchez, 28, signed a one-year, $4 million deal in late February after missing last season to recover from right shoulder surgery. The veteran was an All-Star in 2016, leading the American League with a 3.00 ERA over 192 innings.