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Stratton zeroing in on spot in rotation

MLB.com @alysonfooter

MESA, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy did a valiant job of remaining vague on Monday when pressed about specific candidates who might fill out his rotation come Opening Day. But, it's becoming increasingly obvious Chris Stratton may have already pitched his way into the rotation.

Stratton's performance against the A's -- four-plus innings, one run, three strikeouts -- only helped fortify a sampling this spring that could justify awarding him with one of the available spots in the rotation. He arrived to Spring Training with a leg up, based somewhat on how he performed over 10 starts for the Giants last year. With a little more than two weeks remaining until Opening Day, he's done nothing to knock himself out of consideration.

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MESA, Ariz. -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy did a valiant job of remaining vague on Monday when pressed about specific candidates who might fill out his rotation come Opening Day. But, it's becoming increasingly obvious Chris Stratton may have already pitched his way into the rotation.

Stratton's performance against the A's -- four-plus innings, one run, three strikeouts -- only helped fortify a sampling this spring that could justify awarding him with one of the available spots in the rotation. He arrived to Spring Training with a leg up, based somewhat on how he performed over 10 starts for the Giants last year. With a little more than two weeks remaining until Opening Day, he's done nothing to knock himself out of consideration.

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"You look at the body of work last year and what he's doing now, yeah, we think a lot of him," Bochy said. "We'll have this thing down, soon."

The decision-making process won't be easy. The Giants are in a favorable position, in that the pitchers that they are considering for their rotation are mostly performing well. Lefty Ty Blach has a 2.92 ERA over four starts. Veteran non-roster lefty Derek Holland has allowed four runs (three earned) and nine strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings. Lefty Andrew Suarez and right-hander Tyler Beede haven't performed as well, but are still in the mix.

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Still, it's fair to say no one auditioning for a job has outpitched the 27-year-old Stratton. Other than the solo homer he yielded to Stephen Piscotty in the second, Stratton had few issues against the A's on Monday. Cumulatively, he's allowed three runs over 12 innings this spring.

He also has last year's numbers as backup. Stratton finished the 2017 season with a 3.68 ERA, a 1.48 WHIP and 51 strikeouts across 58 2/3 innings.

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"You're always coming in here to compete for a spot," Stratton said. "Even when it's your first camp. I give the same effort now that I would then."

Stratton acknowledged that his rotation chances have increased since he first began his journey as a Giants up-and-comer, but he declined to speculate on where he may be in the pecking order of hopefuls. Instead, he rattled off the names of his teammates also vying for jobs and pointed out the competition was still very thick.

"Just some of the guys in the mix, we can continue to compete and make each other better," he said.

Video: LAA@SF: Stratton fans Valbuena for his third K

The rotation has three locks -- Opening Day starter Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Based on spring performances alone, a case could be made for three pitchers for the final two spots -- Blach, Stratton and Holland. Holland and Blach are also candidates for the bullpen.

Also, the Giants have two off-days the first week of the season, which might prompt the club to go with four starters to begin the year.

"We still have a little bit of time here," Bochy said. "We'll have it down here in another week or so. We don't have to etch something in stone right now. But you have to like the way [Stratton] threw the ball. We have Blach, Holland, Suarez, Beede ... but Stratton's doing what he needs to do. He's pitching very well."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

San Francisco Giants, Chris Stratton