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Prospect Crick at crossroads this spring

Giants pitcher must define his role at critical camp
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants' hierarchy wants Kyle Crick to define himself as a pitcher. Is he a starter or a reliever? Is his future bright or murky?

"I think this is a critical year for him," manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants' hierarchy wants Kyle Crick to define himself as a pitcher. Is he a starter or a reliever? Is his future bright or murky?

"I think this is a critical year for him," manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday.

Crick, 23, has been considered one of San Francisco's top prospects since the club selected him as a sandwich pick (49th overall) in the 2011 Draft. However, after performing mostly as a starter throughout his career, he made 25 of 36 appearances as a reliever last season with Double-A Richmond.

Bochy indicated that he and pitching coach Dave Righetti had not decided how they should proceed with Crick, who's ranked sixth on MLBPipeline's list of Giants prospects.

• Giants Spring Training: Tickets | Schedule

Crick recorded a tidy 3.29 ERA with Richmond last season, but walked 66 batters in 63 innings. That offset his 47 hits allowed and 73 strikeouts.

Bochy maintained faith in Crick, whose 6-foot-4, 220-pound stature and firm fastball has invited comparisons to Matt Cain.

"The first time I saw him, I loved the life on his fastball," Bochy said. "He has the equipment. We have to figure out how he'd best serve us and himself."

• Right-hander Cory Gearrin appeared in just seven games for the Giants last season, but he showed them enough to be welcomed back this year.

Gearrin, who missed the entire 2014 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, began to prove last year that he had legitimately recovered. He posted a 2.72 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Triple-A Sacramento before joining the Giants toward the end of the season.

"My goal is just continue to do what I was doing," Gearrin said. "I felt like last year, they got a pretty good representation of the kind of player I am and what I can bring to the table."

Releasing his pitches from a relatively low arm angle, Gearrin is particularly tough on right-handed batters, who have hit .205 off him in his career. By contrast, left-handed batters own a .307 average against him. But in 2013, when Gearrin received his most extensive action with his previous club, Atlanta, he surrendered a respectable .238 average to left-handers.

Gearrin thus believes that he's capable of handling any role Bochy might assign him.

"I've had the opportunity to get some saves in the big leagues, and I've had the opportunity to throw at every single point in the game against every kind of hitter," said Gearrin, who pitched for Atlanta from 2011-13.

• Many fitness enthusiasts insist that swimming provides the best overall workout. Right-hander George Kontos might agree.

"You're using every muscle in your body," he said.

Coming off his best all-around Major League season, Kontos relied heavily on the pool to stay in shape during the winter. He said that during a 12-week program, he shaved his clocking in the 300-meter swim from 4 minutes, 35 seconds to 3:08.

Working out with a handful of professional ballplayers, including Major Leaguers Curtis Granderson, Luke Gregerson and T.J. McFarland, Kontos said that he and his exercise partners pushed each other to improve during their sessions at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

"We're all competitive people, so it turned into a competition," Kontos said.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

San Francisco Giants, Kyle Crick, Cory Gearrin, George Kontos