SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — There were puppies in Giants camp on Tuesday.
We’re not talking about the dogs, up for adoption, that the team brought in to play with some of their players. Their cuteness, though, did make it more of a challenge for San Francisco’s young pups to steal the show during their first live batting practice of the spring.
Yet, R.J. Dabovich did just that.
“(Pitching coach Andrew Bailey) and I partway through that live were like, is this one of the better live BPs that you’ve seen? Yeah,” manager Gabe Kapler said Wednesday morning. “Mostly because it was just strike after strike for a guy where that’s his main objective.”
Dabovich, 24, is one of a group of young pitchers in camp that also includes 21-year-old left-hander Kyle Harrison, 22-year-old righty Jose Cruz and 24-year-old righty Cole Waites. While Harrison, a starter, is likely to begin the year at Triple-A Sacramento, Dabovich, Cruz and Waites are all candidates for the final spot in San Francisco’s bullpen.
For Dabovich, drafted in the fourth round out of Arizona State in 2020, the objective is finding the strike zone consistently. He dominated last year at Double-A, appearing in 22 games with a 2.70 ERA and, importantly, striking out 38 while walking six. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento, but his walk rate spiked more three times over.
That’s why Dabovich throwing strike after strike Tuesday caught Kapler’s eye.
“Dabo’s live BP was as good as it gets,” Kapler said. “We have a player plan meeting with a guy and the main objective is to pound the strike zone, be in the strike zone, your stuff plays, and then he throws almost exclusively strikes with both of his pitches and gets that swing and miss and you’re like, oh, that’s kind of how it’s supposed to go.”
Where Wood fits in
While the Giants posses seven starters, and Kapler says they will get creative about how they deploy them, the one who ended 2022 with the highest ERA will be back in the rotation on a regular basis.
“I think it’ll be status quo,” Alex Wood said Wednesday morning, before facing live hitters for the first time this spring.
“I’ll always think about Alex as a starter,” Kapler confirmed.
Wood, who failed to make it out of the fifth inning in nine of his 26 starts and finished the year with a 5.10 ERA, believes his down year can be attributed to never finding the right shape for his all-important slider. A small adjustment this offseason, raising his arm slot by a few inches, has it back on track.
“My slider shape is right where I want it,” Wood said. “I had a really good offseason. I’ve been throwing hard and the slider’s been good, so I’m excited.”
Top prospect Marco Luciano (lower back stress fracture) has begun “ramping up” his hitting progression and started fielding ground balls, according to the Giants. They are being extra cautious with Luciano, who initially hurt his back during the minor-league season last year and re-aggravated it while playing winter ball. … Waites (lat strain), who injured himself a week before reporting to camp, is still a week away from beginning his throwing progression. … Reliever Luke Jackson (Tommy John surgery) threw his third bullpen of the spring on Wednesday. … Wilmer Flores remains absent from camp as he awaits the birth of his child.