SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–He didn’t have to face Christian Yelich or Domingo Santana, but on the first day of Cactus League play, Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach did have to contend with a handful of the Brewers’ regular starters.
“I thought it was great,” Blach said. “I saw the lineup about 30 minutes before the game and it’s always exciting knowing you’re going up against their best and able to come out on top, it’s always a good feeling.”
While Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy kept his regulars, save for Andrew McCutchen, on the bench, the Brewers brought Eric Thames, Lorenzo Cain and Travis Shaw over to Scottsdale Stadium to square off with a pitcher who entered spring training as the ‘front-runner’ for the fifth spot in the Giants’ rotation.
Blach threw first-pitch strikes to all seven batters he faced and allowed just one player to reach base. Cain’s two-out single in the first was the only blemish on Blach’s ledger, as he started off the spring with a solid outing.
“The hitters are a little behind still,” Blach said. “They haven’t had too many days of live BP or anything like that. It’s their first week of seeing live pitching, but it still gives you a little bit of confidence as a pitcher going into it.”
The Giants anticipate Chris Stratton, who will pitch on Saturday in Glendale, and Blach to earn the final two starting jobs in their rotation this spring, but prospects Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez will provide stiff competition.
Blach said after his start he finally feels like he belongs at the big league level, and acknowledged it’s different entering camp as a front-runner for a job as opposed to chasing a role, like he did last season when Matt Cain secured the fifth spot in the rotation.
“I’m kind of fine-tuning some things, trying to tighten up the slider a little bit to where it’s a little more consistent and a little more of a swing-and-miss pitch or at least open some more opportunities for some different locations,” Blach said.
Suarez was the first reliever out of the bullpen on Friday, and he struck out the side in the top of the third inning. After struggling in two games as a non-roster invitee to camp last spring, Suarez said he was determined to start his outing with a strike.
“I made sure of it,” Suarez said. “But my first warmup throw was in the dirt. I was like, ‘Oh great,’ but I just relaxed after that and made sure I was throwing strikes.”
With a deceptive motion and a nasty slider, the southpaw is particularly hard on left-handed hitters and could carve out a role at the Major League level –either as a starter or a reliever– by the end of the year.
Suarez encountered a bit of adversity in his second inning of work when center fielder Steven Duggar got a late jump on a fly ball off the bat of Cain. Cain’s second single of the day wound up dropping between Duggar and left fielder Austin Slater, but Suarez rolled a 4-6-3 double play with Shaw at the plate.
After facing just a handful of Major League hitters last spring, Suarez was eager to compete against the Brewers.
“I was in the bullpen and they sent their lineup out there and I was hearing the names and it was good I got to face a lot of their guys,” Suarez said.