New Conversion Project

Giants' Dunning transitions to the mound





SAN FRANCISCO—Whenever the Giants try to convert a minor league position player into a pitcher, the comparisons to Joe Nathan are inevitable. But in a few years, perhaps Jake Dunning will become the new template for the organization.

Coaches and executives were thrilled with Dunning's first pro season on the mound. The former starting shortstop at Indiana showed arm strength, clean mechanics, good presence and a grasp of four pitches. In 18 relief appearances at short-season Salem-Keizer in 2010, Dunning had a 2.95 ERA and a 46-8 strikeout-walk ratio in 37 innings.

The 22-year-old topped out at 95 mph and rapidly developed four pitches that arrived at different speeds and from different planes. His slider had depth, his changeup had fade and he was working to gain more consistency with his curveball.

"Joe was a little tougher, but when he was just starting out, he didn't have the feel or touch that Jake has," pitching coordinator Bert Bradley said. "He doesn't have a problem throwing strikes. His fastball is 94-95 consistently and it'll get better. He's got a high ceiling."

With his 6-foot-4 frame and somewhat segmented delivery, Dunning bears some resemblance to a righthanded version of Dan Runzler, the lefty who rocketed from low Class A Augusta to the major leagues in 2009. Dunning is still learning how to compete, but the Giants like his confident, controlled demeanor. His velocity is easy and he doesn't try to overthrow.

Dunning's ability to be around the plate could put him on a track to start, as the Giants are mulling with Runzler. But they wanted to limit his innings as he transitioned to the mound in 2010. It's possible he could be in a swingman role next season as the Giants try to get him mound experience while gradually building up his arm strength.

GIANTICS

• The Giants lost lefthander Joe Paterson in the Rule 5 draft when the Diamondbacks took him with the third pick of the major league phase.

• Both lefthander Eric Surkamp and righthander Michael Main were recovering well from arthroscopic hip surgery. The Giants expected both prospects to be unrestricted and ready to pitch this spring.