Verdugo Finding The Zone

Lefty could factor into Giants bullpen





SAN FRANCISCO—Lefthander Ryan Verdugo has done a better job missing bats than almost any pitcher in the Giants system over the past two years. Now he'll get to show his talents to the major league coaching staff after earning a non-roster invitation to big league camp this spring. The goal is simple: throw strikes.

"He can flat-out pitch with his fastball and changeup," pitching coordinator Bert Bradley said. "He has very good deception and has a chance to be a starter if he can develop a breaking ball to go along with what he already has. His stats speak for themselves. People just don't pick up the ball out of his hand, and he's done that on a couple levels now."

Working in relief, Verdugo struck out 94 in 63 innings between low Class A Augusta and high Class A San Jose in 2010. In three pro seasons, he is averaging 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

The 23-year-old was a Mr. Baseball in Washington in 2005 and was drafted in the 43rd round by the Phillies, even though he had just had Tommy John surgery. He opted to go to Skagit Valley (Wash.) JC, where he pitched a no-hitter and reestablished himself on draft boards. The Giants took a flier in the 47th round of the 2007 draft, even though they knew he had committed to LSU. After a strong year as a starting pitcher for the Tigers, Verdugo signed when the Giants took him as a ninth-round pick in 2008. They liked his easy arm action and a 92 mph fastball that jumped out of his hand.

Verdugo needs to establish the strike zone. In the Arizona Fall League, he posted a 2.45 ERA despite failing to work many clean innings—he struck out 26 and walked 16 in 22 innings.

The Giants have a surplus of lefthanded relievers but lack starting pitchers. So Verdugo could do himself a huge service if he harnesses that breaking ball and gets ahead of hitters to make himself a candidate for the rotation at Double-A Richmond.

GIANTICS

• The Giants re-signed righthander Waldis Joaquin to a minor league contract and invited him to spring training. Joaquin battled injuries last season and had been claimed by the White Sox but refused a minor league assignment.

• The Giants flip-flopped their top minor league hitting coaches, moving former big leaguer Russ Morman to Triple-A Fresno and sending Ken Joyce to work with hitters at Richmond.