By Shannon Drayer
As things stand right now, and they could change in the next ten days, Jack Zduriencik and Eric Wedge will have to make some tough decisions on the pitching before breaking camp. Brandon Maurer did nothing to hurt his case for the starting rotation Tuesday night under the lights in Peoria.
Facing a San Francisco Giants lineup that ran a good number of veterans out there he surrendered just one run on three hits, no walks and four strikeouts. He was efficient to the point of having to throw extra pitches in the bullpen after his scheduled five innings to reach his pitch count.
What was most impressive about Maurer tonight was this was not Maurer at his best. This was Maurer without his four seam fastball, a pitch he abandoned mostly early on because of lack of command. He went to his sinker, off speed pitches and the slider that he added last year. He showed that he can pitch effectively without his best pitch, something that was perhaps even more important for Wedge to see than a flawless outing.
"It was a great opportunity for him to be under the lights, in this setting, this late still in camp," said Wedge who noted that this was as close an experience to a big league game a player who hasn't experienced that yet could get. "I thought he threw the ball well again. He had to right himself a couple of times but he did that. Again was efficient, he's had a good camp"
He has had a good camp, surrendering just two runs in 15 innings while walking 5 and striking out 15. Regardless of whether or not he makes the starting rotation he has impressed Wedge and the coaches.
"He has major league stuff. We feel strongly he is going to be able to get major league outs," said Wedge. "It's just a matter as we prep everything out decisions we have to make and we have to take everything into consideration. The experience level, what the other guys have done and match that up to what he he done."
In other words, more goes into this decision than just what we have seen in Cactus League play. Then there is what we see in the next week.
"We don't have to make any decisions now," said Wedge. "We still have some time."
Whether this means the pressure is on Jon Garland, Blake Beavan and Erasmo Ramirez to match Maurer's performance or to just stay healthy remains to be seen. As of right now it appears the decisions have not been made.
After the game Eric Thames was optioned to AAA Tacoma while Mike Zunino and Logan Bawcom were re-assigned to minor league camp. The roster is now at 37.
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Stephen Pryor has quietly been putting up a nice case for a spot in the bullpen. Wedge noted after tonight's game that over his last four outings he has really turned it up a notch. "The experience he gained last year, he really recognizes what he did and didn't do and he's still developing. He's been outstanding." In the inning he threw against the Giants his velocity ranged from a 76 mph curve to a fastball that topped out at 98 mph. What was most impressive however was that he threw breaking balls for two first pitch strikes.