SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will visit Chase Field on Thursday for the start of a big four-game series against the Diamondbacks, but the most important pitch for the organization's September and October hopes will be thrown hundreds of miles away.
Johnny Cueto will start for the San Jose Giants in Visalia, pitching around three innings as he takes the next big step in his rehab process. It is asking a lot of Cueto to view him as a September savior for the rotation, but at this point the Giants appear to have no choice.
They have leaned heavily on rookies in the second half and that plan is collapsing quickly. Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija have been great, but as Tyler Beede showed in a 9-5 loss to the A's on Wednesday, the Giants have no idea what they can count on from 60 percent of their rotation. That's not a comfortable feeling in a postseason race.
"It's a challenge, but hey, I don't mind a challenge," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's up to me to try to get this figured out. You know when you bring up young pitchers you're going to have some growing pains, and that's the case."
The staff discussed the rotation before the game and planned to again before a flight to Phoenix. For now, the immediate solution is penciling Dereck Rodriguez back in for Thursday's game. The Giants still are TBD for Saturday, although right-hander Logan Webb could take that spot. He has just one appearance above Double-A but was dominant in his Triple-A debut. Beyond that, there are other question marks. Bochy wouldn't commit to Beede making his next start.
"He's a guy we believe in," Bochy said. "We'll see where we're at five days from now."
This is a situation that has been threatening to boil over for a while. After pulling Derek Holland and Drew Pomeranz from the rotation and trading both, the Giants were left relying on three rookies and one second-year player who has bounced back and forth. It's been an ugly stretch for the youth movement.
Shaun Anderson had a 7.76 ERA over seven starts before a blister landed him on the Injured List. Conner Menez, now back in Triple-A, has allowed 10 earned and walked eight over 12 2/3 innings in three starts. Beede seemed to be turning a corner in July, turning in dominant performances before and after the All-Star break. But he has allowed at least four runs in each of his past five starts and recorded just two outs beyond the fifth inning during that span.
Command has been the issue, and on Wednesday it was missing from the start. Beede left too many balls up and the A's picked up eight hits off him before he was lifted one batter into the fifth inning. Beede's ERA for the season is up to 5.77. He has limited walks, but he isn't getting into pitcher's counts.
"I didn't walk anybody today but I look back and the counts got to 1-0, 2-0, 2-1. That gives hitters more confidence," Beede said. "I need to do a better job of locating."
The road won't get any easier for Beede or any of the other young pitchers. It's four in Phoenix, followed by three in Chicago and two in Oakland. The Giants have Cueto on the way back, but he's not expected to be ready until the first week of September. For better or worse, they'll go as far as the young pitchers take them.
"We have to use who we have here," Bochy said.