The Giants signed veteran right-hander Todd Wellemeyer to a minor league deal Wednesday and gave him an invitation to spring training.
The Giants have said they are looking at the 31-year-old former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher as a long reliever, but he could be given a chance to compete for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
The Giants have said they would like to fill that spot in the rotation with in-house talent like Joe Martinez, Madison Bumgarner or Kevin Pucetas.
But they would be wise to allow Wellemeyer to at least compete for that spot. Whatever increases the chances that Bumgarner open the season at Fresno.
Bumgarner pitched well for the Giants during his September call-up last year. But the Giants should resist the temptation of rushing the 20-year-old left-hander. He won’t turn 21 until August.
They ran Matt Cain out to the majors at age 20. And while he showed moments of great promise, he also struggled with consistency, finally maturing with an outstanding season last year at age 24.
But the bigger issue could be a lesson learned from Tim Lincecum.
Lincecum was drafted in 2006 and called up to the majors in early May 2007 when Russ Ortiz was injured.
However, had the Giants waited a couple of weeks before calling on Lincecum, he would not have been eligible for arbitration this year. Now, the Giants are looking dead at a potential $13 million windfall for the two-time Cy Young winner through arbitration.
With Barry Zito’s contract running through 2013 and Lincecum potentially being in the arbitration process through 2013 (if he doesn’t sign a long-term deal), wouldn’t it be better for Bumgarner’s first year of arbitration to come in 2014, instead of 2013?
Then, wouldn’t it be better for Bumgarner to open the year in Fresno, with an eye on a midseason callup?