Stratton, Crick have challenging day vs. Reds

Top prospects combine to allow seven runs (six earned) in four-plus innings

Stratton, Crick have challenging day vs. Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Giants' Cactus League encounter Monday with the Cincinnati Reds did not represent an audition for Chris Stratton or Kyle Crick, though observers with active imaginations may have interpreted it as such.

Stratton started against the Reds to replace Tim Lincecum, who's coping with neck soreness, and Crick continued to prepare for his regular-season role as a starter, possibly at Triple-A Sacramento. Their status as two of the organization's top pitching prospects was safe no matter how they fared. That turned out to be fortunate for them.

Stratton lasted three batters into the third inning and allowed seven hits and two runs, though just one was earned. Crick was tagged for five runs in two innings, which hastened Cincinnati's 10-4 victory.

Top Prospects: Crick, SF

Stratton would have fared better and pitched a little longer had the solar system not interfered with his effort. Center fielder Justin Maxwell lost Marlon Byrd's shallow fly ball in the sun, resulting in an RBI single that drove Stratton from the game.

Stratton's finest moment occurred in a scoreless first inning, which he ended by striking out Jay Bruce on a changeup.

"The kid can command the ball on both sides of the plate, and he has good secondary pitches," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He looks comfortable out there in his first big league camp."

Veteran reliever Sergio Romo also liked what he has seen of Stratton, rated the Giants' No. 8 prospect by MLB.com. "He's not going to overpower you, but that breaking-ball combo he's got going on seems like it can be effective up here," Romo said.

Crick, who was unscored upon in 4 2/3 innings spanning his previous two outings, proved vulnerable this time as he yielded two-run homers to Bruce in the fifth inning and Skip Schumaker in the sixth.

Giants turn double play

Ranked by MLB.com as San Francisco's No. 1 prospect and No. 80 in the entire Minor Leagues, Crick was reminded not to rely too much on his fastball.

"He probably didn't mix it up enough," Bochy said. "It's been a good spring for him. He just had a rough outing today."

The Giants expect Crick to learn from such experiences, and learn quickly. They could have at least two openings in their starting rotation next year, since Tim Hudson's likely to retire and Lincecum will be eligible for free agency.

"With [Crick], it's about concentration and focus," said former big leaguer Steve Kline, pitching coach at the Giants' Double-A Augusta affiliate. "Compared from last year to this year, he's doing better."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.