Beede's steady progress opening doors

Improved curve, changeup gives Giants options in 'pen

Beede's steady progress opening doors

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Giants squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Assessing the field for the Giants' No. 5 starting spot is reasonable. Assuming how the competition will develop is unwise, largely due to Tyler Beede's presence in the mix.

Having thrived in 2016 and apparently poised to improve further, Beede has the potential to push his way past other candidates for the starting role and earn a spot in the season-opening rotation.

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"Once the opportunity comes," Giants Minor League pitching coordinator Bert Bradley said, "he's going to take it."

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Conventional wisdom suggests Beede, the Giants' first-round selection (14th overall) in the 2014 Draft, will begin the season at Triple-A Sacramento. That's an easy fit for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander, considering the long line of fifth-starter contestants. Matt Cain, the former staff ace who has endured numerous injuries since 2014, can be expected to sustain a determined effort to secure the spot. Left-hander Ty Blach, who propelled the Giants into the 2016 Wild Card Game by beating the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw on the season's next-to-last day, will get a long look. Right-handers Chris Stratton and Clayton Blackburn also should receive serious consideration. So will right-hander Albert Suarez, who seems suited for long-relief duty if he doesn't win a starting job.

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As the lone pitcher in this group who hasn't performed above Double-A Richmond, Beede has a large cast to leapfrog. But the 23-year-old just might be ready for such a prodigious jump. Rated 88th on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Major League prospects list, Beede finished 8-7 in 24 starts, led the Eastern League with a 2.81 ERA and ranked second in strikeouts with 135 last season. That represented a vast improvement over the 3-8 record and 5.23 ERA he compiled in 13 starts with Richmond in 2015.

As Bradley described, Beede is making the inevitable transition from thrower to craftsman -- inevitable for accomplished players, at least.

"Before, it was like he was always trying to strike guys out and make them miss," Bradley said. "Now, he's pitching to get quicker outs."

As a result, Beede has improved his curveball, an essential secondary pitch. "He knows how to sink the ball, he knows how to cut the ball and he can throw a good changeup," Bradley said.

Giants pitching prodigies typically don't break camp with the big league club. Cain impressed observers in Spring Training 2005, but steeped in the Minors until August. Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, began Spring Training in 2007 in the Majors but opened the season at Triple-A before being recalled in early May. Madison Bumgarner, a four-time All-Star and 2014 World Series stalwart, struck out the side against the Dodgers in a spectacular 2009 exhibition-game cameo but remained in the Minors until that September.

Beede's progress more than likely will follow this pattern. However, should he excel while others struggle during Cactus League action, the Giants will consider accelerating his advancement.

"I think by the end of the season he finally realized that he was pretty close and knocking on the door," Bradley said. 

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.