Giants spring notes: Roupp impresses; Winn on right track for 2024

Giants spring notes: Roupp impresses; Winn on right track for 2024 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Landen Roupp felt good on the mound when he finally made his Cactus League debut on Saturday afternoon. But when he got back to the dugout, Roupp got a better sense of just how dominant he had been. As they handed out high-fives and fist bumps, Roupp's teammates kept pointing out that he had touched 97 mph with his sinker.

"I don't think I've ever hit 96 (before) honestly," he said. "I don't know where that came from. I'm glad it came out."

The sinker was paired with a curveball that many view as the best in the Giants farm system, and Roupp made quick work of the A's, striking out a pair after getting a grounder to second. It was the type of inning that had Giants officials and coaches dreaming about what they might have in the 25-year-old right-hander and wondering if he can make an impact at the big league level far sooner than anyone anticipated.

"Look, when we first got here it was just, give him a look here based on the injuries he had last year and then let him go get his work in (in the minors) and develop," manager Bob Melvin said. "But there might be a different need here and he looks pretty good."

With injuries to Tristan Beck and Sean Hjelle shaking up the depth chart, the staff has three bullpen spots to fill. The priority over the early weeks of the season will be to carry pitchers who can go multiple innings and Roupp has a chance to pitch himself into that mix. He is viewed as a starter long-term, but the stuff is so dominant at times that it's not hard to picture him succeeding in short relief stints right now with his sinker and curveball alone.

"It's probably one of the better breaking balls in our system," catcher Patrick Bailey said earlier this spring. "The curveball is probably competing with one of the better ones in the game (and) he can really command a sinker."

There was nearly a 20 mph difference between the two pitches on Saturday, so Roupp is working on other offerings that can bridge that gap. He has a developing changeup and is tinkering with a four-seamer and cutter, but the real key in his development is something that pitchers often have little control over: He simply has to stay healthy.

Roupp had a 1.74 ERA in his first 10 Double-A starts last season but didn't pitch after June 30 because of a minor slip in the L4-L5 disc in his back that made it hard to put weight on his right leg. There were no setbacks in the offseason and he has felt good in camp, but the Giants are still being careful. Asked about his standing in the race for a roster spot, Roupp said his goal this spring is just to stay on the field.

"No matter how many innings I'm throwing, just leave camp healthy and be ready for the season," he said.

Given his lack of experience and cautious schedule this spring, Roupp is likely to break camp and head for Triple-A Sacramento. But with every mid-90s sinker and hard-breaking curveball, the North Carolina native will give the staff a bit more to think about. Already, he has opened plenty of eyes and put himself firmly on the radar for the new man in charge.

"He's got a chance to be special," Melvin said. "The movement, the velocity, the angle that he throws from -- and there's a real determined look on his face. It seems like he's quite the competitor.

"I know in this organization, he's very highly thought of."

Area 51

It's rare for a veteran manager to drive to a road game on a split-squad day but Melvin had a very good reason for heading to Peoria early Sunday morning. Melvin remains close with Ichiro Suzuki, who now is a special assistant with the Mariners, and he set up a meeting between Suzuki and new Giants center fielder Jung Hoo Lee before Sunday's game.

Lee grew up watching Suzuki and has patterned much of his game after the 10-time All-Star. Like Suzuki, Lee wears No. 51, and the similarities are clear when watching Lee go through drills and take BP.

"He kinda styled himself after him: He wears 51, he leads off, plays the outfield, I think that's kind of the guy that he has watched by far the most," Melvin said. "That's the type of player he wants to be."

Trending in Right Direction

Right-handers Keaton Winn (elbow) and Kai-Wei Teng (oblique) threw back-to-back simulated games and both felt good physically. Winn looked particularly sharp, and Melvin said there's still time to get him ready to be in the rotation by the start of the season.

The Giants initially had Winn penciled in as their No. 4 starter and he has about three weeks to get his pitch count up. The initial bullpen is certain to include several multi-inning options, so it won't be a huge deal if Winn can only go three or four innings the first couple times out.

Teng's late start kept him from joining Mason Black, Spencer Howard and others who are fighting for spots at the back of the rotation or as a long reliever, but the Giants feel he's just about big league-ready and can contribute this season. The 25-year-old had a 4.42 ERA in the minors last year and struck out 164 in 126 1/3 innings at Double-A and Triple-A.

Sabol Sidelined

An MRI showed a Grade 1-plus groin strain for Blake Sabol, who sustained the injury earlier in the week while running to first. Sabol will be down for 10-15 days before the Giants reevaluate.

With Bailey and Tom Murphy set for the Opening Day roster, Sabol wasn't in position to make the team anyway, but the injury could have an impact on another Giant. The front office has been patient with Joey Bart, waiting for a reasonable trade to materialize, but Bart now stands as the next line of defense if one of the two catchers gets hurt.

Assuming Sabol starts his season in Triple-A, he's likely to have a different role. The new staff seems to view Sabol as more of an emergency option at catcher, and the plan is for him to get most of his starts this season at first base or in left field.

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