R.J. Dabovich could be Giants' internal bullpen boost as trade deadline nears

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As trade deadline nears, Giants' pen could receive internal boost originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO -- The path to Camilo Doval continues to be a work in progress for the Giants.

With a fully fresh bullpen after Monday's off day, manager Gabe Kapler mixed it up a bit, turning to John Brebbia with a three-run lead in the seventh and then Dominic Leone with a two-run lead in the eighth on Tuesday night against the Detroit Tigers. The two veterans have been Kapler's two most reliable right-handed relievers other than Doval, but both stumbled. Brebbia gave up a run and Leone did too before loading the bases, which led to Doval recording his first four-out save of the season.

Kapler didn't lose any faith in Brebbia and Leone, who have posted 2.78 and 2.54 ERAs respectively, but the late innings Tuesday did continue a trend for the Giants. Doval has a 2.97 ERA and 12 saves in 14 opportunities, but the Giants have at times had trouble comfortably getting leads from their starters to their rookie closer.

The plan coming into the season was for Tyler Rogers and Jake McGee to set up for Doval, but Rogers is already two earned runs away from matching his total from all of last season. McGee took a 9.58 ERA to the IL in early May but has, other than a blowup in Atlanta last week, pitched much better since returning. He quickly regained his role in the late innings, but it still does feel many nights like the Giants are a power arm short in the bullpen.

The trade deadline is about a month away, but with Doval last year, the second-half jolt may end up coming from the farm system. Earlier this week, overpowering right-hander R.J. Dabovich was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A. Kapler said the reports he's getting match the eye-popping numbers.

"He's throwing the ball really well. The fastball is electric," he said. "He really filled up the strike zone, threw a ton of strikes. He's got an electric fastball -- we all know that -- so the stuff and the deception are real. It's, is he able to throw a ton of strikes? Because those two things in combination make him a Major League option for us."

It's rare for the Giants to take a relief prospect high in the draft, but the 2020 version was cut to five rounds and the Giants had to get creative with under-slot signing bonuses in order to move money around for Kyle Harrison, now one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Dabovich signed well under slot and has been on the fast track ever since, dominating hitters with an upper 90s fastball and hard breaking ball.

Dabovich faced 127 batters last season and struck out 62 of them while posting a 2.78 ERA. In 26 2/3 innings for Richmond before the promotion, he had a 2.70 ERA and 38 strikeouts to just six walks. He pitched a scoreless sixth inning Thursday in his Triple-A debut.

The Giants have other big arms on the way, including Dabovich's former teammate Cole Waites, who has the organization's best fastball per Baseball America and recently moved from High-A to Double-A. Right-handers Gregory Santos and Kervin Castro joined Doval in the big leagues last year but neither has pitched his way back yet. They're both currently in Triple-A. Yunior Marte, who hit 100 mph on Wednesday, figures to get a longer look if he keeps pitching as well as he has since taking Zack Littell's spot.

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The best solution for the big league bullpen would be for the current crop to find last year's consistency, but the staff showed last year that a hot stretch can put a big young arm in a prominent spot. Doval spent most of last summer in Triple-A but pitched so well in September that he became the closer for the postseason. Farhan Zaidi likes to talk about how quickly relievers can move once everything clicks, and Dabovich and others are hoping to join Doval in proving that true.

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