SAN FRANCISCO — With a 59-74 record, the Giants are ready to turn the page to 2014, a process that will begin next week.
Manager Bruce Bochy said he expects to add five or six players after rosters expand Sept. 1, and the mix will be one featuring familiar names and intriguing prospects. All will have a chance to prove their worth to a front office that needs to upgrade the starting rotation, outfield and bullpen heading into next season.
The biggest name of the bunch will be Heath Hembree, a right-handed reliever who is expected to finally make his big league debut after pitching in major league camp each of the last two springs. Hembree can light up the radar gun with a mid 90s fastball, but struggled in May and June and was bypassed by several other right-handers when the Giants needed bullpen help. The 24-year-old turned his season around in July and has posted a 2.75 ERA in his past 20 appearances in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, with 22 strikeouts.
The turnaround has come thanks to improved consistency with his slider and changeup, according to scouts who have seen Hembree recently, and with 30 saves for the Fresno Grizzlies, Hembree has shown the pedigree to be the Giants' closer of the future. First, he could join Santiago Casilla in giving Bochy two hard-throwing right-handers in front of All-Star closer Sergio Romo.
Two right-handers who helped get the ball to Romo earlier this season — George Kontos and Jake Dunning — are also on track to return to the big leagues. Kontos was a revelation last year but struggled to replicate that success this season. Dunning was this year's bullpen surprise, holding the opposing team scoreless in 17 of his 20 big league appearances. Bochy was effusive in his praise of Dunning when the 25-year-old was sent down in July to make room for Joaquin Arias.
"He did, really, a terrific job," Bochy said. "This young kid came up ahead of schedule and I loved the way he handled himself."