SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In method, though not in performance, Erick Threets can legitimately be linked to Sparky Lyle, Ron Guidry and Al Leiter. It would take an active imagination to associate Threets, who has pitched three Major League games, with those accomplished left-handers. But partly because of the common denominator among them -- Dave Righetti, the Giants' pitching coach and another left-hander of repute -- Threets might have a stronger chance to establish himself in the Majors and fulfill the talent that has long tantalized the organization. Early in camp, Righetti taught Threets a new grip for his slider -- a pitch that the 26-year-old tried to refine during the offseason, at the behest of player personnel director Dick Tidrow. Righetti said he learned the grip as a New York Yankee from Guidry, the 1978 Cy Young Award winner with a .651 career winning percentage. Guidry picked up the style from Lyle, who amassed 238 saves as one of baseball's first impact closers. Righetti shared the tip with Leiter, who began his 19-year big league career as a Yankee.
Now the gift belongs to Threets, who has proven to be an apt pupil. In his lone Cactus League appearance so far, last Saturday against Oakland, Threets used a slider to strike out Richie Robnett. That helped Threets escape a bases-loaded, none-out jam with only one run scoring, which was one of the few positive developments for the Giants in a 23-5 loss. The Giants would welcome an emergence from Threets, whose impressive velocity has been offset by poor control and a history of shoulder problems. The competition he faces among fellow left-handers is formidable but not insurmountable. Veterans Steve Kline and Jack Taschner are coming off seasons in which they allowed opposing left-handed batters to hit .318 and .316, respectively. Rule 5 Draft pick Jose Capellan has never pitched above Class A. Pat Misch is unscored upon in three innings spanning two appearances, but seems to be trapped on the San Francisco/Triple-A Fresno shuttle. Jonathan Sanchez could land in the bullpen if he loses the competition for the No. 5 starting spot, or he could continue to start in Triple-A. "He could be a real late bloomer," Righetti said of Threets, who's beginning his eighth professional season. "He still has darn good stuff, [but] you have to use it properly. This'll be an important spring for him." Threets' roster status heightens that importance. He's out of Minor League options, so the Giants must place him on waivers if he doesn't make the Opening Day squad. Although most other teams will face similarly difficult personnel decisions, at least one should want to take a chance on a pitcher of Threets' skills. Threets knows that his immediate future is entirely out of his control.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.