Every championship team receives big contributions from unexpected places. Maybe Chad Gaudin can fill the role performed by Marco Scutaro, Sergio Romo and Gregor Blanco last year.
Bruce Bochy found his fifth starter in the desert on Sunday as the Giants snagged the rubber match of their series with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks. Gaudin attacked the lower part of the strike zone for six solid innings, despite stomach issues, giving the rotation its third quality start in five games.
Like the guy he's replacing, Gaudin would be an unlikely savior for the Giants. He didn't go 10 years in between big-league starts like Ryan Vogelsong or make pit stops in Venezuela and Japan. But he's bounced around the country, pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, A's (twice), Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees (twice), San Diego Padres, Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins over his 10-year career, compiling a 41-43 record with a 4.51 ERA in 333 games.
The 30-year-old right-hander probably doesn't eat chicken enchiladas before every start, but he might be able to hold down the back end of the rotation until Vogelsong, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list on Saturday, returns possibly in August.
Gaudin's approach on the mound is just what the Giants need right now. He commands his fastball, he is economical and he attacks hitters with the urgency of a pitcher who is accustomed to coming out of the bullpen and getting his team out of jams. In two starts, Gaudin has walked only one batter while fanning 12; his ERA is 3.00, his WHIP is 0.83.
He also proved he is a gamer on Sunday by fighting through a stomach ailment that reportedly caused him to vomit in the third and sixth innings while the Giants were at bat.
But two starts is just two starts — even if he puked a couple of times. We can't expect him to walk in Vogelsong's footsteps.
Vogelsong jumped into the rotation in April 2011 when Barry Zito went on the DL and he landed a spot on the NL All-Star team a couple of months later. He followed up the performance by stringing together 16 straight starts without allowing more than three runs last season before going 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in the postseason.
The Giants will be pleased if Gaudin simply takes the hill every five days and throws six or seven quality innings — something Vogelsong did only once in nine starts this year.
But Gaudin will give the Giants flexibility down the stretch if he stays consistent. When Vogelsong returns, he might not be the same pitcher he was in 2011 and 2012. He's turning 36 in July, which means the coach will probably turn into a pumpkin any day now.
A reliable Gaudin also gives the Giants the option of moving Tim Lincecum to the bullpen when Vogelsong heals, which seems like a move that Bochy's eager to make if the stars line up the right way.
But it's June and we still have a long, long ways to go before anyone is going to be proclaimed a hero. In two starts, Gaudin has given the Giants staff the jolt it sorely needed, a small but meaningful step on the long road to October.
Paul Gackle is a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.