Bochy's bullpen acumen will be tested down stretch


Bochy's bullpen acumen will be tested down stretch

BOX SCORESAN DIEGO When the Giants hired Bruce Bochy almost sixyears ago, club officials lauded his ability to move chess pieces in hisbullpen.

Bochys skills have never been tested the way theyll beover these next six weeks.

The Giants are trying to hang onto first place with thedreaded closer-by-committee approach, and it ended with jitters followed by handshakesin an 8-7 victory over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park Saturday night.

Jeremy Affeldt wasnt hit hard in the ninth inning, when hefollowed two quick outs with a walk and a pair of singles. One hit came on abroken bat. The other was an end-of-the-bat flare. Even the walk came after a borderline,two-strike pitch.

In other words, Affeldt wasnt hit hard as the Padres scoreda pair of runs against him. But Bochy shook the Yahtzee cup anyway. He went toClay Hensley, knowing the Padres would counter with left-handed pinch hitterMark Kotsay.

The matchup worked. Hensley got ahead with sinkers whiletrying for a ground ball, then fluttered a change-up through Kotsays swing tostrand the tying run at first base and keep the Giants in first place foranother day, a half-game ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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Can they stay there without an oversized presence in theninth inning? Can they stay there if whenever the bullpen phone rings, seven differentguys reflexively jump up? Can this bullpen finish out tight games without anestablished closer?

I dont think its been too different, Hensley said. Everybodyjust has the mindset to throw up a zero whenever you pitch. I think the rolesare all out the window, so everybody from the fourth inning on is pretty muchgetting ready to pitch.

Lets not forget Bochys other big decision on the pitchingside Saturday night: He pulled Barry Zito after just four innings, sending uppinch hitter Ryan Theriot to start the fifth. Theriot singled to start afour-run rally that gave the Giants a 5-4 lead.

Bochy agreed that its deep enough in this pennant race tostart making snappier decisions. But he also credited Matt Cains eight-inningeffort Friday night with allowing him to turn to his bullpen in the fifthinning.

At that point, were down three, and you hate to take yourstarter out, but weve got 13 pitchers, Bochy said. Thats what they allowyou to do. And we have the luxury of plenty of guys who are accustomed topitching out of the bullpen.

Somewhere among those eight guys, Bochy will have to pick a closer on a given night. The Giants already have four relievers with at least three saves, after Hensley recorded his third. And whether you play chess or Yahtzee, you always want to have an endgame strategy.

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

MiLB/Sacramento River Cats

Good news, bad news for Chris Shaw's first week in the Arizona Fall League

Every time the Journey song “Lights” plays throughout AT&T Park, the lyrics When the lights go down in the City ring too true for the Giants’ offense. There’s a power outage in San Francisco. 

The savior to this issue can soon be prospect Chris Shaw, who turns 24 years old on Oct. 20. Shaw, along with five other Giants prospects, is continuing his 2017 season among a multitude of baseball’s best young up-and-comers in the Arizona Fall League. As he takes the field for the Scottsdale Scorpions, Shaw’s bat is far from the top focus for the Giants. 

After playing right and left field at Boston College, the Giants turned Shaw into a first baseman once they selected the 6-foot-4, 235-pound lefty in 2015. This year, the Giants’ front office decided to make a change. As the big league team continued to look for their own answers, Shaw saw himself in left field in 94 of the 125 games he played between Double-A and Triple-A this season. 

“I saw improvements through the course of the year,” Brian Sabean said about Shaw’s outfield defense on The Giants Insider Podcast. “The problem is playing left field in our left field isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do.” 

The AFL is all about reps in left field for Shaw as the Giants have already said he will get a long look in spring training. He earned that right after a breakout year at the plate.

One week into the AFL though, Shaw’s bat is way behind. Through four games, Shaw is batting a pedestrian .133 (2-for-15), both hits being singles. But even in such a slow start there are positives. 

Shaw has walked three times to only two strikeouts. His only downfall at the plate once he reached Triple-A Sacramento was his on-base percentage fell from .390 in Double-A to .328 at the higher level. With the River Cats, Shaw struck out 106 times, leading the team, while taking his base 20 times.

One week in the desert, Shaw is showing more patience and putting the ball into play more often. The ball simply isn’t finding grass.

In the outfield, every ball Shaw sees -- practice or game -- during the AFL is a step in the right direction for he and the Giants. He is yet to make an error in his short time at the AFL. The big lefty will never be a guy to make the spectacular play, but if he improves his instincts with the glove and improves his eye at the plate, the Giants can finally have their left fielder of the future. 

Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster


Former Giants infielder replaces Dodgers' star shortstop on NLCS roster

LOS ANGELES — Shortstop Corey Seager has been left off the Los Angeles Dodgers' roster for the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers announced Seager's surprise omission due to a back injury on Saturday, several hours before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from its roster. Infielder Charlie Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson were added.

Chicago made only one change from the last playoff round, adding reliever Hector Rondon and removing reliever Justin Wilson.

Seager complained of back soreness during the Dodgers' NL Division Series clincher in Arizona on Monday, and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year didn't participate in team workouts this week. Still, manager Dave Roberts said Friday that he was very optimistic that Seager would play in the NLCS.

Seager was an All-Star selection this season while batting .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs as a key part of the top of the Dodgers' lineup.

Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Culberson all worked out at shortstop Friday for the Dodgers. The versatile Taylor was the Dodgers' center fielder during the NLDS, but he made 96 appearances in the outfield this season and 44 in the infield, including 14 games at shortstop.

Pederson is batting .071 with no homers since July, but the Dodgers could need him in center field if Taylor plays shortstop.

Culberson famously homered to clinch the Dodgers' NL West title in announcer Vin Scully's final home game last season, but the infielder spent most of this season at Triple-A, appearing in only 14 games for the Dodgers.

Rondon was the Cubs' closer in 2014 and 2015, but moved to a setup role last season after Aroldis Chapman's arrival. He appeared in 61 regular-season games this year, going 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA in an up-and-down campaign.

Chicago acquired Wilson in a trade with Detroit on July 31, adding a veteran left-handed reliever who had 13 saves for the Tigers this season. The Southern California native wasn't great in his two months with the Cubs, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 23 appearances.

Manager Joe Maddon chose Wilson for the NLDS over Rondon, only to switch it up against the Dodgers.