Giants

Romo, bullpen mates rise to the challenge

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Romo, bullpen mates rise to the challenge

DETROIT -- The Giants bullpen spent all season answering questions about its legitimacy after the loss of closer Brian Wilson in April.

So it only seemed appropriate Sergio Romo and the crew answered one more query on Sunday night.

Romo closed out the 21st sweep in World Series history and put an exclamation point on another chapter of bullpen excellence with a strikeout of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera in the 10th inning of a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Game 4 at Comerica Park.

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Romo struck out all three batters he faced as he, Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla combined for seven strikeouts in three shutout innings. Giants relievers finished the Series with a 1.54 ERA in 11 23 innings.

For Romo, the perfect final frame, one that ended as Cabrera watched an 89-mph fastball land in Buster Poseys mitt for a called third strike, was more affirmation his own doubts about his ability to handle the role were incorrect. Romo converted 18 of 19 save opportunities this season, including all four in the postseason.

It was quite the grind, quite the test, Romo said. I got asked to do something that I honestly felt was bigger than who I am and what I am. Just to be able to get it done, the confidence my teammates showed in me throughout the year, I feel beyond blessed.

Even after they lost Wilson to reconstructive elbow surgery in mid-April, the Giants confidence never wavered in their bullpen even though their wasnt a proven closer in the bunch. Wilson may have converted 163 saves over the previous four seasons, but manager Bruce Bochy still had Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez among others on which to rely.

Giants relievers posted a 3.56 ERA in the regular season and finished with 53 saves. Those figures only improved in the postseason and peaked in the World Series, when Giants relievers allowed two earned runs and two hits in 11 23 innings. Bolstered by the addition of two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, the bullpen struck out 17 Detroit hitters against two walks and a hit batter.

They found ways to finish games for us, starter Matt Cain said.

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Our bullpen has been unbelievable not only in the postseason, but the regular season, starter Madison Bumgarner said. When the postseason came they were even more locked in. We had 100 percent faith in them. We knew if it came to a matchup of bullpens we had a really good shot.

Game 4 provided the Giants with their first true battle of the bullpens. The Giants and Tigers were tied at 3 when Affeldt took over for Cain to start the eighth inning. After he started with a walk of Quintin Berry to start the frame, Affeldt went on to strike out Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young in order.

The left-hander then struck out Andy Dirks to start the ninth inning and got Jhonny Peralta to fly out to deep center before Casilla entered the game.

(Affeldt) is going to go after you with everything he has got, especially in situations like this, fellow reliever Clay Hensley said. Hes a winner.

Romo has proven himself to have similar qualities even if its something he questioned. With a wipeout slider in tow, Romo allowed one run and four hits in 10 23 innings this postseason. He walked one batter and struck out nine.

But it was more than the numbers that displayed Romos grit. He survived a 12-pitch showdown against Jay Bruce in the NLDS clincher on Oct. 11 with the tying runs aboard and then silenced the Tigers on three separate occasions.

Even with Cabrera looming, Lopez said he had no doubt Romo would close out the Giants second World Series title in three seasons when he took the mound.

(Romo) has an unhittable slider and he throws strikes so I think thats what puts him in that spot, Lopez said. Hes a little man, but he pitches like hes a big man. Hes 180 pounds, if that, when hes soaking wet, and he goes out and pitches like hes 6-4, 250. The guys got it and he showed it tonight and all series.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

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Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.