SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Tuesday was the first official day of workouts at Scottsdale Stadium, but Bruce Bochy looks at another day as the annual start of his season.
“It seems like when the Super Bowl ends that that’s the trigger of, ‘We’re on,’” Bochy said. “For a manager you’re always thinking about things, but that’s where you say ‘it’s our time.’”
For the World Series to once again be Bochy’s time, he’ll need to find a better mix in the bullpen. The ninth inning is easy and was set in stone the second Mark Melancon put pen to paper. The rest is a puzzle, and Bochy on Tuesday clarified an earlier comment about when it might be put together. He had said at the winter meetings that the roles would be set early, but he clarified that “early” simply means sometime during the spring. The Giants seem to have all the pieces they need, just without an order, but both Bochy and general manager Bobby Evans made a point Tuesday of pushing for a more open competition.
“Roles are earned,” Bochy said.
So, while you can picture Derek Law or Hunter Strickland in the eighth and Steven Okert or Josh Osich being the second lefty, the Giants aren’t ready to just give jobs away to young players. That was abundantly clear earlier Tuesday when David Hernandez, a seven-year veteran of the big leagues, walked into camp. Hernandez will make $1.5 million if he’s on the big league club and the Giants are certainly going to take a long look this spring.
“Any time you can get an experienced pitcher with his stuff, now he’s definitely in the picture as we start to make up this bullpen,” Bochy said. “We lost half the bullpen or close to it with Casilla and Javi and Romo. David is a guy that’s been around. He has great stuff and he could be part of this bullpen now.”
The Giants have always liked their veterans, and there’s something to be said for having a talented young arm or two sent back to Triple-A, especially because you can bet the Giants will use the new 10-day DL to option certain pitchers back and forth.
While Hernandez will join a big group of right-handers with MLB experience — Bryan Morris, Jose Dominguez and Neil Ramirez are among the non-roster invitees — the competition is considerably less complicated from the left side. Will Smith is a lock as the Jeremy Affeldt-type, but Bochy said Osich and Okert aren’t necessarily fighting for the lefty specialist job that opened when Lopez departed.
“They’re both guys that can face right-handers,” Bochy said.
Osich was equally tough on lefties and righties as a rookie, but right-handed hitters put up a .371 on-base percentage and slugged .528 against him last year. Osich is confident that offseason knee surgery will get him back to his old self, and Bochy is hopeful that Osich’s changeup returns to form. Okert has a more limited big league resume, but the staff feels that he too can be a full-inning guy.
Bochy expects clarity in all these races during the last half or third of spring, and he said that while he wants a more defined bullpen than he had a year ago, he also won’t get caught up in titles.
“Every game is a little bit different,” he said.
Some might call for George Kontos and his ability to pick up a starter. Some might call for Cory Gearrin’s repertoire against tough right-handed hitters. Some will call for possibilities you can’t envision in February or March. Bochy has won three titles in large part because of his ability to sort through those hurdles, and after a rare down year for the group, he’s eager to right the ship.
“I really feel that when we leave here we’re going to have a good bullpen, a solid bullpen, and they’re going to complement each other from the left and right side,” he said. “When you have your closer, it’s a little bit easier to build down.”