Giants

Bochy meets with bullpen, maps out new plan for 9th

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Bochy meets with bullpen, maps out new plan for 9th

ST. LOUIS As recently as four months ago, Jeremy Affeldtwent on record calling a closer-by-committee approach an exercise in futility.

Hes a believer now.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righettiassembled the relievers and delivered an impassioned speech, telling them thatmatchups would dictate who inherits the closer role on a given night and thatthis bullpen was talented and tough enough to adjust.

I think Boch and Rags both said it pretty good, Affeldtsaid. They said, Look, this is what we have to do. We believe in you guys. Weknow what can happen in these situations, but we have a lot of faith that thisbullpen can do it.

When youre addressed like that, you want to go out andback them up. You say, If this is what it is, lets do it.

They got the job done Tuesday night while protecting BarryZitos decision in a 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.Bochy tapped Sergio Romo in the eighth inning to get through the right-handedmiddle of the Cardinals order. After Yadier Molina hit a two-out double,Affeldt took it the rest of the way.

It couldve been the other way with Romo, said Bochy, whodescribed the committee in these terms:

When we get down to the last six outs, itll be Romo andAffeldt and (Javier) Lopez, and if they need a break, itll be the other guys.

What about erstwhile closer Santiago Casilla, who naileddown 19 of his first 20 save attempts but has a 7.82 ERA over his last 17games?

He warmed up in the seventh inning. He wasnt warming up inthe ninth. Only Brad Penny was getting loose as Affeldt finished up for histhird save.

Sure enough, Bochy confirmed that Casillas blister issueacted up again. He wasnt available.

Affeldt can cite plenty of anecdotal evidence about thecloser-by-committee turning toxic. Its hard to imagine the Giants, who play somany tight games especially at AT&T Park, where theyve hit 17 home runsin 55 games can operate smoothly down a pennant stretch with such an unsettledbullpen.

Theres a reason that Bochy left Matt Cain and Zito on themound a bit longer in the first two games of this series (with a bad resultMonday and a better outcome Tuesday).

And the Giants remain actively looking for bullpen help onthe waiver wire, which could change the dynamic.

But for right now, for those eight relief pitchers, this isthe contract theyve been assigned.

We all felt more comfortable at least being told, Affeldtsaid. Today, it would have been chaotic if we didnt know whats going on.Because we did, we handled ourselves appropriately.

Were carrying eight guys in the pen. Well be used. Butour starters, man, the way they throw, theyre pretty consistent. I dont thinkwell burn through all our guys.

Affeldt also pointed out that because its a veteranbullpen, the relievers are thinking as the game goes along. They account forwhos coming up and whom the opposing team has left on the bench. Bullpen coachMark Gardner is in their ear with scouting reports and reminders so they arentsurprised by anything when they get out there, which is a huge help.

You just mentally agree to it, Affeldt said. I thinkwere all pretty comfortable with the scenario weve been given.

Theyll have to be. In the meantime, more run support isnever a bad thing.

How current, former MLB players used baseball to help Sonoma County wildfire victims

How current, former MLB players used baseball to help Sonoma County wildfire victims

The North Bay wildfires forever changed wine country.

The devastating flames left thousands of people homeless, and even more permanently affected by the aftermath. As the rebuilding process continues, it’s small moments and gestures that help a community find a sense of normalcy. One of those moments happened on a rainy January morning in Santa Rosa, Calif.

Led by the tandem of Kasey Olenberger and former Giants pitcher Noah Lowry, both current and former MLB players gathered to hold a baseball clinic for children affected by the North Bay willdfires. Kids were treated to free baseball gear, exclusive memorabilia, and 1-on-1 instruction from some of the best baseball players on the planet.

For many, it was a chance to forget about all they had lost to that October blaze. For those more fortunate, this was a way to give back to a region that so badly needed something to smile about.

The youngsters who were there probably won’t make it to the big leagues. Many might not even remember the baseball lessons they learned that day. But they will never forget the day that the baseball community took the time to make them feel special.

And while the memories of these awful fires will never leave them, neither will the memory of this wonderful day.

Watch below for the full feature video: 

Giants rookie Steven Duggar delivers in first duel against Clayton Kershaw

Giants rookie Steven Duggar delivers in first duel against Clayton Kershaw

LOS ANGELES — The Giants will face three left-handed starters in this series, and before the first game, manager Bruce Bochy talked of getting some extra work for right-handed-hitting outfielders Gorkys Hernandez and Hunter Pence. A date with Clayton Kershaw seemed a good opportunity to do that, but Bochy instead let rookie Steven Duggar get his first look at the future Hall-of-Famer. 

“I think his at-bats against lefties have been pretty good. He’s got discipline. I’m fine putting him out there,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be playing in games like this, so this is going to be good for him.”

The Giants envision Duggar as their center fielder and leadoff hitter of the future. Ideally, he’ll be capable of starting everyday against lefties and righties, no matter the caliber of opposing arm. Ideally, he’ll also be starting in some pretty important games down the line, and Kershaw vs. Bumgarner at Dodger Stadium was a nice taste of a “big game” feel. 

Duggar said he talked to a few teammates about what it’s like to face Kershaw, but mostly he relied on his own instincts and research. 

“It’s just developing a plan after watching video of past starts and looking at numbers and things of that nature,” he said. “It came to fruition for a couple of at-bats there, so that’s good.”

Duggar’s goal was not to fall behind in counts. That didn’t last long. His first time up, Duggar swung at a first-pitch fastball and then got a big curveball for strike two. But he poked a high fastball up the middle and beat Brian Dozier’s throw to first. Kershaw caught Duggar leaning off first, but he was speedy enough to make it to second before Cody Bellinger’s throw to the bag. 

Duggar didn’t wait around the next time. He got a first-pitch fastball in the sixth and smoked it into right-center. Two batters later, he scored. 

“I did want to be aggressive, but be aggressive on certain pitches,” Duggar said. “I knew his curveball was going to be really tough. I just stuck to my plan and had a good idea of what I wanted to do … just trust (the plan) and try to get the barrel to the ball.”

Of course, this is Kershaw, and eventually he’s going to get to his plan, too. Kershaw quickly jumped ahead 0-2 in their final matchup and threw a wicked slider down and a way for a strikeout. Duggar said the stuff lived up to the hype. 

“He’s Clayton Kershaw for a reason,” he said. “He does not miss his spots often. Every pitch he makes, there’s a purpose behind it.”

The Giants have learned that all too well over the years. Kershaw has a 1.58 ERA against them and few Giants have even an average career line when facing him. Bochy knew that, so he gave his newest starter a shot to prove he belongs. On Monday night, Duggar delivered.