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.