SAN FRANCISCO Brian Wilson lied to his manager and trainerThursday in Colorado because he could not accept the idea of walking off themound a failure.
He told them he turned his ankle when he very clearly didnot. He stayed in the game with his elbow throbbing, he threw 10 more pitchesand he somehow recorded his first save of the season.
Its almost certainly going to be his last of the year, too.He acknowledged that another Tommy John surgery is in his immediate future.
RELATED: Wilson confirms he is likely done for season
This is the devils bargain of being a major league player.Some accept it. They go all-out and deal with the consequences later. Otherstry to coast at times, maybe save themselves, feeling there is more value inbeing in the lineup or bullpen for the long haul. Buster Posey is going tograpple with this one all season.
Neither approach is wrong, per se. But there was never anydoubt which path Wilson would choose.
Thats how I play baseball, he said Sunday. Push it tothe limits.
Wilson was relaxed and, I daresay, relieved as he met withreporters Sunday morning. Hes had to put up a front for so long, to profess hishealth when he knew his elbow was grinding. He had to present himself as anindestructible presence when in reality, he fully understood that he waspitching, in his words, on borrowed time.
He had an image to protect, and not just the black-beardedguy slinging chalupas on TV commercials. The closer is all about the look. Itsa role that you play. As Dennis Eckersley once said of Wilson, That guys gotone hell of an act, man.
Wilson had to act indestructible because thats what his jobrequired. Maybe thats what he required, too.
Now he doesnt have to pretend or lie. He can go get anotherL-shaped scar on his elbow, do the rehab drudgery he once did as a 21-year-old, follow baseball games with his new 14.99 MLB app on his iPad, and maybe poke his head into the broadcast booth.
Some players disappear when they are rehabbing from surgery,either because they prefer to be with their families or they feel theirpresence in the clubhouse can be seen as a drag to those around him. Freddy Sanchez comes to mind. Someplayers prefer to remain fully invested, dress out for games and watch in thedugout.
Here, too, there was never any doubt which path Wilson wouldchoose. Hes going to remain very, very visible.
I have an opportunity now to be a better teammate and watchother stories unravel and be more of a student of the game, he said. I stillhave a lot to learn and I still have a lot to teach.
By no stretch of the imagination is my journey over. Thisis a mild bump in my road. Nothing has been easy when Ive pitched or lived sothis is an opportunity for me to get a better arm.
I asked Wilson why he didnt have surgery last summer, whenhe pitched just twice after August 15. He said he was dealing with a strainedflexor tendon at the time. The elbow ligament wasnt the issue last year, he insisted.
Yet he also said, I guess you could say this was comingafter he pushed himself to the final pitch of the World Series clincher in2010.
I just know this: Ive talked to many players over the yearsabout their experience when they blow a UCL on the mound. Almost always, theysay they threw the ball 40 or 50 feet on their last attempt. Wilson threw 10more pitches after hurting his elbow in Colorado, and still managed to getenough on them to record a save.
I cannot imagine how painful that mustve been.
Wilson has one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining and said he fully expects to pitch for the Giants again next season. There's no question this injury will cost him a lot of money, though. He is making 8 million and probably would've gotten another fat raise with a 40-save season.
Now the Giants can either offer him a 20 percent (maximum) pay cut, meaning a 6.4 million salary. Or they can non-tender him and hope to re-sign him to a lower salary as a free agent. There's a lot of time between now and then, but however they wrangle the numbers, I do expect the Giants will have Wilson in uniform again in 2013. He's simply done too much for them, and vice versa.
What will the Giants do in the ninth inning?
Well, Id expect Santiago Casilla will get the first shot, byvirtue of his premium stuff and his durability. But he has looked like adifferent pitcher in save situations in the past. When he unravels, it can blowup in a hurry.
Sergio Romo will be a popular choice, but his slider is sorough on the elbow. Hes a small-statured right-hander and hes needed to becoaxed through every pro season. When his slider flattens out, its a home runpitch. A closer ideally is a more durable presence. So I'd expect Romo will remain in his setup role in tandem with Javier Lopez, who is too valuable against left-handers.
Jeremy Affeldt has the kind of stuff that plays better againstrighties as well as lefties, and he has some closing experience (albeit severalyears ago) with the Royals. But hes been pretty inconsistent thus far. I tend to think Affeldt is more likely than Casilla to get on a roll, start pitching well and grab the job.
You might see hard-throwing Heath Hembree get to the bigleagues a little sooner as a result of the Wilson injury, but I dont thinkyoull see him in the closer role. He was in Single-A to start last season.Just asking him to succeed against big league hitters would be asking a lot ofhim at this stage, to say nothing of the pressure that comes with the ninthinning.
One guy who might be able to handle that pressure isright-hander Dan Otero. I dont think youd see him in a ninth-inning role any time soon,but he has terrific poise and hes a strike thrower. He also closed at Triple-AFresno. If nobody else claims the job, he could get a chance down the road.
One more thing: Dont start pining for a trade. Teams simplydont make deals this time of year.
Pablo Sandoval has four errors in just nine games, and this is after he had some issues with inaccurate throws in the spring. A few times, he's looked especially yippish when throwing to second base.
I was told that the ball was cutting and running on him in Arizona, and he didn't expect to have those problems in regular-season environments.
But I think his damaging, errant throw Sunday on Neil Walker's bunt had more to do with a positioning mistake than anything else. Walker was hitting .120 and with the Pirates up 2-1 in the eighth, it really shouldn't have come as a surprise that he'd try to sacrifice with no outs. Sandoval was playing too deep, in my opinion.
Sandoval otherwise had a great defensive game that included snagging a line drive and ranging nearly to the bullpen to make an over-the-shoulder catch on a foul pop.
Aubrey Huff had to be frustrated with his pinch at-batSunday.
The Pirates were clearly pitching around him to get to AngelPagan. But plate umpire Tim McClelland called a very generous 3-0 strike. Huff,probably feeling like he had to protect a wider area, fouled off another pitchout of the zone to run it full. He eventually flied out to left field to endthe inning and strand the tying run at third base.
There was a lot to like about the way Brandon Belt played.
He started for the first time in six games, and for a younghitter, that can be a tough thing to handle. You fight one impulse to beoveraggressive at the plate. You might fight another impulse to be tentative inthe field or on the bases, for fear of making a mistake.
Belt was neither. He had good at-bats all game, which Bochyacknowledged. He drew an important walk to start the ninth. And when he hit aline drive off first baseman Garrett Jones glove in the fifth, he didnthesitate when the ball dribbled into right field. He gunned it for second base.
Belt might have gotten the benefit of the call on a closetag play. But the important thing is that he didnt question his instincts. Hewent for it.
Thats always been the way I play, Belt said. If I dontsee anybody going after the ball hard, Im going to second base. Especiallywhen Im not getting a lot of time, I want to do something to help the team,and maybe show a little spark out there.
Belt chalked up his rough opening series at Arizona tofirst-game jitters. He said he calmed down a little bit and focused onhaving good at-bats instead of being results-oriented.
Bochy might have paid him the best possible compliment whenhe said that Belt looked comfortable up there.
Especially on a day when everyone else looked totally out ofwhack, including Posey.
Its one game, so theres no cause for tremendous alarm. ButPosey, after a day off to freshen up, really did look as lost at the plate as I've ever seen him. He hasshingles and that can be a condition that saps you for weeks, or so I'm told. But when asked if therewas anything physically the matter, he said he was fine.
I would be surprised if Posey plays all three games against the Phillies.
It wasnt long ago that the 2010 NLCS ended when BrianWilson struck out Ryan Howard. Now as the Giants and Phillies prepare to meet, Howard is out with an Achilles tear andWilson is off to Pensacola to meet with Dr. Andrews.
Wilson referred to the good doctor as "Jimmy," by the way.
Cant wait to hear what Phillies manager Charlie good, notgreat Manuel has to say about Tim Lincecum in Tuesdays pregame.
For once, Manuel is right. Lincecums 12.91 ERA is neithergood or great.
Melky Cabrera is 0 for 8 since his eight-game hitting streakto start the season. He also hurt his hand while sliding into home plate onFriday. Too early to say theres a correlation.
I was in the Giants clubhouse this morning when one of theTVs showed Omar Infante hitting a home run for Miami. I hadnt seen the giantfountain in action until then. Wow. That looks like a cross between the Sgt. Pepperalbum cover, Its a Small World and one of those Anime cartoons that giveslittle kids seizures.
In other words, its very Miami.
The Dodgers are 9-1. Thats the best possible way to winback the faithful. Lets see what happens when they play teams other than thePadres and Pirates, though.