Bochy, Giants want bullpen competition: 'Roles are earned'

Bochy, Giants want bullpen competition: 'Roles are earned'

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.”

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

After another Giants clunker, Bochy tells players 'enough is enough'

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after yet another missed opportunity at the plate Sunday, a voice came over a speaker in the press box at AT&T Park and announced a 524th consecutive sellout. It nicely summed up this current stretch of Giants baseball. 

The seats are emptier than they used to be at first pitch, and they were just about abandoned in the ninth inning of an 8-2 loss, but for the most part the fans are still showing up in droves. One woman brought a toaster by the dugout Sunday morning and asked players and coaches to sign it, hoping to recapture the magic from across the bridge. Another, Bryan Stow, made his first appearance of the season at AT&T Park, met with Bruce Bochy, and said he hoped to see a win. As Matt Moore started warming up, a band set up on top of the visiting dugout to play hits that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. 

For a while, AT&T Park was rocking. And then, as has happened so often this summer, the game started. 

The Giants turned in another epic clunker in a season full of them. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games and 21 of 26, but it’s worse than the raw numbers. On most nights, some in the organization have noted privately, they are simply boring. It’s one thing to lose, it’s quite another to do it in this way. 

“There’s no getting around it,” Bochy said after the sweep. “I’ve been through some tough stretches here and this is as tough as any stretch I’ve seen. For some reason the baseball gods are really testing us here and (testing) this group. It’s not that they’re not coming out ready or trying, but enough is enough.

“At some point, we’ve got to find a way to get this thing turned around.”

Even a slight pivot would be welcomed by the faithful. There were scattered boos Sunday, the latest in a growing trend. This is a fan base that has seen the highest highs, but rarely in franchise history have the lows been this low. 

The crowd no longer turns to the rally lights that were used so often in an awful April, but the noise still grows with each new rally. And then, every single time Sunday, the Giants killed off any hope. 

In the second inning, a Brandon Belt bunt single and Brandon Crawford bloop put two on, but a pair of rookies flied out. 

In the third, the bases were loaded ahead of Buster Posey. He flied out to bring one run across, and there were still runners on the corners for Belt, who leads the team in homers. On a 2-2 count, Hunter Pence inexplicably took off for second. He was caught, the inning was over, and the two-run Mets lead was intact. Bochy said he did not send Pence. 

In the sixth, there were two on with no outs for Posey. Both runners bolted to stay out of a double play. Posey popped up to first -- for a double play.

“He’s not a guy that strikes out, so I’m pretty confident sending runners with Buster,” Bochy said. “We can’t keep laying back. We’re trying to force the issue a bit and stay out of double plays.”

In the eighth, the Giants loaded the bases for Posey and Belt. Posey grounded out. Belt struck out for the third time. 

“We’re getting guys out there,” Bochy said. “We’re not doing enough damage.”

Matt Moore’s damage was self-inflicted. He twice gave up homers to the guy — Rene Rivera — hitting in front of the pitcher. Moore said he has stopped throwing his cutter the past three starts and tried to get his four-seamer going, but the Mets were teeing off. Moore gave up five runs on seven hits. He was pulled in the fifth, left to think about mechanics that still aren’t right. 

“The cutter is a little bit different of a pitch and at times it can take away from the four-seam fastball location-wise, and command of the four-seam was starting to go down the more I threw (the cutter),” Moore said. “I’m anxious to get back to it, but the foundation has got to be throwing the four-seam fastball. I need to execute where they’re carrying through the zone, not running or cutting.”

Moore said his confidence is fine and his problems are not physical. Others can no longer say that. Austin Slater, a rare bright spot in this five-win month, was pulled with a tight hip flexor. He was headed for an MRI. 

Slater is too young to be one of the players Bochy approached after the game. He said he talked to a few, though, passing along that “enough is enough” message. Moore, last in the National League in ERA (6.04), was not one who needed a reminder. 

“I’m sitting on a six right now with not a lot of wins and not enough team wins when I’m throwing,” he said. “It’s been 'enough' for me for the last couple of months.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways as Giants get swept by Mets at home

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The Mets spent the first half of this week in Los Angeles, where they got swept by the Dodgers and outscored 36-11. Their beat writers publicly wrote an end to any thoughts of the postseason. The fan base renewed the calls for manager Terry Collins to be fired. 

That’s where they were. And then they flew to San Francisco. 

AT&T Park continues to be a place where others get healthy, and this weekend it was the Mets. The Giants lost 8-2 on Sunday, getting swept by a similarly disappointing team. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games. 

There’s not much more to be said about it, but I did anyway. Here are five things to know from the day a relief pitcher got an at-bat but it would have been far too cruel to text your friends … 

—- Matt Moore’s line: 4 1/3 innings, seven hits, five earned runs, three walks, five strikeouts. Through 16 starts, he has a 6.04 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. He ranks last among qualified NL starters in ERA. Only Matt Cain (1.73) has a worse WHIP. Good times. 

—- Mets righty Rafael Montero entered with an 0-4 record and 6.49 ERA. He gave up one run in 5 2/3 innings. Good times. 

—- With runners on the corners and two outs in the third inning, Brandon Belt strolled to the plate. He leads the team in homers. Hunter Pence tried to steal second for some reason and he was caught, ending the inning and keeping Belt from batting in a two-run game. Good times. 

—- With two on and no outs in the sixth, the Giants sent the runners to make sure Buster Posey didn’t hit into a double play. Posey popped up softly to first and Joe Panik was doubled off of second. Good times. 

—- One last bit of bad news: Austin Slater was removed from the game with a tight right hip flexor.