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.

Giants lefty Will Smith elects for Tommy John surgery, out for season

Giants lefty Will Smith elects for Tommy John surgery, out for season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Will Smith has elected to have Tommy John surgery, leaving a gaping hole in the Giants' bullpen. Surgery, which will cost Smith at least a year, was the recommendation of both doctors Smith saw over the past week.

"It's not what I was hoping for, but we sat down and looked at the options and this makes the most sense," he said. "I'll miss the 2017 season and be ready full-tilt in 2018."

Smith missed the first month of camp because of pain in his throwing elbow. He returned to the mound, but during a March 20 outing he again felt pain. A second MRI revealed a strain and a sprain in the elbow. Smith saw team orthopedist Dr. Ken Akizuki and flew to Los Angeles to get a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlen-Jobe Clinic. Dr. ElAttrache will perform the surgery next week.

Smith said other options were discussed, but if stem cells or rehab failed, he would miss two full seasons.

"That was the deciding factor," he said. "Baseball is what I love to do. As soon as they said I could miss two years, that decided it for me. I can't miss two years. That's too big a roll of the dice."

Smith was acquired from the Brewers at the deadline last season in exchange for right-hander Phil Bickford and catcher Andrew Susac. He finished the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances. Smith was expected to serve as the late lefty for the Giants. With Smith out, the Giants will lean on Steven Okert, Josh Osich and Ty Blach. 

"We're going to have to have someone step up and help us in the seventh and eighth," Bruce Bochy said Thursday. "That was going to be will's role. He's a guy we were leaning on."

Smith is under team control for two more seasons after this one. 

Posey thrilled by WBC experience, says he would play again in 2021

Posey thrilled by WBC experience, says he would play again in 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before he left camp on March 6, Buster Posey was telling teammates and team officials that his involvement in the World Baseball Classic was a one-and-done deal. On Friday, Posey returned to camp with a new outlook.

"It's a great tournament," Posey said. "If you were able to do it in the actual Olympics, it would be even better. I just don't know how to do that other than shutting down the season. But after playing in this tournament, I would be up for that.

"If I had a chance to do it again, I think I would. If you had asked me that three weeks ago, I would have said I don't think I would. That's how much fun I had."

Posey, Brandon Crawford and Mark Melancon were greeted by one teammate after another Friday morning, many of them fellow Americans congratulating the group on helping lead Team USA to its first WBC title. Posey and Crawford, who missed most of March, had kept in touch with teammates via text, and some who reached out said they often got the same message back: "If you have a chance to do this, don't pass it up."

Posey and Crawford will be hitting their mid 30s the next time around. It's no lock that they're still in position to play, but they made the most of their experience this month. Crawford had 10 hits and played his usual stellar defense, earring new fans who don't watch his Gold Glove on a nightly basis. Posey hit a pair of long home runs in four starts. 

Most importantly, both of them returned healthy and ready to play Friday.

"I'm ready for some Cactus League!" Posey said, laughing.

Despite being gone for nearly three weeks, Posey hasn’t actually played that much this month. He started half of Team USA’s games but he was on the bench for the title game. He said that didn’t bother him. Manager Jim Leyland talked to Posey and Jonathan Lucroy before the tournament.

“Of course, as a competitor, you want to be in that game, but Lucroy is a great catcher and he did a great job with (Marcus) Stroman and the rest of the staff,” Posey said. “You can’t go wrong with having him out there.”

Asked if there was one player he enjoyed getting to know, Posey chose Lucroy, saying he has played against him for a long time but never really gotten to know him. He noted how sharp Luke Gregerson's two-seamer was from behind the plate and said he enjoyed catching Pat Neshek and Stroman. 

Team USA grew close over the course of the month, and got better and better as the tournament wore on. Posey said the foreign fans at the early games in Miami helped get the juices flowing, and once the action moved to San Diego, there were loud American fans joining the fray. Team USA defeated the Dominican Republic to get out of that round (Posey hugged Johnny Cueto on Friday morning and chanted “USA! USA!” as he walked off) and then beat Japan in the semis.

Wednesday night’s championship came via a blowout of Puerto Rico. Posey has won at every level, but the moment was not lost on him.

“It’s cliche but there is a certain amount of pride when you have your country’s name on your chest,” he said. “It’s a vibe you get. A lot of us come from different parts of the country and you get to go out and play the game the way you played as a child. It’s America’s pastime, and it was a fun tournament and experience. That made it fun to win it.”