LOS ANGELES – The bad news: Jeremy Affeldt retired just one of the seven batters he faced in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Fresno on Friday, giving up three hits, two walks and hitting a batter.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged Affeldt will need more than one more minor league appearance before he’s activated.
The good news: The Giants really don’t need to rush him.
The bullpen, cause for mild concern at the end of spring training, has been terrific while the Giants won four of their first five games. And they’ve needed it to be, since they have just one quality start – from Tim Hudson – in the first turn through the rotation.
The bullpen didn’t give up a run in five innings to save a teetering Ryan Vogelsong in Friday’s 8-4 victory at Dodger Stadium, and Bochy credited lefty David Huff and right-hander Juan Gutierrez with providing the turning point of the game.
“We were hitless the last 7 1/3 innings and here they came in and put a stop to it when we needed it,” Bochy said. “That has to happen, especially on the road where it’s so hard to do. Both of them did a tremendous job.”
Gutierrez, a non-roster invitee who struggled with the Angels last season, hit 97 mph and showed a power slider. Huff, who grew up in Orange County, also pounded the strike zone while enjoying his first taste of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry.
Huff said he grew up a fan of the J.T. Snow-era Angels but often went to Dodger Stadium with his buddies and relished heckling visiting pitchers in the bullpen. He got to experience the other side on Friday, and the fans were all over him when he dropped a throw on the bullpen mound.
“It was ruthless,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Affeldt wasn’t awesome in his first outing since spraining a knee ligament toward the end of spring. I asked Bochy what the reports said.
“The report matched the box score,” he said. “But I guess he felt fine, threw 31 pitches. So it was a good workload for him, at least.”
The original plan called for Affeldt to pitch for Fresno again on Sunday and then be activated for the Giants’ second home game on Wednesday. That timetable almost certainly will be pushed back, and maybe more than just a day or two.
“We’ve got to make sure he’s right,” Bochy said. “Check off a lot of boxes, go back-to-back days, multiple innings. We’ll need to see that because he missed a lot of time.”
There’s one other wrinkle: The Giants don’t have anyone in the bullpen with minor league options. They can’t send down Huff, Gutierrez, Jean Machi or Yusmeiro Petit because they’re all out of options. And it’s not like frontline guys Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla or Javier Lopez are going everywhere.
Just one other pregame note: Brandon Crawford is getting a start against lefty Paul Maholm and it’s Brandon Hicks, not Joaquin Arias, who stays in at second base. Bochy said he didn’t want Crawford to get the message that shortstop would be a straight platoon, and that he’d play against some lefties.
It’s not in Crawford’s interests to put pressure on himself, but it’s a fact of life that he’ll need to come up with some hits when he gets these sporadic starts against lefty pitchers. That’s the only way he can expand his playing time down the road.
It’s not like Marco Scutaro is any closer to returning. I talked to him in Arizona and he said the cortisone shot he received in a higher spot in his back did nothing for him. There’s no timetable for him at this point, although he continues to take part in light baseball activities at the club’s minor league complex in Scottsdale.
For the time being, Bochy is going to mix it up at second base. Sure seems like Hicks and Ehire Adrianza will play a little more than Bochy originally intended.