Programming note: Giants-Pirates coverage kicks off today at 3:30 p.m. with Giants Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
PITTSBURGH – Right-hander George Kontos had a rotten 28th birthday.
First the Giants optioned him to Triple-A Fresno, then the league suspended him for three games and issued him a fine stemming from a pitch that hit the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen Tuesday night.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy also was given a perfunctory one-game suspension. He’ll serve it Wednesday night, as the Giants cross their fingers that Barry Zito can change his road fortunes at PNC Park.
It’s the first time that Bochy has been suspended in his seven seasons as the Giants’ manager. He has said in the past that he does not believe in ordering pitchers to get retribution by hitting batters.
The league read that intent into Kontos’ actions; he hit McCutchen two batters after a pitch thrown behind Starling Marte resulted in a warning from plate umpire Wally Bell.
Kontos must wait to serve his suspension until he’s in the big leagues again, and of course, he has the right to appeal as well. You have to wonder if the suspension would dissuade the Giants from bringing him up the next time they need a reliever, since they’d have to wait three games before he could throw a pitch.
Kontos said this wasn’t the worst birthday he’s had in baseball, though. Four years ago, he tore his elbow ligament while throwing a pitch – an injury that required Tommy John surgery.
“So this is the second worst thing that’s happened on my birthday,” he said.
Kontos had established himself last year, posting a 2.47 ERA in 44 appearances and contributing during the postseason run. But he had a 5.76 ERA in 31 games (he appeared in 30 of the team’s first 54 games) this season and paid for location mistakes.
He said his arm didn’t feel the effects of frequent use. If anything waned, it was his confidence.
“I don’t think this is mechanical, it’s mental,” Kontos said. “It’s one of those things where you get hit around a little bit and it’s tough to get your confidence back.”
Giants coaches told Kontos to work on throwing down in the strike zone again with his fastball and bread-and-butter slider.
“I’ve been six inches to a foot higher this year, and in the big leagues, guys don’t miss those pitches,” Kontos said. “It’s a quick fix, and there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be back in the big leagues as soon as that happens.”