Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Giants shake up closer role

06/29/2014 12:34 PM

10/08/2014 12:03 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he met with Sergio Romo today and informed him the Giants will go to a closer-by-committee setup for the time being.

Romo blew his fourth save opportunity Saturday night against the Reds, allowing a go-ahead two-run home run to Brandon Phillips after walking Joey Votto to start the ninth in a 1-0 game. The right-hander has 22 saves, fifth in the N.L., but has allowed 13 earned runs in his last 12 outings since May 20 and has a 5.17 ERA for the season.

"He’s done a great job; it’s fair to say he’s having his struggles," Bochy said. "I think we can help him late in the ballgame, and he’ll still be part of the mix. But we’re going to back it off a little bit and do it by committee."

Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt will be options in the ninth, along with Romo if the matchup favors him, Bochy said. Casilla has closed previously for the Giants and has shown the ability to get both right- and left-handed hitters out. But Bochy said he also likes the way Affeldt has been throwing, and if it’s a situation where multiple lefties are coming up in the ninth, he might prefer to use Affeldt for the save.

Either look like strong options right now. Casilla has retired all 13 batters he’s faced in his last four outings since coming off the disabled list. Affeldt has given up just one run over his last 15 appearances, a span of 13 1/3 innings.

Bochy said he told Romo he’ll be used to help get the last six outs or potentially a big out in the seventh inning. "He’s done that before, he’s done a great job at it, and I think he’ll do a great job wherever we use him," Bochy said. "How long this committee thing goes, I can’t tell you. But hopefully it gets him going."

Saturday night, Romo looked to be vulnerable throwing his signature slider, particularly to right-handers. Phillips homered on a two-strike slider -- the sixth slider of the at-bat -- and Romo also got two outs on fly balls to the warning track in left by right-handers who jumped on sliders.

That led Bochy to be asked whether Romo’s issue lately has been with being predictable -- hitters know he throws the slider nearly half the time, though he worked this spring on improving his changeup for that reason exactly -- or if he’s just not throwing the slider as well as he normally does. Bochy said it’s likely a little of both.

"With Sergio, I think it’s fair to say that most teaks know he’s going to go with his slider, that’s his bread and butter," Bochy said. "But it gets back to being consistent with it.

"Recently, particularly when the inning gets a little stretched out, is when he makes his mistakes. He’ll leave one up. And of course, they’re looking for the slider more so than the other pitches, and they’re not missing."

Bochy said when he broke the news to Romo, "He was fine. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but you know, he’s a team guy and he’ll help out wherever we need him." He also emphasized the fact it’s not only Romo who’s struggling right now. The Giants have had their slips team-wide during their current 4-14 stretch. Another member of the bullpen in a down stretch right now is Jean Machi, who has allowed runs in back-to-back outings before which he had a 0.29 ERA.

Machi entered with the bases loaded in the 11th last night and one out, and struck out one batter before allowing three consecutive hits as the Reds turned a 2-2 tie into a 7-2 lead. Machi has been used a lot this year, but Bochy said the concern isn’t that the right-hander might be fatigued.

"In fact, a couple days ago I blamed myself for getting him a little too much rest," Bochy said. "Last night, I thought he probably got a little predictable with his pitches, left some of those (split-finger fastballs) up."

Bottom line, the back end of the Giants’ bullpen will now have a different look. Expect to see Romo in more of his former set-up role, Casilla as the likely top option to close and Affeldt in the mix as a bit of a wild card.

Here’s the Giants’ lineup for their series finale today against the Reds, in which they’ll try to avoid being swept in a four-game series for the first time ever at AT&T Park:

CF Blanco

RF Pence

C Posey

3B Sandoval

LF Morse

1B Duvall

SS Crawford

2B Panik

P Hudson

And the Reds’ lineup against Tim Hudson:

CF Hamilton

3B Frazier

1B Votto

2B Phillips

RF Bruce

C Pena

LF Schumaker

SS Cozard

P Bailey

* Bochy reiterated that "our hope is" Angel Pagan will be able to rejoin the Giants when he’s eligible to come off the DL on Tuesday against the Cardinals. Pagan was going to hit today and do baseball activities on the field. "Our hope is he’ll be ready to go, but I can’t say for sure," Bochy said.

* There’s no plan, Bochy said, to bring Brandon Belt up Tuesday. But Bochy said "there is a good chance" that Belt, who went 3-for-4 on Saturday night in a rehab appearance at Triple-A Fresno, could be activated when the Giants open a series against the Padres in San Diego on July 4.

* Bochy was also asked about trying to get Buster Posey in the lineup as often as possible while also making sure Posey gets enough rest. Posey is one of the few Giants producing at the plate right now -- he’s hitting .367 in June and has 12 extra-base hits this month after having just 10 combined in April and May.

Bochy said he’ll continue to look for opportunities to play Posey at first base, but added a recent less hectic stretch for Posey likely helped him get over a lingering back problem that was limiting him as a hitter. The Giants had two days off around their trip to Chicago and Posey then started the first game of their subsequent series in Arizona at first base. Bochy said that "without question" helped Posey shake the back pain.

"It seems like he’s over that, knock on the wood, and he’s been a different player," said Bochy. "This game’s hard enough to play. … You can’t be the same hitter if you’ve got back issues."

The Giants have learned that much in the past year. Two other examples: Pagan and Marco Scutaro. Bochy, incidentally, was asked if we could see Scutaro up anytime soon. He joked he has Scutaro penciled in at second base Tuesday, before saying he expects Scutaro to go through a full rehab before being considered for a call-up.

About This Blog

Matt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at mkawahara@sacbee.com. Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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