A day after Santiago Casilla surrendered a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning of a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy reiterated on Saturday that he has no plans to make a change at closer, at least for now.
“I just think he’s still our best option right now to close games,” Bochy said of Casilla.
Friday’s appearance was not a save situation. Casilla entered a 2-2 game in the ninth and gave up a leadoff homer to Justin Turner. Casilla has four blown saves in 16 chances this season, and has allowed four runs in four June appearances with two losses and a blown save.
Bochy qualified his endorsement of Casilla on Saturday by pointing out the Giants have shuffled the back end of their bullpen before – notably in 2014, when Casilla replaced a struggling Sergio Romo as closer – and could do so again if Casilla’s struggles continue.
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“Do I feel like I need to back off him? At this point, no,” Bochy said. “But sure, if it gets to a point where you need to tweak things, you’ve seen us do it.”
What puzzles Bochy is that despite Casilla’s high-profile failures, his numbers this year aren’t that bad. Casilla’s ERA is 2.96 and he is allowing just 7.4 hits while striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings. Prior to Friday night’s game, right-handers were hitting just .170 against him. Turner’s was the first homer Casilla has given up this season to a right-hander, though he has allowed three to lefties.
“He’s making a mistake here and there that’s really hurt him,” Bochy said.
Casilla agreed Saturday that the pitch Turner hit out, a 2-1 slider, was not executed well. It was the first homer by a right-handed hitter off Casilla since A.J. Pollock last April.
“I was surprised,” Casilla said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “But I’m making mistakes. I’m leaving the ball up. And I have to concentrate to make sure I keep the ball down. These are the big leagues, and you can’t be making mistakes, leaving your pitches up. If you do that the result is going to be what happened to me yesterday.”
A reporter asked Casilla whether he has lost any confidence from his recent struggles.
“This is something that happened to me last year,” Casilla said. “Yes, I allowed the home run (Friday). But I told myself when I was on the mound, this is not the end of the game. You still have outs to (get), and I have to give my team a chance to come back.
“These things are going to happen in the course of a game. We’re still in first place. So I look at it on the positive side. I tell myself, you’re the horse of the team. I have to think of a horse, I have to keep my head up. I can’t just look down and feel sorry for myself.”
Bochy, meanwhile, can’t just plug Romo back in as the closer right now, since Romo is on the disabled list recovering slowly from a flexor tendon strain. Bochy did say he could mix and match to help Casilla in the ninth inning if needed. Wednesday night was an example of that: Casilla started the ninth in a one-run game but faced just two hitters after his first reached on an error. Casilla struck out the next batter, then Bochy brought in Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland to record the final two outs.
The Giants’ bullpen is going through a rough stretch as a whole – a 4.11 ERA over their last 15 games – and Bochy said that’s due in part to the fact he’s still trying to determine the best situations to use newer relievers like Josh Osich, Hunter Strickland and Derek Law.
“Part of it’s me,” Bochy said. “They’re going in there for one hitter. I’m saying, don’t get down, don’t get discouraged. We’ll get to a point where we have more defined roles.”
Chris Stratton, in his current role as the Giants’ long reliever, hasn’t pitched since June 2. Change is likely coming there soon: Matt Cain is on track to come off of the disabled list and start Monday against Milwaukee, moving Albert Suarez back to the bullpen, where he would take up the long relief mantle.