PHOENIX — Bruce Bochy spent part of the off day getting a haircut, and he joked Friday that even his barber had a suggestion on what to do in the ninth inning. Bochy and the staff spent the off day and Friday afternoon discussing the ongoing closer issue, and they came to the conclusion that for now, there will be no "closer."
It’s closer-by-committee, at least until someone elevates to the top of the pack.
“We’re going to use everybody and put out the guys we think are the right guys to get us through the inning,” Bochy said.
Bochy has stood behind Santiago Casilla, and he did again Friday. But after Casilla blew Sunday’s lead and then lit the match on another blown save Wednesday, it became clear that his hold on the ninth inning was over. Bochy met with Casilla and said the right-hander was in good spirits. Bochy said Casilla still will see time in the eighth and ninth, depending on how the game is going and what the matchups look like.
“I talked to him just to see where he’s at,” Bochy said. “I know he’s hearing grumbles and that’s why it’s so important to stay behind him. But he’s great.”
It’s unclear how many guys have jumped Casilla on the depth chart, but it’s likely that Bochy for now just shifts over some of the pitchers who have helped get the ball to the ninth. Hunter Strickland has for the most part been the most overpowering pitcher in the bullpen, and Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez have done an effective job going right-left in the eighth. Joe Nathan is a possibility to get outs in the ninth, too. Will Smith has plenty of experience in the late innings.
Then there’s Derek Law, who might have been named the closer this week if he were healthy. Law has a right elbow strain and is eligible to come off the DL on Monday, but he said it’s more likely that he’s activated Tuesday or Wednesday. Law threw a bullpen session Friday and will either throw to hitters or make one rehab appearance for the San Jose Giants, who are in the California League playoffs.
“I feel great,” Law said Friday. “I’m ready to go.”
Bochy said Law will be part of the ninth-inning mix when he returns. Law had moved up to the eighth inning before getting hurt, and he may be the likeliest bet to replace Casilla long term. That process could start next week.
“He does give you more flexibility, to be honest,” Bochy said of Law. “He allows you to do a few more things.”
The Giants hoped Casilla could do the same, and for stretches of this season his ability to handle the ninth allowed Bochy to mix and match in the previous innings. But Casilla has seven blown saves, some in spectacular fashion, and enough was enough after Wednesday’s loss. Bochy made sure to give his outgoing closer a vote of confidence. He took some of the blame for Wednesday's loss, saying it might have turned out differently if he had allowed Casilla to keep going instead of calling for Josh Osich.
“I know Santiago has gotten some attention here,” Bochy said. “He’s got 31 saves and blown seven. That’s 81 percent, which is not a great number but not a really bad number. The question you have to ask is if you had someone else doing it the whole year, would that be better? You don’t know.”
The Giants are about to find out.
--- Gregor Blanco joined the team at Chase Field to continue his rehab. Blanco has taken soft toss swings but doesn’t appear close to a return.