SAN FRANCISCO – They have a name for relievers like Jean Machi who scoop up three wins less than three weeks into the season.
But Machi is no vulture. He already has a nickname, baquiro, which translates in Venezuelan Spanish to a peccary, or wild boar.
This boar is hoarding wins and he owns a share of the major league lead, tied with pitchers like Felix Hernandez, Chris Sale, Zack Greinke, Mark Buehrle and Lance Lynn. He’s doing it with a splitter that Giants bullpen mate Javier Lopez calls “one of the best I’ve ever seen.” And he’s doing it with some cat-like reflexes, too.
If they gave a separate Gold Glove to relievers, Machi would be a top candidate. In addition to the 1-2-3 double play he started in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Dodgers, Machi also saved a run when he reached across his body to save Brandon Hicks’ throw to first base from sailing into foul territory.
Machi might be built like a boar, but he told me he actually signed as a shortstop with the Phillies.
How long did that last?
“One month,” he said.
Oh. Couldn’t hit the curve, huh?
“Oh, no, no,” he said. “Big arm.”
Lopez, brought up to speed on that exchange, slowly shook his head. Machi started his career as a shortstop?
“Don’t they all?” Lopez said. “Guillermo Mota was a shortstop.”
Lopez is loving Machi’s success, along with the rest of the bullpen. He came into camp ready, after serving as the closer for a Magallanes club that won the Venezuelan winter league. And now he’s the first Giants pitcher since Bob Shaw in 1964 to have three relief victories in the club’s first 15 games.
“You can go a full season and not get one or two,” Lopez said. “It’s fun to see. Everyone here likes Machi. He showed last year he can pitch in the big leagues, and pitch effectively. It’s nice to see him get these opportunities and take advantage.
“Not bad for a former shortstop.”
Or a baquiro.