SAN FRANCISCO -- Santiago Casilla has a hat in his locker with the words: "Do your job." What exactly, after a rough stretch, is Casilla's job description?
"I just think he's still the best option to close games," manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday. "But I'll help him if I have to ... it's about doing what's right to win games."
While fans may get frustrated, Bochy will never come out publicly and say, "This guy is no longer my closer." That's not his style, and that wouldn't play well in a clubhouse that knows Bochy is as loyal as any manager in the game. He's also practical, and he's not blind to what's going on. You don't have to read between the lines much to see that Bochy will use a committee in the ninth when given the opportunity. It was just two games ago that he used Casilla, Javier Lopez and Hunter Strickland to close out the Red Sox.
During a long conversation about the bullpen on Saturday, Bochy said he will try to find more "defined roles" for certain guys. That might mean Cory Gearrin gets the eighth, or maybe Hunter Strickland starts facing an inning of righties and lefties.
"Part of it is me," Bochy said. "They're going out there for a hitter (at a time). I said, 'Hey, don't get down. Don't get discouraged.'"
While at times it may look like the bullpen is in crisis mode, the Giants are actually 30-3 when leading after the eighth inning. They're 6-2 when tied after the eighth. The four blown saves for Casilla are an issue, but they also have come in somewhat spectacular fashion, overriding the fact that for the most part he has been one of Bochy's best relievers. Casilla's strikeout rate of 11.47 per nine innings is the highest in the bullpen by nearly two strikeouts, and his walk rate comes down in the middle of the pack. Despite all the recent issues, he still has a 2.96 ERA and 3.82 FIP.
It's just that the meltdowns have been so visible. Casilla wasn't helped by Kelby Tomlinson's error in early April or Mac Williamson dropping a ball the other night, but he also gave up homers to Jake Lamb and Michael Saunders in big spots and then got hit by Turner last night. Right-handers had been hitting .170 with one extra-base hit off Casilla before that cutter that didn't cut.
"You look at him and his stuff -- it's kind of been a strange year for him because the hiccups don't add up to the numbers," Bochy said. "He's making a mistake here or there and that's really hurt him. Do I feel I need to back off him at this point? No. Sure, there does come a point when if you have to tweak things you do. You've seen us do it ... (the) blown saves are what they are."
Casilla said he's not lacking confidence.
"This is something that happened to me last year," Casilla said. "Yes, I allowed a homer last night, but I told myself on the mound: This is not the end of the game, you still have outs to get. Look at (our) position. We're still in first place. I have to keep my head up. I can't look down and feel sorry for myself."
The simply reality here is that, whether Giants Twitter likes it or not, Casilla is one of Bochy's three best relievers. He might be the best, with Sergio Romo (who threw a light bullpen session Saturday) out indefinitely. Bochy needs Casilla this season, and he's sticking behind him, at least for now. Like the hat said, Casilla feels he's just here to do his job.
"I'll pitch where Bochy asks me to pitch," he said through interpreter Erwin Higueros.
--- Other notes from today: Matt Cain is doing well and should start Monday against the Brewers. Albert Suarez moves back to the long reliever/middle innings role ... Brandon Belt may hit third for a while. Bochy said he'll see how the lineup looks with Belt-Posey-Duffy in the middle ... Klay Thompson will be here tonight to watch his brother Trayce, an outfielder for the Dodgers.