SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Jeremy Affeldt appeared to jog through pitcher’s fielding practice in slow motion Sunday, prompting a reporter to ask Giants manager Bruce Bochy what percentage effort he thought the left-hander was giving.
Bochy guessed 80 percent.
“But I should say, I don’t know what his 100 percent looks like,” Bochy said.
It was a joke, but the Giants have made it clear to Affeldt: they need him as close to 100 percent as possible this season. While the Dodgers and Diamondbacks beefed up their bullpens, the Giants spent to stand pat. They kept Javier Lopez on a three-year deal, and they’d already invested in similar three-year contracts to retain Affeldt and Santiago Casilla after winning the 2012 World Series. Another spendy reliever wasn’t going to happen.
The Giants need their current personnel to be better, and Affeldt, 34, is the obvious fulcrum He’s a left-hander who has the stuff to face righty hitters. He’s a pitcher who can give you pieces of multiple innings. He’s a guy who keeps the ball in the park when he’s right. If it’s a bullpen’s job to spackle over outs, Affeldt has the biggest trowel and the widest area to patch.
(Notice we’re giving him a trowel and not a putty knife.)
He’ll take an important first step Monday morning, when he’s due to pitch an inning in a B game against the Cubs at Mesa. The Giants hastily arranged the game after Saturday’s Cactus League contest with the Cubs was cancelled because of a tarp malfunction.
“He should be good to go,” Bochy said.
The Giants brought along Affeldt slowly because he had groin surgery in September, which he believes addressed the root cause that led to a cascade of oblique, groin and hamstring injuries over the past few seasons. He was supposed to do six weeks of rehab, but felt so good about his progress that he tacked on two more.
He told me he feels more symmetrical now, which should help him be more consistent with a curveball that was “in the right-handed batter’s box half the time.”
Affeldt also posted the worst mark in the Giants bullpen by allowing 53 percent of his inherited runners to score. Of NL pitchers who inherited at least 15 inherited runners, only the Padres’ Anthony Bass was worse.
Affeldt wasn’t the only culprit. Jose Mijares, George Kontos and Jake Dunning cashed in way too many runners, too. Lopez, by contrast, was astoundingly good – just 11 percent of runners, or six out of 57, crossed the plate.
“Javy did a phenomenal job,” Affeldt said. “But as a bullpen, we had a really hard time. I had a hard time. And having a lot of time to think about it, you know, I felt really, really bad for Timmy (Lincecum) and Matt (Cain). We didn’t do what we were supposed to do, and their stats were inflated. When we’re on point, that doesn’t happen. I don’t care if I had a 2 ERA. If I allow inherited runners to score, I’m not doing my job.”
Notes: Kyle Crick will make his Cactus League debut in the B game at Mesa. Mike Kickham, who has been set back by a blister issue, will start. … Brandon Belt exited Sunday’s 5-3 exhibition win over Arizona after two at-bats because of mild neck stiffness. … Lopez, who was scratched a couple days ago because of an upset stomach, made his debut with a scoreless inning. … Several Giants hitters showed a nice opposite-field approach in the game, including Buster Posey who went 2 for 3. But they failed to remember who was playing right field for Arizona. Gold Glover Gerardo Parra collected two assists, including one when he caught Angel Pagan absent-mindedly making a wide turn around first base. … Bochy said Marco Scutaro, who took grounders on the main field for the first time, remained on track to make his exhibition debut in a week.