San Francisco Giants Retool Bullpen for Playoff Stretch

By Nick Trenchard

In a baseball world focused on elite starting pitching and power bats, a team’s relief core usually takes a back seat to the glitz and glamour of the MLB.  Now, we turn our attention to the undervalued and forgotten workhorses of the league: the bullpen.

The San Francisco Giants have managed to solidify their bullpen as the team readies for a playoff push in their quest to notch the second NL-West crown in the last three years.  They welcomed a slew of new arms in the past two weeks, including right-handers, Brad Penny, Jean Machion on Sept. 1, Dan Otero last Tuesday, Yusmeiro Petit last Friday, before adding lefty Dan Runzler this Tuesday.  And its latest addition came in the form of reliever Clay Hensley, who was activated before the 8-3 win against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday night.

“Those guys are probably going to be in the game, some of them that haven’t pitched in awhile,” manager Bruce Bochy said.  “We’re going to need them to do well, pitch well, do their job.”

The Giants bullpen staff has been overworked in the past few weeks with the recent struggles of Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.  In the past four combined starts, the two right-handers haven’t taken their outings beyond the sixth inning, specifically noting Vogelsong’s 3.1 innings in a 6-8 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 4 and Bumgarner’s 4.1 inning outing in a 9-8 win over the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 11.  With much more weight on the shoulders of the bullpen, there’s only so many arms you can put out there on a day-to-day basis.

“You can’t keep going to the same guys,” Bochy said.  “You’re getting toward the end of the season, but these guys still need a break.”

With the added arm of Hensley, the Giants should be set in the bullpen.  His presence on the mound has been a consistent easement for San Francisco.  In his 54 appearances this year, he has garnered a 4-3 record with a 4.37 ERA and three saves as part of the closer rotation made up of Santiago Castillo and Sergio Romo.  His best ability comes against left-handed hitters, posting a heralded .197 (13-for-66) average and stifling opponents’ run production with a .214 (12-for-56) average with runners in scoring position.

The Giants bullpen hopes to lean on its starting pitcher Matt Cain, who has been the steady arm in San Francisco’s rotation this year as they visit the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night.

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