Prior to Monday’s contest against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants made a bit of a surprise move and optioned right-handed reliever Jean Machi to the AAA Fresno Grizzlies while bringing back fellow righty George Kontos.
Coming into this weekend, Machi had arguably been the Giants’ most trusted setup man and was below only Sergio Romo on the right-handed reliever totem pole. However, he sealed his fate in the four-game series against the Miami Marlins. On Friday, Machi came into a 3-3 tie game and gave up three straight singles, allowing both runners he inherited from Jake Dunning as well as one of his own, to score. Then on Sunday he imploded, coming into another close game only to surrender two homers and give up four runs over two-thirds of an inning.
As much as he struggled this weekend, Machi’s demotion may not be tied completely to his poor performance. Even though he is 31 years old, Machi is still a major league rookie, and it is fair to say he has been overworked recently by manager Bruce Bochy. Even after Bochy acknowledged on Saturday that Machi was gassed, he threw him right back into a crucial situation on Sunday. By sending him back to Fresno for a while, the Giants can him give a bit of a break as he won’t be relied upon to pitch in so many games.
Meanwhile, Kontos, who was a crucial part of the Giants’ World Series-winning bullpen last year, returns after an 11-day stint in Fresno. Though the 28-year-old right-hander probably has not had enough time to work out the flaws in his mechanics that hampered him with the big club, perhaps his four performances in Triple-A boosted his confidence. All four of his appearances stretched beyond one inning, and he pitched well, save his performance on June 17 in which he gave up three runs. He had not given up a hit in his last two games.
Kontos is appealing a three-game suspension that he was given following his last appearance with the Giants, in which he threw at the Pittsburgh Pirates‘ Andrew McCutchen. If he should lose the appeal, Machi could be back sooner rather than later, as the only other Grizzlies reliever that is on the Giants’ 40-man roster is lefty Dan Runzler, who has struggled mightily this year and has a 9.58 ERA in June.