On Monday night, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy made an interesting decision to go to righthander Jean Machi with a runner on and one out in the seventh inning of a tie game. He easily could have gone to Santiago Casilla, who is considered by many to be the Giants’ most reliable righthanded middle reliever, but instead he chose the 32-year-old Machi, who was generally effective last year but struggled in some pressure situations and had a shaky spring this year. Machi took perfect advantage of the opportunity to prove himself, though, picking up the win while going 1.2 innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
The Giants have been lacking a proven righthanded middle reliever beyond Casilla, and this type of performance gives one reason to believe that Machi can be the reliable presence the team is looking for. The ability to trust Machi in pressure situations would allow the Giants to relegate Yusmeiro Petit exclusively to a long relief role, which in turn would give the bullpen someone to soak up innings in the event that the starter should get knocked around like Madison Bumgarner did on Monday. San Francisco hasn’t had someone to fill this role since Chad Gaudin occupied it early in 2013. A pitcher capable of occupying innings like this likely would keep the other relievers fresh and limit the amount of bullpen shuffling that the team has to do, which they did too much of last year.
With great success, though, comes great responsibility, so Machi needs to continue to be reliable if the Giants’ bullpen is to operate efficiently. Righty Juan Gutierrez will probably be the odd man out when left-hander Jeremy Affeldt returns from the disabled list next week. That will mean that the bullpen will have three lefties, and with Petit being specialized as a long man Machi will be the only right-handed alternative to Casilla in long relief. The Giants could always call on minor league righties such as George Kontos, Heath Hembree, Jake Dunning, or Derek Law if he ends up struggling, but for now it’s Machi’s time to continue proving that he can be the guy.