Osich preparing to fill Affeldt's shoes

After veteran's retirement, 27-year-old lefty stepping up to take on more permanent bullpen role

Osich preparing to fill Affeldt's shoes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After veteran left-hander Jeremy Affeldt announced his retirement in October, Josh Osich tweeted that he was honored to have played with and learned from him and that his "shoes will be impossible to fill."

It's Osich's job to fill them now. The spotlight turns to the 27-year-old lefty to take a more permanent role in the Giants' bullpen heading into the 2016 season.
 

Osich was called up last season after Mike Leake was put on the disabled list, and he made his MLB debut in a scoreless inning of relief on July 3 against the Nationals in Washington. He made 35 relief appearances with 27 strikeouts and a 2.20 ERA in 2015.

Osich's first career strikeout

Affeldt was a member of the past three World Series teams for the Giants, was recognized as the setup man of the year in 2009 and even received Most Valuable Player Award consideration in his first year with San Francisco. He struck out 293 batters and had an ERA of 3.06 in his seven years with the Giants.

Osich said Affeldt's presence will be missed in the locker room.

"He's a guy that's pretty funny, keeps the clubhouse pretty loose," he said. "But it's going to be pretty fun to take over that job in the bullpen and just do the best I can to help out the team."

Manager Bruce Bochy, with his left arm tucked in his shirt in a sling, joked that he felt better with Osich in the bullpen.

"Send that to Jeremy," he said. "But you can't help but miss Jeremy Affeldt. Not just what he did on the field, but you always knew when he was around. He was a lot of fun."

Affeldt is honored at AT&T Park

Bochy was impressed by Osich's rookie production in 2015.

"It's nice to have an Osich," he said. "You look at the job Osich did last year, I think he's prime to assume Jeremy's role."

Helping Osich fill those shoes are a number of veterans in the Giants' bullpen, including Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez.

"[Lopez] is probably my biggest [mentor]," Osich said. "He's been around for a while, so he knows what he's talking about."

Osich said when Lopez talks, he always listens.

"When he says something, you just got to go out there and try and do it," he said. "Do the best you can to just keep the ball down, basically."

In the bullpen, the Giants' veteran leadership is mixed with youth in Osich, Hunter Strickland and Mike Broadway, but Osich and Lopez are the only left-handers.

Catcher Trevor Brown, who also made his MLB debut last season, said having a veteran left-hander to work with Osich works well.

"The righties kind of teach the righties, and the lefties kind of teach the lefties," he said. "So definitely as a lefty for Josh, Lopez is definitely someone who can have some good input for him."

Pitchers and catchers reported to Scottsdale on Wednesday, but Osich has already impressed Brown.

"All these guys are crazy-hard workers," Brown said. "I've been here for a while now, and just being in the weight room, he's been getting after it."

Brown has seen Osich work with fellow reliever Strickland. Osich and Strickland are the two youngest arms in the bullpen, but Brown says it doesn't seem that way.

"Both those guys get after it in the weight room pretty good, and they're both mentally tough guys," he said. "So I think [Osich] is definitely ready and excited to go, to fill those shoes and take that role over."

Helping out is the Giants' longtime pitching coach, Dave Righetti, who has coached some of the league's best since joining the Giants in 2000.

Osich said Righetti helps the staff recognize everything they need to on the mound.

"Going out and understanding the hitters, going over the video they give us, scouting reports," Osich said. "All the information they can give you to help."

Righetti also stresses not to think too much in the heat of the game.

"Don't go out there and try to do too much," he said. "Just do what you can do. Let your defense play, and that's pretty much it."

Bill Slane is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.