An up-close look at the club as we approach Opening Day
One bad performance often skews a reliever's statistics; moreover, Spring Training numbers are frequently deceiving. So Righetti is somewhat sympathetic to the relievers' plight."Spring Training for relievers is tough," Righetti said. "Almost everybody should be out there more. It's impossible to get guys proper innings. Short relievers are always under the gun. Every time they go out there, they live and die by one lousy inning." Benitez is the lone reliever to avoid any lousy innings, making four scoreless one-inning appearances. His fastball barely reaches 90 mph, but he has maintained command, as his walk total (zero) demonstrates. Skeptics have said that Benitez, who blew 12 of 48 save chances from 2005-06, is driven to succeed by his pending free agency. He's in the final year of a three-year, $21 million deal. The Giants would be spared at least some of that burden if they traded him. Boston, Florida and Seattle have been mentioned as possible suitors. But right now, Righetti doesn't care what drives Benitez, as long as he pitches well. "I have to coach him like he's going to be here," Righetti said. To that end, the Giants used Wilson in the eighth inning and Benitez in the ninth last Friday against Colorado, staging a dress rehearsal for the regular season. "We have to start establishing something so the rest of the team will say, 'This is maybe what it's going to look like,'" Righetti said. "We've heard talk about Armando [being traded], but I have to get him ready to be our guy or a late-inning pitcher for us, one way or another. I'm not handing the job to anybody. This is the only guy we have with experience." If Benitez is traded, the bullpen's anchor will become Wilson, who thrived as a closer in the Puerto Rican Winter League by recording 14 saves and pitching 16 2/3 shutout innings in 17 appearances. "The Puerto Rico thing was very important for him," Righetti said. "When he can control his fastball, he's pretty tough. He's going to pitch late, one way or another." But since little else is certain, the rest of the Giants' Cactus League season and even the four exhibitions in the Bay Area preceding the April 3 opener against San Diego will serve as a proving ground for the relievers. "It's going to be an interesting last two weeks," Righetti said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.