Giants' mix-and-match 'pen playing pivotal role

Giants' mix-and-match 'pen playing pivotal role

Giants' mix-and-match 'pen playing pivotal role
SAN FRANCISCO -- More than half of the Giants' players who won it all two years ago won't be on the World Series roster this time around, and the only portion of the roster that bears a similar resemblance to 2010 is a bullpen that has played a pivotal role in the team's run to yet another Fall Classic appearance.

Only 11 of the 25 players who were on the 2010 World Series roster will be playing for the Giants in this year's Fall Classic, eight of whom are pitchers. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner will once again be starting games in the World Series, but Tim Lincecum will move from the rotation into the bullpen to join five relievers who also were part of the 2010 relief corps.

A notable absence is closer Brian Wilson, who was lost for the season in April to Tommy John surgery. And as the team is left to only enjoy Wilson's inescapable dugout presence during games, the Giants have turned to their veteran relievers to make up for the loss of their All-Star closer.

Manager Bruce Bochy has found himself accumulating quite a bit of mileage in his treks between the dugout and the mound at the end of games, playing matchups as he rotates through 2010 holdovers Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo to close out games.

"We've all been on the same page over the last two years, and now we've been able to play along with Bochy and guess when we're going to throw," Lopez said. "That's why I think this has really worked with us. We know what our job will be, whether it's one out, two outs, three outs, four outs. We know what we need to do and then we'll hand the ball off to the next guy, and I think that's why we're able to be where we are right now."

Casilla was initially tabbed to be the interim closer after Wilson went down, but his first-half struggles led to a committee approach in the second half in which Romo has emerged as the de facto closer.

"How it has to work is they have to ask what they can do to help the ballclub, and it really doesn't matter what role you put them in," Bochy said. "I have four guys that could close the ballgame, I think. They're comfortable pitching late in the game."

Jose Mijares was added from the Royals in August to give the Giants another dependable left-hander alongside Lopez and Affeldt, while rookie George Kontos has emerged as a key piece to the middle innings to complement Guillermo Mota, the other 2010 holdover.

Having to replace Wilson is no easy feat, but the Giants have done so, Lopez said, by utilizing the diversity that their bullpen offers to offset Wilson's usual formidable presence at the end of games.

"Obviously, losing Wilson is a big blow," Lopez said. "You're losing a guy who can throw in the mid-90s with a nice cutter. He can really get the hitters to get out of their zone. With the bullpen that we have now, we dictate bat speed. We try to locate, mix and match, play the matchups. It helps that the lefties that we carry, none of us throw the same. Everybody's got a different angle. Romo's the same way in that he has that power slider with that different angle, while you have Casilla with more of the hard stuff and the power sinker."

The formula of mixing and matching Lopez, Casilla, Affeldt and Romo has carried over into the postseason, with the four relievers entering the World Series with a combined 29 appearances so far. In their 24 2/3 innings this postseason, the four have held opponents to a total of two earned runs.

"We always need a guy to come in in that situation and get the punchout, and [Romo] always seemed to be that guy the past couple years for us," Lopez said. "He has that unbelievable slider, but now he has that same confidence in his cutter and changeup, and he's a strike-thrower. That's something that he's never had to work on, and that's a gift that he's been given.