AT&T PARK — On an April afternoon, Derek Law was relaxing in the visitor’s clubhouse at Cashman Field — the home of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s — when he found out he was getting his big league break.
“I thought I was in trouble or something, honestly,” Law said, recalling the scene when Sacramento River Cats manager Jose Alguacil summoned the right-hander into his office. “And he’s like, ‘This is a happy day. You’re going to the big leagues.’ And I was like, ‘Seriously?’”
With Sergio Romo landing on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, Law joined the Giants on April 15 to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. He struck out the side in his debut.
It was fitting in more ways than one that an elbow injury to Romo would open the door to the majors for Law.
When he first arrived, the rookie was at the bottom of the depth chart. Four months later, Law has supplanted Romo as the top right-handed setup man.
“I can’t say I’m surprised,” manager Bruce Bochy said of the 25-year-old’s rapid rise. “He’s got good stuff. He throws hard and he’s got two breaking balls and a changeup with command.”
Bochy has handed Law the eighth the past two times that the Giants have had a lead to defend.
“I like how he handled it,” Bochy said. “He didn’t change who he is or how he throws. He’s got the pitches to face righties and lefties. He seems to be comfortable out there in a tight game late in a ballgame.”
Trevor Brown, who first caught Law in 2013 when they were playing for the Low-A Augusta GreenJackets, is plenty familiar with the reliever’s easy-going style.
“He’s just laid back and a goof ball a little bit,” Brown said. “But he’s still competitive when he gets out on the mound. He knows how to turn it on and off.”
Thanks to his four-pitch arsenal and his unflappable demeanor, Law hasn’t allowed a run since June 30 — a stretch of 18 games. He’s retired each of the past 19 batters he’s faced.
Law couldn’t identify a single explanation for his lights-out run.
“It’s just kind of one of those grooves you get in,” Law said. “Sometimes in the season you just hit one of those grooves where everything’s clicking.”
With his ERA sitting at 2.05 and his strikeout-walk ratio at 43-6 — fifth best in the National League — Law insisted he’s not worried about his status in the bullpen hierarchy.
“You don’t really think of that stuff when you’re pitching,” Law explained. “Even now, I don’t really think about it. All of us guys in this bullpen could [pitch the eighth]. Everybody has the arm to do that.”
If not for elbow problems of his own, Law would have arrived in the majors much faster than he did.
In the spring of 2014, Law was in the conversation for a bullpen spot. Ultimately, the Giants opted to send him to Double-A to serve as the closer for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.
Law saved 13 games in 14 tries for Richmond before tearing his UCL in early June. Instead of possibly earning a promotion to a Giants team that would go on to win the World Series, Law was headed for Tommy John surgery.
“It was unfortunate timing because I was in one of those grooves I’m in right now,” Law said. “I had a couple of games where I felt really good and then all of a sudden it was taken away.”
After a year of rehabbing — an experience that Law described as a mental “grind” — he returned to Double-A last June. Back in Richmond, Law went 13-for-13 in save attempts.
Current closer Santiago Casilla becomes a free agent at season’s end, but Law deflected when asked if he aspires to pitch the ninth at AT&T Park one day.
“I think everybody does in this bullpen,” Law said. “We’re all here for one goal and that’s to win a championship. So, whether that’s pitching the first, second or third, I’ll do that too. If that means winning the World Series, I’ll do that.”