AT&T PARK — Bruce Bochy insists he doesn’t have time to worry about the Giants pitching staff — even after a 3-0 defeat to the Diamondbacks on Tuesday made his club losers for the sixth time in seven games.
“You have to go on. You have to move on,” the manager said after George Kontos — like Sergio Romo — landed on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow. “Those guys aren’t easily replaced, but you can’t get stressed about it.”
The veteran skipper remains unruffled, but he fully grasps the magnitude of the injuries to the pair of premier relievers.
“It’s like [losing] a starter,” Bochy said. “If you lose a setup guy, and a guy like George, they’re hard to replace.”
Right now, there’s no set timeline for when “El Mechon” — Romo’s famous intro song — will once again blare through the speakers at AT&T Park.
The right-hander, who’s appeared in at least 65 games in each of the past six seasons, won’t even pick up a baseball for another week, at which point the team will re-evaluate him and determine the next step in his recovery process.
The outlook for Kontos, who spun a 1.59 ERA in his first eight outings of 2016 after sporting a 2.33 ERA in 2015, is more promising.
Before Tuesday’s shutout loss, the 30-year-old didn’t even sound convinced that he needed to be put on the shelf.
“Could I have gritted through this? Yeah. But, at the risk of what?” Kontos reasoned. “As much as I don’t want to be on the DL, [it’s] better [to do it] now [rather] than have something that is going to linger on all season or be worse than that.”
Mike Broadway and Steven Okert — the two relievers that the Giants summoned from Triple-A on Tuesday — wasted no time making their presence felt, combining to throw three shutout innings against the D-backs.
While the new guys aced their debuts, the issue for Bochy is that a couple of his more established relievers have been causing problems.
On Monday night, with the Giants one strike away from a 7-6 win, Santiago Casilla served up a game-tying moonshot to Jake Lamb, and the D-backs went on to win 9-7 in 11 innings.
“There’s nothing wrong with him [or] his stuff. It’s what it normally is. [I don’t see] our problem being our closer. I think he’s going to be fine,” Bochy said, issuing a vote of confidence for the ninth inning stopper who’s just three-for-five in save opportunities.
The worrying part about Lamb’s solo blast is that it’s far from the first time that a left-handed hitter has punished Casilla. In 2015, lefty batters ran up an .841 OPS against the closer, while righties checked in with .531 mark.
Those splits are simply unacceptable for a reliever in Casilla’s post, which is why finding a front-line closer should have already been the top bullet point on general manager Bobby Evans’ summer shopping list — even before his top two caddies ended up in the trainer’s room.
Chris Heston, the loser in Monday’s extra-innings debacle, flopped so badly in his trial as the club’s long man that the Giants banished him to Sacramento.
“The best thing for Chris and for us is for him to go down and pitch [every five days] and get his game back,” Bochy said. “And he’ll be back up here.”
While Bochy wouldn’t guarantee that Heston will resurface as a starter, it makes perfect sense for the organization to stretch him out in the minors.
The fifth inning of Tuesday’s contest provided a painful reminder of just how difficult it is to count on Cain. The vet entered the frame with zero hits on his ledger, but five hits, three runs and just two outs later, Bochy was trudging out to the mound to take the ball from his starter.
“He was really throwing the ball so well there,” Bochy said. “He just lost his good command and those pitches were coming back over the middle. It’s a case where when you don’t have that good command you’re probably going to have a tough time trying to get through the inning.”
Jake Peavy, the No. 4 guy, has been even worse. In his first three starts, Peavy has run up a 9.00 ERA and allowed an alarming 28 hits in 14 innings of work.
Peavy has yet to pitch more than five innings in any of his three starts and Cain has only made it through six innings on one occasion.
All those short outings are putting a lot of stress on the already depleted bullpen. They’re also putting stress on the lineup. And eventually, if the trend continues, they’ll be putting stress on Bochy.