There probably won’t be too many fans attending Giants games this year, and of those courageous few there will be even fewer wearing jerseys of middle relief pitchers. However, these heroes of the bullpen are the men of the hour so far in Spring training. Yeah, Aaron Rowand is having a strong spring, as are Ray Durham, Eugenio Velez, Rich Aurillia, and Dave Roberts. But the unsung heroes have so far been men with little-jerseyed names like Jack Taschner, Tyler Walker, Brian Wilson, and Vinnie Chulk. Combined, these distinguished gents have so far given up only four runs in 28 1/3 innings, with only one home run. Their combined WHIP is a respectable 1.27, but Giants fans just can’t seem to get excited about this. Anonymous as they are, though, the performance of middle and late relievers will decide the fate of the team. Walker’s claim to fame has always been his sweat; no matter where or at what time he enters the game, his sweat is equal to that of a marathon runner on mile 22.
This by no means is an indication of the state of the union. It’s been a while since the days when Felix Rodriguez nonchalantly tossed the ball to Robb Nen and the game was over after seven innings. Since 2002, the ‘pen has been a mish-mash of pitchers not good enough to be starters and journeymen floaters. If this year’s installment of bullpen stir fry can remove pressure from Brian Sabean’s shoulders, other parts of the team will be better.
Merkin Valdez’s numbers this spring aren’t special, but his movement and speed are. Tommy John stole some of his super-speed, but luckily Mr. Valdez had a little to spare. He’s an example of what a good reliever is made from: a player with stuff whose arm is better suited to throw fewer pitches. Plus, with a name like Merkin, San Quinn can rap about how he “merks” folks.
But who am I fooling with all this hopeful talk? The Giants are 6-15, eight games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League. Now have a good day if you aren’t already in tears.