Posted on September 10, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
As part of their search for answers over the final month of the regular season, the San Francisco Giants have removed Santiago Casilla from the closer’s role. Giants manager Bruce Bochy made the announcement prior to Friday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a game the Giants would ultimately win in 12 innings with reliever Cody Gearrin playing the role of both pitcher and outfielder. Bochy says Casilla will be an option late in games, but that he will orchestrate his bullpen based on matchups for the final few weeks of the season, as San Francisco desperately clings to a wild card spot.
“We’re going to use everybody and put out the guy we think is the right guy to get us through the inning,” Bochy explained before Friday’s game. Among those who could join Casilla as options at the end of games are Hunter Strickland, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Will Smith, and recently promoted veteran Joe Nathan.
Casilla has been San Francisco’s closer for a little over two years, but he’s struggled pitch clean innings this season. “I know Santiago has gotten some attention here,” Bochy said prior to Friday’s game. “He has 31 saves He has blown seven, 81 percent. Those are not good numbers, but they’re not bad numbers. The question you have to ask is, do you have somebody else who could be as good or better? I don’t know. We’ve got eight blown saves in the seventh inning and six in the eighth inning. Those have been tough spots for us too.”
Despite what Bochy said before the game, Casilla was in position to close Friday’s game in the 10th inning, only to surrender a game-tying home run to Jake Lamb. It was his second blown save and the second home run he’s surrendered since the calendar flipped to September. It was also his 8th blown save of the season.
Nevertheless, Bochy says that he’s not giving up on Casilla just yet. “Santiago is going to help us. He has good stuff,” Bochy said. “He has the equipment. He’s been a big part of this bullpen, not just this year, but in the postseason, and it’s going to be important to stay behind him.” The manager also says he met with his now former closer before the game to see how he’s holding up mentally amidst all the recent criticism he’s received.
The Giants may soon have another late-game option, with rookie Derek Law slated to come off the DL sometime next week. Law has posted a 1.94 ERA in 53 appearances this season, making him one of San Francisco’s best performing relievers. However, he has no experience as a closer, not even in the minors. Bochy is uncertain at the moment if he’ll put a young pitcher in that position. “That’s a different inning,” he said. “In all my years doing this, you see guys who are not comfortable in the ninth inning. The only way to find out is to put them in those situations.”
Despite immense struggles the second half of the season, which have been in part fueled by the inability to close out games, the Giants remain half a game over the New York Mets and a full game over the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild card race. However, they are holding onto that spot by a thread, and removing Casilla from the closer’s role may be part of the solution, even without a designated replacement. At this point, the Giants have to be willing to try different things in hopes of finding something that’s going to work if they hope to reach the postseason.