May 1, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher George Kontos (70) throws during the sixth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
With almost all of the positions and rolls set for the upcoming season, one of the few battle this spring will be be for the RHP roll out of the bullpen. We know that Sergio Romo will close, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla will be the LHP and RHP set up men, respectively and that Jeremy Affeldt will be used as a late inning guy. What we don’t know is who fill the 6th and 7th innings from the right side. From what I have heard, this job is between 3 pitchers, George Kontos, Jean Machi and Heath Hembree.
After having a successful 2012 season, Kontos struggled from the get go in 2013. I’m sure everyone remembers the first game of 2013, Cain and Kershaw in a pitchers duel and Kontos enters the game in the 7th inning, in a scoreless tie. During the 8th inning, the wheels fell off for Kontos and he surrendered 3 earned runs, including a solo home run by Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
This was a sign of the season that Kontos would wind up having. In 52 innings pitched, Kontos surrendered 27 earned runs (4.39 ERA and 7 homeruns (which isn’t that bad considering giving up a home run to a pitcher opening day). Manager Bruce Bochy continued to have confidence in Kontos until he was finally sent down to AAA Fresno on June 12, “Happy Birthday George, we are sending you to Fresno” is how I imagine the conversation went down. He returned to the big club on June 24 and remained with the team until July 22 after being sent back down to Fresno, until roster expansion in September.
Machi began the 2013 season in Fresno and was recalled to the Giants on April 4th. In 53 innings with the Giants, Machi gave up 14 earned runs (2.38 ERA) surrendering 2 home runs with a 1.09 WHIP and 8.7 K/9. I will admit that until I started this post that I did not realize that Machi had a half decent while he was up with the Giants. Considering Machi was sent down and back up 8 times in all, he did log a decent amount of innings during the season. For most fans, the Machi highlights of the season was this incident, part 1 and part 2, during a game in Milwaukee.
Heath Hembree did not spend much time with the big club during the 2013 season, made his season and MLB debut on September 3rd. All of Hembree’s MLB stats are a very small sample size, 7.2 innings 2 BB 12 K’s and 14.1 K/9. Hembree spent most of his 2013 season with Fresno. In 54 innings, Hembree surrendered 25 earned runs (4.07 ERA),in a very hitter friendly Pacific Coast League, giving up 7 home runs, 16 BB and 63 K’s 10.2 K/9 and 3.94 K/BB.
In my opinion, not that I have a say in who makes the team and who doesn’t, I think this battle is between Machi and Hembree. Current closer Sergio Romo is set to become a free agent following the 2014 season and I think that it may be a good idea to see what Hembree can do for a full season in the majors. Hembree saved 31 games for Fresno in 2013, after saving 15 in 2012.
With the Cactus League games starting this Wednesday, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out this battle and what Bochy and the front office decide. There are a couple other position battles that I will try to touch on this week.
Giants fans, its only a few more days before we all hear our favorite 2 words “PLAY BALL”