Article:Giants' Bullpen Thriving

The season is officially a month old, and one unit that has been rock solid for the Giants, and hasn't gotten much pub, has been their bullpen. Brian Wilson is nailing things down in the ninth, and pretty much everyone who gets him the ball has done their job's so far.

The two newest additions to the Giants bullpen, Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry, have both done what the Giants have asked of them early on in the season. Affeldt is carrying a 3.18 era on 11.1 innings this year and striking out a batter an inning. Howry is at

1241830981 Wilson,Molina.jpg

4.35, but has really only had one bad outing in his 12 appearances. Merkin Valdez also looks completely healthy and is throwing the ball the way the Giants were hoping he would after missing most of last season with elbow issues. Those three, along with Brian Wilson, are doing their job, which is kind of what was expected of them coming in. What wasn't really expected though was that Brandon Medders and Justin Miller, two minor league invites to spring training, would be leading the bullpen in ERA with 3.09 and 1.74 respectively. Miller has been especially impressive since his re-call from Fresno after the season's first week. The 31 year-old righty has shown the ability to pitch more than just one inning in games, and do it successfully. Medders has been wild at times, as evident by his 10 BB's in 11.2 innings pitched, but has kept runners off the board in his innings for the most part. The Giants are going to have a decision to make in the next week or so as far as who they want to send down once Sergio Romo (2.12 ERA, 33 K's in 34 IP in '08) is available to return (He's just starting his assignment and should be ready by mid-May). Right now I'd say Medders gets the demotion, so he can work on his control a bit in Fresno, but the Giants have to be happy with the depth in their bully at this point. The Giants also have to be happy with the way their ace has rebounded after his first couple of starts this year. Tim Lincecum turned in his 4th consecutive strong/dominant start on Tuesday in Chicago. It was your typical Timmy start; a solid 7 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs and 7 strikeouts in

1241830986 BengeinCHi.jpg

route to his 3rd victory of the year. The game was also highlighted by a Bengie Molina home run as the Giants catcher had another multi-hit day for the Giants. It got me thinking a little bit, I know the season is only a month old, but all-star voting is just starting to begin, and the Giants may actually have some guys worthy of making it to the mid-summer classic this July in St. Louis. The two stars from Tuesday's game would most certainly be on the National league roster if the game were tomorrow. Bengie Molina is leading all of baseball for RBI's by a catcher with 23. He's also hitting over .300 with 5 home runs and plethora of clutch hits. Lincecum is tied for the NL lead with 50 strikeouts to go with his 3-1 record and 3.05 era.

Then there are a few on the bubble. Brian Wilson, an all-star in '08, is tied for 3rd among saves leaders in the National league as he continues to develop into one of the best closers in the league. Matt Cain was also cruising until his most recent start vs. Colorado in which he gave up 5 runs and walked 4 in 6 innings. Still though, Cain is carrying a 3.09 era with a 2-1 record that could just as easily be 4-1 had he gotten a little help in a few of his starts. Finally, there's third basemen Pablo Sandoval probably, who wouldn't have even been on the radar 2 weeks ago, but his play since April 16th has put him there. Sandoval is hitting .319, which ranks third amongst NL third basemen, just behind former Giant Pedro Feliz, and the Washington's Ryan Zimmerman. Sandoval's 2 home runs and 8 RBI roughly half of where some of the other NL's third basemen are at though, so he's going to have to really have that batting average stick out if he's going to beat the odds and make it.

Trevor Cole The San Francisco Giants Blog