Giants’ Affeldt takes Runzler under his wing
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – In the San Francisco Bay area, it’s all about the bridges.
That includes the San Francisco Giants and the pitchers who bridge the gap between the starters and the closer – the middle relievers and setup men.
The Giants have two left-handers who fit that role, veteran Jeremy Affeldt and rapidly rising youngster Dan Runzler. And Affeldt, 30, has taken Runzler, 25, under his wing.
“I sort of follow him around like a puppy dog,” Runzler said.
Runzler earned praise from manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti by appearing in 11 late-season games in 2009, giving up just one earned run in 8 2/3 innings and striking out 11.
One of those came in his major-league debut on Sept. 4, when he struck out Milwaukee’s Jody Gerut on three straight fastballs to end the sixth inning and help preserve a 3-2 victory.
Runzler, a ninth-round draft pick in 2007, had stops at every level in 2009 – Class A Augusta and San Jose, Double-A Connecticut and Triple-A Fresno before joining the big club.
He was back at it while throwing batting practice earlier this week. Bochy said the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Runzler “was filthy.”
“It was a complete overmatch at this stage of spring training,” Bochy said. “When a guy is throwing 95 mph and has a slider like he has, it was pretty impressive what he was doing out there . . . we plan on him fitting into the bullpen real nice.”
The key this spring, Runzler said, is for him to be prepared when he arrives at the ballpark, make sure he’s in good shape and “try to be like a sponge, soaking up everything I can. This is my first big-league spring training. I need to watch film and ask a lot of questions.
“I don’t care what role I’m in right now. I just want to pitch and get hitters out.”
Affeldt, who shared the major-league lead in holds with 33 last season, acknowledged he doesn’t have all the answers but is willing to do what he can to help Runzler.
“It helps to know your role and this club does a good job establishing roles,” Affeldt said. “I tell him to keep studying, trust his stuff and trust his catcher, you know, ‘it’s your career, take ownership.’ “
Affeldt began his career as a starter, floated between starting and relieving – a “staliever,” he called it – then became a full-time reliever with Kansas City, Colorado and Cincinnati. He said he had a lot of help along the way from veteran pitchers.
“You have to try to do the same thing every time out to be prepared when you go into a game,” he said. “Be aggressive, make sure your fastball is ready, than mix in the other pitches.
“It (holding the lead) has its share of pressure. I pitched in the World Series, so I thought that I felt all the pressure you can experience. I’ve had a lot of fun.”
Runzler wants to be able to say the same thing.