Affeldt ready to pitch in for Giants
Reliever hoping to earn setup role, but capable of multiple innings
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Give Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt credit for knowing what he wants.
When San Francisco came calling with a two-year, $8 million offer at the beginning of the offseason to pitch in a city geographically close to his offseason Washington home in what he believes to be a winnable division, Affeldt became the first of 171 free agents to sign in a market that still includes Ivan Rodriguez and Pedro Martinez halfway through March.
"It was a team that I was looking at coming to," Affeldt said. "For me, everything fit perfectly, and they were so aggressive, obviously it means a lot. ... They pretty much gave me the deal I was looking for, and I took it."
Now, after a pair of stellar seasons the past two years in Colorado and Cincinnati, Affeldt finds himself in the role he wants, slated to join Bob Howry as one of the San Francisco setup men entrusted to get the ball to All-Star closer Brian Wilson.
Affeldt has not been so relied upon since serving as the Royals' closer in 2004, when he saved 13 games in 17 chances.
"When it comes to a bullpen scenario, you've got to go with whatever's winning, and if me pitching whatever role I'm pitching in -- hopefully it is in setup -- is going to help us win, that's going to be what I want to do," Affeldt said.
Affeldt understands what that means from his time with the 2007 Rockies, whose bullpen contributed largely to their miraculous World Series run. Affeldt settled in behind Manuel Corpas and Brian Fuentes in that 'pen and provided solid middle relief work, going 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA and nine holds.
He followed that season up with a career year last season in Cincinnati, racking up a career-best 3.33 ERA in 78 1/3 innings while striking out 80 to just 25 walks.
The lefty attributes his success to throwing two or three pitches for strikes, getting ahead of hitters and only worrying about what he can control on the mound.
"He's got four pitches that he can get hitters out with, lefties and righties," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "He's got good stuff, he throws hard, and he's got an idea of what he's doing out there."
Besides being a late-innings force, Affeldt brings the versatility of a reliever who can be relied upon to toss multiple innings.
Affeldt threw more than one inning 21 times last season, a strength of his that he feels everybody in the bullpen should be comfortable doing.
"You've got to have the ability to do it," he said. "You're going to be functional for the team you're on, you're going to be functional for teams that might be looking at you in the future showing that you're durable, so I think it's very important, especially in today's game where you have pitch counts. Starting pitchers don't necessarily go nine every time out, so you've got to have that guy that can go two."
As Affeldt prepares for his first season in orange and black, he's struggled at times this spring, yielding six runs (five earned) in seven innings for a 6.43 ERA while giving up 11 hits and a pair of walks, although he did show signs of rounding into regular-season form with a perfect inning Saturday against the Padres.
The veteran lefty isn't bothered by his inconsistent start to the spring, though, because it has allowed him to face the kind of situations he's sure to see in the seventh or eighth inning at AT&T Park later this summer.
"Sometimes it's good to work with runners on, too, because if you have clean innings every time in spring, all of a sudden the season gets here and you've got to be able to pitch out of it," Affeldt said. "Obviously you want not having guys on more than you have guys on, but in Spring Training everything kind of works itself out."
Michael Schwartz is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.