© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
04/15/06 10:45 PM ET
Notes: Worrell saving the day
Benitez throws simulated game; Alou's calf much improved
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Anytime someone asks Giants closer Tim Worrell about those treasured saves and his astounding ability to stay calm amidst tension-filled ninth innings when the game is on the line and .... So enough already. Everybody makes a big, bigger, biggest deal out of those game-ending moments, says Worrell, those few minutes when hearts are thumping and blood pressure is percolating, yet the bottom line for the reliever is that outs are outs and that the closer position is somehow overblown into heroic stuff. Saves, schmaves. Yeah, but ... yeah, but, we protest. Worrell is 1-0 with four saves in five outings this season, throwing scoreless efforts in four games, and owns a magnificent 1.80 ERA. He's been a godsend to the Giants' bullpen after several seasons of seeing the closer's role up for grabs, and nobody -- due to injuries or poor performances -- grabbing it. With supposed closer Armando Benitez out with left knee bursitis, Worrell has filled in well. That was expected, the reasons he was hired over the winter, returning to San Francisco after two seasons elsewhere. "It's the media and everyone else who makes a big deal over the saves," said Worrell, who notched 38 for the Giants in 2003 when Robb Nen couldn't make it out of shoulder rehab. "I can't stop you guys from making it, but if it's the seventh inning I want to get outs, too." Sure thing, Tim, but manager Felipe Alou is on our side, too, believing you're making a significant contribution to the staff and team with your closing efforts. "He's doing what he did in 2003," said Alou. "He's the kind of pitcher, even if he gets hit, it's not like panic or a devastating thing. He's so relaxed there on the mound. He has a calming effect on the team in the dugout." Make no mistake, Worrell is proud he can help the Giants, but he'll never glorify himself as an Eckersley-type closer with panache and flair. "Right now I'm throwing the ball good, getting ahead of guys," he said. "But we need to be judged as a unit, as a bullpen. When we're all throwing the ball well, we benefit from that. "At times I'm glad it's me," he admitted. "At times it will be someone else and I will feed off [that]." Alou improving: Outfielder Moises Alou's left calf strain is healing fast and the veteran will probably pinch-hit against the Dodgers on Sunday here, then start Monday against Arizona in Phoenix. "I was scared," said Alou of the injury, which occurred Sunday at AT&T Park. "When I got off the plane Thursday night [in Los Angeles] I could hardly walk. But I woke up feeling better, and it feels better today." Alou has a history of right calf strains, and he thinks the new injury might have been partially caused by favoring the right leg, thereby putting more pressure on the left one. "There's always a letdown when you get hurt and I'm sick and tired of being hurt," said Alou, who has been on the disabled list 13 times -- including twice in 2005 -- over his 15 Major League seasons. Having Barry Bonds back and vet Steve Finley aboard has eased his mind a bit. "If it was last year, it would have been devastating, but at the same time you have to be selfish," said Alou. "I'm swinging the bat well and you hate to have days off. I love this game -- seriously. I want to get back in there." Benitez better: Benitez threw a simulated game at Dodger Stadium on Saturday and will pitch in extended spring workouts when the team is in Arizona next week. So what will happen when Benitez returns? Will he displace Worrell as the game finisher? Not right away. "I'm not thinking about that ... unless he comes out throwing BBs," said manager Alou. "But if he's still not right, I'm [thinking] middle relief, unless there's a setback." Alou is also contemplating having both Worrell and Benitez close. Coming up: The Giants are undecided about Sunday's scheduled starter against the Dodgers here, but it's likely to be reliever Jeff Fassero (1-0, 6.23 ERA), who at 43 can still mow down hitters. Los Angeles counters with right-hander Jae Seo (0-0, 9.00 ERA).
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.