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04/08/09 11:25 PM ET

Giants capitalize on 12-man staff

Carrying extra reliever proves valuable in opener

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants quickly learned why beginning the season with a 12-man pitching staff was a good idea, though they'd prefer not to receive too many more reminders.

When starter Tim Lincecum lasted only three innings in Tuesday's season opener, the Giants had enough quality and quantity in their bullpen to consume the remaining six innings, which was a key factor in their 10-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

San Francisco used six of its seven relievers in a sequence that reflected the best-laid plans of manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti. Long reliever Joe Martinez worked two innings, middle reliever Brandon Medders pitched a shutout sixth and setup men Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry blanked Milwaukee in the seventh and eighth, respectively. Closer Brian Wilson finished the game after Alex Hinshaw walked a pair of Brewers and allowed Bill Hall's RBI double.

"It was nice for them to see a semblance of a formula," Righetti said Wednesday. "When that happens, it gives guys huge confidence."

Even with four scheduled off-days in April, the Giants opted for a 12-man staff, reasoning that their starters haven't fully developed their endurance. An 11-man contingent would have enabled the Giants to keep one additional position player, and they very possibly could resort to this at some point this season.

"Until these [starters] get in a groove, build more stamina and get deep into games, you've got to protect them," Bochy said. "You have to protect the relievers, too, so we don't overtax them."

That's why Martinez is such a crucial factor. As the designated innings-eater who must succeed a prematurely departing starter, the rookie right-hander could be asked to last three innings or more to spare other relievers. This didn't happen Tuesday, since Martinez already had thrown 42 pitches through two innings. But, Righetti said, "there'll be times when he'll need to stay out there."

Even when Martinez doesn't pitch, his presence provides security. Said Righetti, "On a given night, you never know what's going to happen. That was the main reason why Joe made the team. Right there." Righetti pointed out that the Giants have lacked a true long reliever in recent seasons, although Kevin Correia, now with the Padres, briefly occupied the role.

"You've got to have those guys," Righetti said.

Though Medders, Affeldt and Howry are fit to pitch two innings apiece, Righetti would prefer to avoid that kind of workload for them.

"They're all strong and throw every day, so you know they're capable of doing it," Righetti said. "But if you have that happen too much, that's probably not good."

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.