After Brian Wilson was called up to replace Tyler Walker, I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice for him to throw a scoreless inning?" It's hard to expect him to drop an ERA below 4.09, but I feel good vibrations with this one. Let's hope he can use his 20/20 vision to put smiley smiles on our faces all summer long. God only knows the Giants bullpen gets around. Uh, surfing. Waves. The Friends album; he'll be here in the morning? No, that doesn't make sense. I'm thinking about this whole world? No, that doesn't make sense either. Dang it, there have to be more puns. I'm running out of puns. I NEED MORE BEACH BOYS PUNS!!!!!
*huff* *gasp* *wheeze* *puff*
Okay, I'm better. Now that we have that out of the way - and I mean, forever - it was great to watch Wilson for the first time. Everything was working against him; first major league appearance, one-run game, flew in from Fresno the night before, and, oh, the crime against humanity known as Coors Field. It was a recipe for three straight walks, a double, and a typically wretched debut.
That's not what happened. Wilson had perfect control, and mixed his pitches inside and out. His curveball had late break on it, and he was keeping it down. The fastball was sharp, sitting in the mid-90s, and getting some good swingthroughs. It would be criminal to expect this from Wilson every time out, but that's the price of having such a great debut. Nailing Matheny's target isn't something that's going to be a given every time out, that is almost a guarantee.
However, the Giants needed anything resembling positive news to come from the bullpen. The team looked at Walker, and didn't see the same pitcher from last year, which effectively answers my question from last week. It's hard to imagine any team taking a flyer on Walker for a big-league roster, but a lot of teams have room for him as a AAA reclamation project. Pitchers like him are recycled just as often as they're spit out.
Armando Benitez was always a pitcher who lived off a mid-/high-90s fastball and split. His control could best be described as effectively wild when he had great stuff. Now the stuff is gone, and no one is bothering to chase the wild. The Giants have about eighteen million reasons left to work through this with Benitez. But if the Giants are going to kiss this particular frog prince and hope he's going to turn into a control master like Trevor Hoffman, it'd be best if they continued to do so far, far, far away from the ninth inning.
Of the remaining pitchers left in the bullpen, only Wilson has classic closer's stuff. Worrell is getting outs with Rod Beck-like grit, but that isn't something to count on in every one-run game. Accardo and Correia have flashed a power repertoire in the majors when up, but not with consistency. Kline has been branded with the lefty specialist label. Fassero's stuff hasn't been closer quality since he was hit on the elbow by a Harmon Killebrew line drive. A not-so bold prediction: Wilson will soon become the closer.
Merkin Valdez might take issue with that prediction, of course, as he was previously anointed with the CotF label. But Merkin didn't make his debut in Coors by showing up major league hitters. That sort of debut has a lot of emotional currency attached to it, and it would take some supremely wild outings to knock Wilson down a rung. He's capable of such outings - any rookie pitcher is - and if this love letter seems premature, that's because it is. Two innings do not a great reliever make. I haven't been this irrationally excited about a young pitcher since the last one, but we'll take what we can get with a bullpen that's been nauseating in the early part of the year.