Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt made his second rehab appearance of the year Saturday in San Jose. The veteran southpaw looks ready to make another World Series run in 2014.
Was Brian Wilson the original beard to fear on the 2010 World Championship Giants team?
After Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth inning at the 2010 All-Star Game in Anaheim, his orange shoes were the talk of the town, not his beard — or lack thereof one. A month later, when Jeremy Affeldt began a three-week stint on the disabled list, the veteran left-hander started growing a healthy beard, as players on the disabled list are prone to do.
“I kind of had a lazy, didn’t-feel-like-shaving beard,” Affeldt said. “He kind of went with the full beard and grew it out, and then everybody was like, ‘Hey, we should keep growing our beards.’ So, we did.”
Since starting the 2014 season on the disabled list with a sprained MCL of the right knee, Affeldt once again has the lazy-man’s whiskers brewing. But with his two solid rehab appearances last week at Giants High-A affiliate San Jose, it is clear Affeldt is ready to get back to work.
Affeldt, 34, debuted Thursday with a perfect inning of relief against Reds High-A affiliate Bakersfield. Saturday, he worked two scoreless innings against the Blaze in a 22-pitch outing. More importantly, he showed off his agility in running over to first base to potentially cover the bag on a groundout to second — San Jose second baseman Rando Moreno got the ball over to first baseman Trevor Brown without having to involve Affeldt in the putout — but the knee responded fine, according to Affeldt.
“They wanted to make sure I covered the bag and I haven’t covered the bag yet (this season),” Affeldt said. “Tonight was the first night, which was great. Kind of … cover, run over there and just change direction.”
Affeldt has dealt with a litany of injuries throughout his career. His initial knee sprain in 2012 put him in a knee brace. He suffered a groin injury last year that forced him to undergo surgery. Since reinjuring his knee in March during spring training, he has been forced yet again to dawn the knee brace. And those are just the ailments since the fear-the-beard campaign of 2010.
Through it all though, Affeldt has never been placed on the disabled list due to an arm injury. Saturday, the arm looked primed to help the big-league bullpen sooner rather than later.
“Everything went good for me and my stuff is in a pretty good rhythm right now,” Affeldt said. “The sinker is sinking, the curve is curving. So, that’s what I’m looking to see.”
The challenge facing the Giants will be to find room for Affeldt in the crowded bullpen. Each of the current relievers on the 25-man roster is out of minor-league options.
“Medically he’s clear,” said Bobby Evans, Giants vice president and assistant general manager. “So, it’s really just a matter of finding a window where, from a baseball standpoint, he’s ready to go. And it’s really a tough time for us because we have guys pitching well at the big-league level. So, we have to clear a spot, which will be the harder decision than anything.”
With Affeldt currently in the second year of a three-year contract, Evans is as optimistic now as the day they inked the two-time World Championship setup man two weeks after the close of the 2012 season.
“We had just won a World Series and he was a big part of that,” Evans said. “I think your only way to finish a game is with one of the best bullpens you can put together. It takes a lot of pressure off the starters when you have a solid bullpen. There’s no wavering on my end on what Affeldt can contribute to our pen going forward.”
Affeldt’s current contract is not unlike the deal he signed just before the start of the 2010 season. One year from potential free agency, he inked a two-year extension going into San Francisco’s first World Series run. And even though he spent a portion of that year on the disabled list, the season turned out to be a pretty awesome one for Affeldt and the Giants.
It was during that postseason Wilson’s beard was immortalized. Affeldt, after being activated from the disabled list in mid-August, trimmed his beard down to the wicked stripe he was wearing when he and the Giants’ battalion of southpaws dominated the mighty left-handed-heavy Phillies lineup in the decisive Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
Affeldt was the first of three left-handed relievers to enter the game on that fateful October night. The trio kept the elimination game deadlocked at 2-2. When Juan Uribe slammed the game-winning home run to right field in the eighth, lefty Javy Lopez had just finished his perfect one-inning stint to punctuate the parade of four consecutive southpaws — including starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez — before turning it over to a pair of All-Star right-handers in Tim Lincecum and Wilson.
“We stacked it,” Affeldt said. “We needed to carry enough lefties to compete with them and we had to throw the whole kitchen sink at them. That was Game 6. You don’t really want to go to a Game 7. But that team had heart and in that situation we put it all on the line right there and it worked out for us.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
According to Affeldt though, Wilson is fittingly the purveyor of the fear-the-beard era.
“I would say Wilson,” Affeldt said. “And you know … food gets in it and all kinds of stuff. I’ll let him have that beard.”