Fresno Team Report | April 23

Fresno's bullpen is better than it was last season. An improvement is still a work-in-progress with talented yet stumbling young pitchers. The saving grace here is a pair of also-rans from spring training holding it together. Like it or not, this band of relievers will be responsible in large part for the fate of the team.

Record: 8-9, last in the Pacific Coast League Southern Division

It all comes down to pitching. At least in Fresno where it's been make or break for these arms. The team has lost five games this week before Saturday, both due to and despite the bullpen.

The Grizzlies rely heavily on the men throwing in the late innings of ballgames. The results have been mixed this week with bad luck and poor play. With six relievers getting the bulk of innings -- with earned run averages at or under 3.00 -- they have to be called upon again and again despite the bullpen's 3-3 win-loss record.

The bullpen is back in Fresno. If it was ever there in the first place is debatable, but this main core is looking to replace the uncertainty with hope and, if they iron out early season kinks, results.

First, the two newcomers assigned to Triple-A after good springs are getting it done. Dan Giese, formerly of the Phillies organization, pitched five shutout innings this week. He has yet to give up a run all year.

Scott Atchison has been in professional baseball since 2000 without sticking with a major league team. In the last seven days, he has struck out three batters in 1 2/3 innings. His ERA is the second-lowest among relievers at 1.35.

Scott Munter needed a turnaround after his sinker abandoned him last year. Whatever he has in Fresno this year, it's working for him. He has not allowed a run to score since April 10. He has not recorded a strikeout in three innings this week, but every appearance where he shuts out opposing batters, he lowers his ERA -- it's at 1.86 for the year. He leads all relief pitchers with seven appearances.

In one appearance this week, Billy Sadler threw two perfect innings with two strikeouts. He's one of two strikeout artists in the bullpen, aside from closer Brian Wilson. Sadler has the second-most punchouts among relievers with 13. His ERA ranks as highest among this group at an even 3.00.

Brian Wilson and Pat Misch are the best bets to make it to San Francisco and contribute on a regular basis. If they can avoid bad days like they had this week, that is. Both pitchers blew saves and were credited with losses.

Misch blew it on Monday, one of two appearances on the week for him. He allowed two runs in that game, but recovered with a good outing Friday, when he allowed one hit and no runs in 2 1/3 innings. The left-hander is the bullpen's innings pitched leader with 13 1/3, as well as their strikeout king so far. His 16 strikeouts are second to Tim Lincecum's 28.

Wilson blew a save the day after Misch's failed effort, and that one had to sting. He allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning, wasting Lincecum's gem. The closer was on mop-up duty after Misch, when he walked two but didn't give up a hit or a run. Still with his ERA at 2.45, he's the ninth-inning guy for the Grizzlies.

These pitchers can only take what the uneven starting rotation gives them -- lately, not many gifts. If Wilson and Misch stabilize into bullpen anchors and the unexpected blessings of Atchison and Giese continue to pan out, and if Munter's sinker works, and if Sadler keeps improving after his bad spring, the Grizzlies will have reliable relief pitching.

That's a lot of "ifs." The team is in last place. It's also April. "Ifs" are okay this time of year.

Player of the Week: Kevin Frandsen

The offense hasn't suffered much in the last week. Kevin Frandsen is the poster boy for good Grizzly hitting. A .435 batting average for the week will do that. Frandsen has a seven-game hitting streak ,including three hits Saturday night against Tucson. This week he has a home run, two RBI, three walks, and is showing a little speed, too, with three stolen bases.

By The Numbers: 6.54

Specifically, 5.79, 3.13, 4.26, and 12.96. Those are the starting pitchers' individual season ERAs with the 6.54 figure representing the average among the four starters not named Lincecum. When adding the top prospect's scoreless mark, it drops over a full run to 5.23.



Chris has been a Giants fan since her days in utero. She loves baseball and writes about whatever she can get her hands on…even the Athletics. She's a Bay Area gal through and through. This is her 24th season of fandom. Love/hate mail can be sent to seasond_salt@yahoo.com, where the love mail gets top priority and the hate mail gets used for kindling.

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