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‘We’re going to need to address it’: Doval impacted by pitch timer in shaky 9th



© Brad Penner | 2023 Apr 1

BRONX, NY — Before Camilo Doval threw a single pitch, he was assessed a ball against Yankees pinch hitter Aaron Hicks.

Doval, the Giants’ flame-throwing closer, took too long to warm up after an umpire checked his hands for illegal substances in the outfield. Some Giants could be seen signaling to Doval from the dugout not to throw his final warm-up pitch inn order to avoid a violation.

Doval eventually struck out Hicks looking. Two singles and two walks put the bases loaded and the winning run on first, but Doval squirmed out of the ninth by inducing a game-sealing double play.

Still, the nerve-racking inning included a second pitch timer violation, a mound visit and potential signs of decreased velocity.

“We didn’t see any of that sort of thing in spring training,” manager Gabe Kapler said of Doval after SF’s 7-5 win. “We saw a pretty good mastery of it. This is a different environment. It’s understandable that things sped up a little bit. But no pitcher’s going to survive giving away balls like that. Doesn’t matter how good you are.”

Kapler noted that struggles to adjust to the pitch timer aren’t just on the pitcher, but also on the catcher, too (though Roberto Pérez did a nice job trying to slow the game down, the manager said).

Doval appeared in six Cactus League games with the new rules and posted a 1.50 ERA. He struck out eight and walked none, appearing comfortable with the new rules despite being one of the slowest on the mound in MLB last season.

But Doval’s fastball was down to the mid 90s at times. It’s possible he was just at an early stage of his ramp-up or working on progressing slowly, but Doval returned to routinely touching 102 mph when competing for Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic without a timer.

In Saturday’s ninth inning, Doval’s sinker averaged 96.9 mph and his cutter 98.6 mph — both just a hair below his 2022 season averages. He reached 100.2 mph on his fastest pitch, blazing speed but well off his 104.5-mph franchise record.

The rain that began as Doval took the mound also may have played a factor in his slight decline in velocity.

Doval also threw only half of his 24 pitches for strikes. He walked DJ LeMahieu and Anthony Rizzo, plus allowed singles to Aaron Judge and Anthony Volpe. Doval has both a save and a 9.00 ERA to his name after his first appearance.

Outside of the visiting clubhouse postgame, Giants starter Logan Webb chatted with Doval. The nature of their discussion is between them, Webb said, but it appeared like a supportive discussion.

More conversations could be coming.

“We were fortunate to get out of there with a victory, but we’re going to need to address it,” Kapler said. “Camilo is good at making adjustments.”