Shades of K-Rod, or Eric Gagne? This Giants phenom could haunt Dodgers
Buster Posey, of course. Brandon Crawford has been here forever. Kris Bryant and Evan Longoria, All-Stars in other places.
For the most part, however, these San Francisco Giants are a fairly anonymous collection of pretty good baseball players: Wilmer and Wade; Donovan and Duggar; Austin and Ruf.
No disrespect intended, not to a team that won 107 games. If you’re a Dodgers fan, the name you ought to learn right now is the one most likely to put an early end to another blue October.
Meet Camilo Doval.
He is better known around these parts as the second coming of Francisco Rodríguez, the wonder child with lightning in his arm, the one who ascended from the minor leagues in the final weeks of the regular season and emerged as the most valuable pitcher on an unlikely World Series champion.
“A couple of weeks ago, I heard that for the first time,” Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said. “I said, ‘OK, let’s slow down a little bit.’
“K-Rod, that was just a phenomenon.”
Rodriguez pitched in five September games for the 2002 Angels, striking out 13 of 21 batters without giving up a run. Doval pitched in 13 September games for the 2021 Giants, striking out 16 of 44 batters without yielding a run.
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“I think it’s a fair comparison to some degree, to look at his stuff and say, wow,” said San Francisco coach Ron Wotus, who was on the Giants’ staff in the 2002 World Series loss to the Angels.
“He throws 100, right? And he throws a wipeout slider.”
Doval has been clocked as fast as 102.5 mph. He has the same fastball-slider combination, but Rodríguez never threw his fastball nearly that fast.
Rodríguez did have the same trajectory: unproven at the start of September, essential at the end of September.
“By the time he got to the playoffs, he was not going to be denied,” said Angels manager Joe Maddon, a coach on that 2002 Angels team. “Brash, confident, great slider, big fastball, tough delivery, with some kind of deception across his body, and an attitude.
“He wore his attitude on his sleeve, on his face. So there’s a lot to it. It’s not just good stuff.”
That is pretty much Doval, but with a calm exterior to go with the same confident interior.
Two weeks ago, the Giants summoned Doval into a bases-loaded, none-out situation against the San Diego Padres. Doval struck out Manny Machado on three pitches, then induced Tommy Pham to ground into a double play.
Doval walked off the field and into the San Francisco dugout, where Giants assistant pitching coach J.P. Martinez put a couple fingers on Doval’s neck and playfully pretended to take his pulse.
“He said he was checking to make sure I was alive,” Doval said through an interpreter.
“The heartbeat is so smooth and even and relaxed,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “That’s really who he is. Having been out on the mound with him in the big moments, sort of expecting a young player to come in with big eyes and breathing hard, it’s kind of just the opposite.
“He takes his time getting to the mound. He takes his time on the mound.”
For the premier closer, the entrance is a scene in itself, with music to fire up a crowd: “Enter Sandman” for Mariano Rivera; “Hell’s Bells” for Trevor Hoffman; “Welcome to the Jungle” for Eric Gagne.
Sergio Romo, at the back end of the bullpen for the Giants’ three World Series championship teams of the last decade, got fans hopping with “El Mechon,” perhaps the most joyful of all entrance music.
When Doval entered for the Giants last weekend, he walked slowly toward the mound. He ambled, really.
The entrance song was pleasant, but not loud. Why did Doval pick that song?
“I don’t have a song,” he said.
He had no idea what song the Giants had played for him. He would like to pick one of his own.
“I’m going to see if I try to get to it during this series,” he said.
While San Francisco buzzes with the Rodríguez comparison, Doval said he does not know much about him.
“I’ve heard his name but, to be honest, I have not followed his story,” Doval said.
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“Completely different pitchers, with different deliveries,” Kapler said. “But there is something about a guy who throws really hard, with an explosive fastball and then a secondary pitch that just does something completely different, like Doval’s slider.”
Doval, 24, said he had not heard of Gagne. But, if Doval pitches as well over the next week as he has in the past month, Dodgers fans might be muttering the words they used to shout with glee: Game Over.
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