Giants rookie Camilo Doval is calm, cool, electric in MLB debut

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Alex Pavlovic
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Rookie Doval calm, electric in impressive Giants debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Camilo Doval's first postgame press conference as a big leaguer was conducted entirely in Spanish, with one exception. 

A little over an hour after the Giants rookie struck out two Miami Marlins in a perfect seventh inning, Doval was asked if he heard what veteran Jesus Aguilar yelled after he struck out while leading off against the rookie right-hander. Doval smiled as he heard the question. He at first answered in Spanish, and then switched to English when repeating the f-word Aguilar had dropped.

Doval burst into laughter as interpreter Erwin Higueros did the same. 

That funny exchange was the postgame Zoom highlight of the season thus far, which was appropriate, because Doval's debut was one of the highlights of the first month for an inconsistent bullpen. 

Gabe Kapler did not intend to throw Doval, called up on Friday, right into the fire and ask him to try and protect a one-run lead, on the road, in the seventh inning of a game the Giants needed to avoid a sweep. But the Giants put their closer, Jake McGee, on the IL in the morning because of a reaction to a COVID-19 vaccination, and the rest of the group saw plenty of work Saturday in an extra-innings game. Kapler was looking for a fresh arm, and Doval delivered. 

The 23-year-old needed just 11 pitches to get through his first big league inning, nine of which were strikes. He got Aguilar with a perfect slider down and away and froze Adam Duvall with a slider that was up but away from the right-handed hitter. In between, Garrett Cooper bounced a slider softly to third. 

"It's not the easiest task for Camilo but he stepped up and met the challenge," Kapler said. "One of the things we've said all along is that if he can somehow find a way to just throw those two pitches for strikes -- he doesn't have to hit corners or the top of the zone or the bottom of the zone -- 97-98 (mph) with the nasty slider plays.

"Our goal for him is just to get him in the zone. (Catcher Curt) Casali did a nice job of working with him to get him right in the middle of the plate and it worked out well for us, and for Camilo, of course."

You wouldn't normally hear a manager credit a pitcher and catcher for targeting the middle of the strike zone, but Doval is different than anyone else coming out of the Giants' bullpen. He threw just four fastballs Sunday but topped out at 98.3 mph, and there's more in that tank. His slider gets solid spin and is a difficult pitch for right-handed hitters to pick up out of Doval's whippy three-quarters delivery. 

What stood out Sunday, though, wasn't any single pitch. It was the fact that Doval seemed thoroughly unimpressed by the moment. Casali said Doval took "command of the mound."

"It's probably not the easiest thing to do, but he fooled me and acted like he's been there for a while," Casali said. "He pitched to back it up."

The appearance was Doval's first in a game that counts since 2019 when he was in A-ball, but he might have some staying power even as the roster gets healthy. The bullpen has been middle of the pack in terms of strikeout rate, and Doval gives a completely different look from the other two right-handed relievers currently active, submariner Tyler Rogers and slider specialist Matt Wisler. 

"He adds a nice wrinkle to our bullpen," Casali said. 

The Giants have a couple similar options who might soon also be ready. Kervin Castro had a good spring and Gregory Santos has been hitting 100 mph at the alternate site in Sacramento. Kapler will at some point needs more right-handed help -- Rogers has pitched 10 times in 15 games -- but for now he's happy to have Doval in the mix. He said Doval did a good job of mixing up his delivery and being quick to the plate, adding that "the athlete came out today."

"He did everything we asked him to and he came out with a big smile on his face," Kapler said. 

Doval kept it serious on the mound, but he did finally break when he got back to the dugout. 

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RELATED: Wood proves he's worth the wait in impressive Giants debut

That smile was still there as he sat down in front of a camera after helping the Giants lock up a 1-0 win in his MLB debut. 

"I felt very happy, especially when I got to the dugout," he said. "Everybody was hugging me. Everybody was congratulating me. Finally, I got it over with and I'm thankful to the Giants organization for giving me an opportunity to come up to the big leagues."

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