Giants lean on confident, calm rookie Doval 

September 23rd, 2021

SAN DIEGO -- ’s first save opportunity in the Majors didn’t end well.

In only his eighth career appearance with the Giants, Doval surrendered a walk-off home run to Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon that resulted in a crushing 8-6 loss at Coors Field on May 4. It was a high-profile stumble for a young reliever who was still trying to gain a foothold in the Majors, but Doval chose to view the moment as a learning experience.

That growth was apparent on Wednesday night, when the 24-year-old flamethrower delivered his most impressive outing to date. Summoned to relieve left-hander Scott Kazmir with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning, Doval calmly struck out Manny Machado on three consecutive sliders and then induced an inning-ending double play from Tommy Pham, recording the three biggest outs of an eventual 8-6 win for the Giants.

“One of the gutsier performances of the year from anybody in our 'pen,” manager Gabe Kapler said afterward. “I had a chance to talk to him after that outing and just asked him, ‘How important was the experience that you had in Colorado, kind of getting beat up a bit and then subsequently getting sent down, to your courage in that moment?’ He said it was everything. And I believe that. I think the adversity he experienced earlier in the season, particularly in Colorado, led to the confidence he needed to handle that.”

Since being recalled on Sept. 5, Doval has tossed 8 1/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, holding opposing hitters to a .111 batting average over nine games. He’s continued to light up the radar gun -- his fastball touched 102.5 mph in his outing against the Padres on Tuesday night -- but the Giants have been equally impressed by Doval’s improved command and the preternatural poise he’s shown while handling high-leverage situations.

“There was some intensity on the mound, but coming from him was pure calm,” Kapler said. “It’s just kind of who he is. That coincides nicely with just the timing of his stuff being excellent right now. All of that coming together -- the confidence, the calm and the stuff -- is why he’s been so good.”

Doval hadn’t pitched above the High-A level prior to this year, but the Giants added him to their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft in November. The native of Yamasá, Dominican Republic, made his Major League debut in April, but he endured some growing pains and was sent back down to Triple-A Sacramento after logging a 7.59 ERA over his first 13 games.

That rocky stretch is clearly behind him now, as he’s quickly developed into the Giants’ most electric bullpen arm. With his high-octane fastball and nasty slider, Doval profiles as a future closer for San Francisco, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get another chance to pitch the ninth down the stretch. With closer Jake McGee on the injured list, the Giants have a bit of a void at the back end of their bullpen, though Doval is showing that he could be part of that solution heading into October.

“I think it’s the right time to push Camilo a little bit and to ask for a lot of him,” Kapler said. “I think he’s ready for that challenge.”