First-time All-Star Doval credits baseball 'family' with his growth

July 10th, 2023

There are several qualities that set apart from his Giants teammates.

He throws 104 mph. He’s an avid horseman. He’s extraordinarily laidback. And he also happens to be the only Dominican player on the Giants’ 26-man roster and until recently, the only Spanish-speaker on the pitching staff.

When Doval first debuted with the Giants in 2021, he leaned on veteran José Álvarez and countrymen like Johnny Cueto and Jarlín García to show him the ropes and help get him acclimated to life in the big leagues. After Cueto and Álvarez departed as free agents and García was non-tendered over the offseason, the Giants feared Doval would feel isolated or struggle to connect with others in the bullpen.

But rather than retreat inward, Doval began to come out of his shell, the latest sign of growth from the 26-year-old closer, who is poised to represent the Giants alongside fellow right-hander Alex Cobb at the 2023 All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday.

“To be honest, when José Álvarez moved on, we traded [Yunior] Marte and García didn’t re-sign, we were a little bit worried,” assistant pitching coach J.P. Martinez said. “We thought maybe he would be on an island, and it might impact him in a negative way. I think we’ve really kind of seen him grow up a little bit and really try to connect with all the American guys in the ‘pen.”

After the Giants surprised Doval with the news of his first career All-Star nod while at Citi Field last week, he stepped out of his comfort zone by delivering a heartfelt speech in front of the entire team, making it clear that he wouldn’t be in his position without the help of his teammates.

“Ever since I got here, we’ve all treated each other like family,” Doval said in Spanish. “We support each other. It’s something that gives you a lot of confidence. When I go out to pitch, I know the best are playing with me. That’s why they’re here. I have a ton of confidence in them, and I have to give them credit. The bullpen has helped me a lot. They’ve gotten a lot of outs and given me the opportunity to save games.” 

The Giants have taken steps to ensure Doval feels comfortable despite having to navigate a language barrier in the workplace. Prior to each series, Doval meets with Martinez and baseball operations analyst Mario Ferretti, both of whom speak Spanish, to go over advance information and to review video from his past performances.

Doval also gets plenty of support from Spanish-language interpreter Erwin Higueros, assistant strength and conditioning coach Saul Martinez, performance nutritionist Erika Gonzalez-Rebull and quality assurance coach Nick Ortiz, who often translates for Doval during in-game mound visits with pitching coach Andrew Bailey or manager Gabe Kapler.

“They always help me with what I need,” Doval said. “We’re always working together. Whatever they say I need to work on, I’ll work on. That’s something I’m proud of. I always tell them, ‘If you see something that I need, tell me.’ I always have an open mind.”

Doval’s fellow relievers make sure he feels included as well, with J.P. Martinez at one point offering informal Spanish lessons to other members of the bullpen to help facilitate communication among the group. 

“Personally, my accent is terrible, so it was just more funny that it was serious,” said John Brebbia, Doval’s locker neighbor. “We try to learn what we can about him and about speaking Spanish so we can be better teammates. We’ve got time to do it, so we may as well.”

Doval has struck up a particularly warm relationship with rookie Tristan Beck, as the two played together in the Minors after Beck was acquired from the Braves in exchange for Mark Melancon at the 2019 Trade Deadline. 

“I’m always talking to him,” Beck said. “We both kind of lob our broken second languages back at each other. I try to speak a little bit of Spanish -- it’s pretty choppy. But down in the bullpen, we sit next to each other pretty much every day and just cut it up. I think he practices a little bit of his English on me, and I practice some of my Spanish on him.”

“I get along with everyone,” Doval said. “I’m super laidback. I think when you’re comfortable talking with everyone, you feel like you’re with family.”

Doval’s real-life family has also helped him come into his own, as his wife and 2-year-old son, Liam Camilo, joined him in San Francisco this year, expanding his support system away from the field. Doval credited his son – who is already imitating his dad’s throwing motion – with keeping him relaxed and helping him quickly turn the page when he has a rare bad outing.

“He’s got his wife and his baby with him this year,” Martinez said. “He seems to be a lot more at ease, a lot more happy. I think all of that has kind of like 'perfect stormed' into a great year so far, and the first All-Star grab."