Kontos assumes role as bullpen elder statesman

Kontos assumes role as bullpen elder statesman

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The impact of the Giants' "Core Four" of relievers hasn't ebbed. George Kontos is perpetuating their legacy.

The Giants acquired Kontos from the Yankees in an April 2012 trade that sent catcher Chris Stewart to New York. Kontos came to resemble a fifth Beatle, averaging 50 appearances per season while occupying roles that were subordinate to the core of left-handers Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez and right-handers Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo.

With the retirements of Affeldt and Lopez and the departures of Casilla and Romo, Kontos has become the dean of San Francisco's bullpen. At 31, he's older than the other projected members of the relief corps except for closer Mark Melancon, 32. Kontos also has more Major League service time (three years, 171 days) than any reliever except Melancon and is the only one in the group to own as many as two World Series championship rings (2012 and 2014).

Kontos uses WS ring to work out

Kontos readily acknowledged the influence of the Core Four on his development.

"I feel privileged and lucky to have been a part of this organization for as long as I have," Kontos said Tuesday before he contributed a scoreless eighth inning to the Giants' 6-5 exhibition victory over the Cleveland Indians. "I looked up to all those guys and they kind of showed me the ropes and what it was like to be a Giant and a professional and to treat the game with respect.

"As time passes, you look around and moments like these where you become the veteran of the bullpen kind of creep up on you. Hopefully I can guide guys the same way they guided me."

Kontos recalled being assigned a clubhouse dressing stall between Affeldt and Lopez. Though Affeldt gained renown as a demonstrative and often witty figure, it was Lopez who delivered wisdom that stuck with Kontos.

"Javy was pretty vocal," Kontos said. "He's a guy who would never razz you. If something wasn't going right, he'd tell you his opinion very cautiously, because he didn't want to offend you. But if he thought you were doing something wrong, he would let you know about it."

More often, those in the Core Four led by example, which Kontos intends to do through his work ethic.

"In this game, everyone always asks, 'What did you work on this offseason?' If anybody ever says, 'Nothing,' then they're lying or they're not being honest with themselves," Kontos said. "You can always get better, even if you have wipeout stuff. Even if you ask [the Cubs' Wade Davis] who had a sub-one ERA [in 2015 with the Royals], I'm sure there are things that he can get better on. It's just about trying to be as consistent as you can."

That steadiness helped Kontos compile ERAs of 2.78 in 2014, 2.33 in 2015 and 2.53 last year. This is just one example of his efforts to emulate the Core Four's reliability.

"You look at those guys year in and year out. They're the same," Kontos said.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.