Just when Josh Osich started thinking about life after baseball, his lifelong dream came true.
His pitching numbers were consistently strong, and he continued to throw well at each level as he moved up the minor league chain — when healthy. And therein lies the rub.
The 2007 Bishop Kelly High graduate has battled elbow and shoulder injuries in what has become an almost annual nuisance. But feeling as good as he has in a long time, Osich dominated the high minors this season and earned his first Major League Baseball call-up July 4 against the Washington Nationals.
Osich appeared in nine games for the San Francisco Giants before being sent to Triple-A Sacramento on Wednesday.
“I’d started to maybe wonder if baseball wasn’t really the thing for me,” Osich said. “I love to play, but the rehab, all that, it wasn’t really worth it. If I didn’t get at least a September call-up, I might’ve moved on.”
Even with some of those thoughts in his mind, Osich has put together his best professional season. He had a 1.50 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 19 saves in 36 innings at Double-A Richmond (31 games) and Sacramento (two games) before his call-up.
With the Giants, the lefty did not give up an earned run in 71/3 innings of relief, allowing three unearned runs and four hits while striking out six with three walks. He did not yield a hit until facing his 22nd batter, the longest streak to start a career for a Giant since 2006. This season, only Colorado reliever Adam Ottavino has thrown more innings (101/3) without allowing a single earned run.
“I don’t think I’ve been 100 percent like I am now since my freshman year (at Oregon State),” Osich said. “Able to show people I can pitch at the major league level, and even for myself. I believed I could do it, but to prove it felt great.”
Osich pitched a perfect eighth inning Friday in his second stint with Sacramento, and said he was optimistic he would return to the Giants, but only if he keeps “plugging away” like he had all season.
“I really like the job the kid did. ... He’ll be back up here at some point,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I told him, ‘You should be proud of where you are.’ He has played his way back into being a top prospect for us.”
The hard-throwing Osich, 26, was a welcome addition to a Giants bullpen that had struggled during a 1-7 skid to start July. Bochy praised his mid-90s fastball to go with his solid cutter and changeup.
His demotion came after 36-year-old reliever and fellow lefty Jeremy Affeldt came off the disabled list, and the veteran doesn’t have an option in his deal to be sent to the minors — Osich did.
“I understood completely, it’s a business, I know when you have a guy like that off the DL, the guy with the option is going down,” Osich said.
Even though he isn’t with the defending World Series champions at the moment, Osich’s confidence has been bolstered by his strong MLB debut, and he’s eager for his next shot.