April 2009

Holm keeps fighting

SAN FRANCISCO — If the Giants send Steve Holm to Triple-A Fresno to start the season, at least he’ll know he did everything to stay in the big leagues — and to earn his way back even before departing.

In Friday night’s exhibition against the A’s, Holm threw out a runner trying to steal and brilliantly engineered a 10th-inning double play by faking a throw to first base, then wheeling toward third, where Rajai Davis had strayed too far down the line. Holm, who had taken Travis Ishikawa’s throw to force a runner at the plate with the bases loaded, threw to third baseman Juan Uribe for the putout on Davis.

The instinct Holm displayed was Omar Vizquel-like. That’s how impressive it was.

“Good players have that clock in them, and he showed it on that play,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Stuff that Giants fans need to know

SAN FRANCISCO — Before Friday night’s exhibition against the Oakland A’s, Giants manager Bruce Bochy reiterated that the club’s braintrust is inclined to open the regular season with a 12-man pitching staff rather than an 11-man contingent.

Reasons are varied. Starters might not be prepared to pitch deep into games this early in the season. Rookie right-hander Joe Martinez might be well-suited for long relief duty, but if he is unavailable or not even on the team, the Giants will need multiple one-inning relievers to fill the “long” role.

Bochy acknowledged that the Giants might change their minds on this subject before they announce roster cuts, which could come as early as after Saturday’s game against the A’s in Oakland.

Also subject to change is the two-catcher versus three-catcher issue. The Giants are likely to keep Pablo Sandoval as their lone extra catcher — a considerable risk, given his status as the starting third baseman — and demote Steve Holm to Triple-A Fresno.

At the very least, Bochy gave Holm his due. “Steve Holm has played very well,” Bochy said of the Sacramento native, who entered the game batting .279. If it’s any comfort to Holm and his fans, Bochy indicated that the two-catcher plan might not last much beyond April, when the team has four scheduled off-days.

Quickies: The Giants and A’s mutually agreed to use designated hitters Friday, even though they were playing in a National League park. Bochy said that he didn’t want Randy Johnson, his starting pitcher, bothering with the task of hitting. “With Randy going today, we just want him to concentrate on pitching,” Bochy said.

– Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, whose left index finger has sufficiently healed from his cooking accident, threw in the bullpen and, in Bochy’s words, is “good to go” and will start Sunday’s exhibition finale against the Dodgers. 

– The Giants will summon six players from Minor League camp to use as substitutes for their final two exhibitions: outfielder Mike McBryde, catcher Eli Whiteside, right-handers Keiichi Yabu and Ramon Ortiz, and infielders Matt Downs and Jake Wald.

– Chris Haft

Lincecum looks good; Sandoval seems shaky defensively

SAN FRANCISCO — The numbers say that Tim Lincecum has allowed 10 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings spanning his last three starts against Major League competition. That’s a 5.87 ERA, which isn’t what the Giants expect from their Cy Young Award winner.

But the eyes say that Lincecum looks ready for his Opening Day assignment on April 7 against the Milwaukee Brewers at AT&T Park.

Lincecum allowed only four hits in 5 2/3 innings Thursday against the A’s and struck out eight — six, a still-decent number, excepting A’s pitcher Trevor Cahill’s two punchouts. The Giants ace retired the hitters he needed to subdue. Jason Giambi struck out twice, Matt Holliday went 0-for-2 with runners on base and Jack Cust went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.

“I felt like I had all my pitches going today,” Lincecum said. “My curveball felt the best it has in a while; the changeup was good.”

Lincecum mildly complained about the location of his fastball, the pitch Eric Chavez hammered for a two-run, fourth-inning homer. I have a hunch that Lincecum wouldn’t throw the same pitch to the same type of hitter in the same situation during the regular season. Or, if he did, he’d make it a better fastball.

“You think you can sneak one by him every once in a while,” Lincecum said. “That one was, I’m guessing, right in his wheelhouse. He put a pretty good swing on it.”

Giants manager Bruce Bochy pulled Lincecum in the sixth inning after he walked Chavez on four pitches with two outs and one run in. “I didn’t feel like I was losing anything,” Lincecum said. “One batter got away from me.”

Next time, Lincecum will have to be a little more airtight. But we all know he’s capable of that.

***

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval’s two errors, which doubled his Cactus League total, might have been a mild concern to Giants fans. Bochy, however, remained patient.

“It’s going to take a couple of days to adjust to this infield,” Bochy said. “It’s a completely different type of infield than he’s used to playing on.”

For one thing, it’s a much better infield than the ones in Arizona, which were sun-baked and produced bad hops. But the pace of groundballs at AT&T is slower, which could have thrown Sandoval a changeup, figuratively speaking.

“The ball’s not getting on you quite as quickly,” Bochy said. He also noted that Thursday night’s stiff wind could have altered the course of a grounder or two — that’s right, it doesn’t happen with just fly balls — which would have flummoxed Sandoval further.

Sandoval also went 3-for-4 with a double, triple and two RBIs. Overall, he did just fine.

– Chris Haft 

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