Despite slugging, Molina gets rest
LOS ANGELES — Most managers would have rushed to scribble Bengie Molina’s name on the lineup card after the catcher’s productive offensive effort Thursday. But not only did Bruce Bochy rest Molina in Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the skipper also cited a few sensible reasons for doing so.
One factor Bochy didn’t mention to reporters, because he didn’t have to, is that Molina has not caught Barry Zito’s last three starts. Pablo Sandoval, who started behind the plate Friday, was Zito’s batterymate twice in that span while Steve Holm caught the other game. Zito has been impressive in those three starts, recording a 1.33 ERA (three earned runs in 20 1/3 innings). Call it coincidence or call it a case of Zito and Molina not being on the same wavelength, which both deny. But with Zito pitching, the timing was right to give Molina a break.
Bochy pointed out that he didn’t want to tire Molina, who caught the first four games of this three-city trip. Moreover, Bochy added that the alternating starting time of those games — night-day-night-day — was grueling enough to prompt a breather for Molina.
Molina, said Bochy, will start Saturday and Sunday, thus restoring the Giants’ biggest offensive threat to the lineup. The 34-year-old entered the game tied for third in the National League with 27 RBIs and had seven home runs, compared to nine for the rest of the team.
So it’s not as if Bochy didn’t want to play Molina. But Bochy also wants to keep him fresh for the duration of the season. “It catches up with you,” Bochy said, referring to Molina’s activity. “I was getting concerned early in April.”
As this is being written, the game’s first pitch is about 45 minutes away. Bet on Molina to appear in the game anyway as a pinch-hitter, as he did in each of the three previous games he didn’t start.
Right-hander Sergio Romo keeps progressing. Bochy said that he threw an extended Spring Training game on Friday and will pitch one more of those games before reporting to high-Class A San Jose on Tuesday, assuming the reliever avoids further physical setbacks. Romo, 26, has been sidelined since late February with a strained elbow.
Bochy mentioned that the Giants envision Romo’s pitching at Triple-A Fresno before rejoining the Giants. But Bochy indicated that this step could be skipped — perhaps if Romo pitches unbelievably well at San Jose; perhaps if there happens to be a crying need for another bullpen arm at the Major League level. “Do we think that [Fresno] is a must? No,” Bochy said.
The weekly Minor League report issued to the media included the following factoid: Shortstop Brian Bocock was demoted from Double-A Connecticut to San Jose. Bocock, who demonstrated during his Giants stint last year that his hitting wasn’t equal to his fabulous fielding, inspired hopes by hitting a healthy .350 in Cactus League games this year. But his .171 average with Connecticut reflected a regression.
– Chris Haft