March 2013

Scutaro shows he’s a master of the game

Tuesday March 26

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Marco Scutaro again demonstrated Tuesday why he’s a thinking man’s ballplayer.

Whether he’s outsmarting pitchers or anchoring the defense, Scutaro is one of those rare performers who proves that the brain is a player’s sixth tool. He did this again in Tuesday’s third inning against the San Diego Padres, when he drew a walk and, on the same play, suddenly dashed to second base unchallenged.

Scutaro explained simply that he ran a little harder than usual to first base and noticed that San Diego’s middle infielders were paying less than full attention to him. He noted that he successfully executed this maneuver (officially, a walk plus a stolen base) in 2002 and in 2009.

Aware that reporters would eagerly spread word of his daring baserunning, Scutaro said with mock indignation, “I don’t know how many years it’s going to take me now” before he can catch another set of infielders daydreaming.

Damaso Blanco, a former Giants infielder who’s now a Venezuelan-based baseball broadcaster, said that he had seen two other players achieve this baserunning feat: Tomas Perez, a former utility infielder, and Omar Vizquel, who needs no introduction. I always considered Perez to be a handy player, whereas Vizquel’s baseball instincts are virtually unmatched. Though this was just an exhibition game, it was still a suitable venue for greatness to unfold. Because, make no mistake, this was a great play.

Chris Haft

Cavan savors night to remember

Thursday, March 21

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — This was a great day to be Ryan Cavan.

An infielder in the Giants’ Minor League system, Cavan was informed Thursday morning that he would join the group of farmhands reporting to Scottsdale Stadium to serve as potential extra players for that night’s San Francisco-Colorado Cactus League game.

Except Cavan wasn’t an extra.

Marco Scutaro’s back felt stiff, and manager Bruce Bochy urged his second baseman to take it easy. This cleared a path for Cavan to enter the lineup.

Bochy might as well have been a zookeeper letting the caged animals run free.

You see, Cavan isn’t just employed by the Giants. He loves them. Born in San Mateo and residing in Belmont, he frequently took the short ride north to Candlestick Park to watch the Will Clark-era Giants. San Francisco drafted Cavan, a graduate of Menlo School who proceeded to the University of California at Santa Barbara, in the 16th round in 2009.

“It’s been awesome to be a part of the Giants organization,” Cavan said.

Never more so than Thursday.

Told by a Giants beat reporter that he would be starting, Cavan wasted no time trying to make an impression. He singled home Francisco Peguero with the Giants’ first run in the second inning, and he accounted for their final run by launching a majestic eighth-inning homer. Reliever George Kontos alertly obtained the home-run ball for a
grateful Cavan.

It mattered not one bit to Cavan that this was just an exhibition game. As far as he was concerned, he was playing in the big leagues with the Giants. This was a dream fulfilled.

“You definitely want to display your talent, when you get an opportunity, and you want to show that you’re ready,” Cavan said. “I wanted to play as hard as I could tonight and display my ability.”

Chris Haft

Meulens speaks with versatile tongue

Wednesday, March 13

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Hensley Meulens has used his considerable language capacity to its fullest during the World Baseball Classic.

Meulens speaks five languages fluently — Dutch, English, Japanese, Papiamento and Spanish. The Giants hitting coach has used each to varying degrees in the past few weeks while managing the team representing the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Classic’s semifinals.

As Meulens explained during his Wednesday visit to Giants camp while his ballclub enjoyed a day off from practicing in the Phoenix area, the team has several players hailing from the island of Curacao, where he was born. Papiamento is the most widely spoken language there.

One of the pitchers performing for Meulens is Orlando Yntema, a native of the Dominican Republic whose father was born in Curacao. Yntema hears from Meulens in Spanish.

When the Netherlands played first-round games in Japan, Meulens felt compelled to speak to people there in their native tongue.

Of course, Meulens converses with the team’s Dutch representatives in the manner to which they’re accustomed.

Finally, English happens to be what Meulens and his squad most commonly speak. This reflects the universality of the language.

“I didn’t want guys to be speaking something they didn’t understand,” Meulens said. “So we try to speak English all the time.”

Chris Haft

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