Monday, Dec. 3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bobby Evans, the Giants’ vice president of baseball operations, hinted that competition for free-agent second baseman Marco Scutaro’s services could be more spirited than anticipated.
“He’s got versatility,” Evans said Monday, referring to Scutaro’s ability to play shortstop and third base as well, “and that gives him an additional market that some guys may not have.”
Observers assumed that Scutaro, 37, would settle for a two-year contract. But his breadth of skills, along with his .362 average in 61 games down the stretch for the Giants and that National League Championship Series MVP trophy he won, might be enough to earn him another year, or at least an option year.
“In Marco’s case, I wouldn’t rule out anything,” Evans said.
At a ceremony here Monday, Evans received the Bowie Kuhn Baseball Chapel Award for his efforts to encourage spiritual efforts among the Giants. In addition, Staci Slaughter, the club’s senior vice president of communications, received the 2021 Robert O. Fishel Award for public relations excellence. She has been a member of the organization since 1996.
– Chris Haft
Monday, Dec. 3
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bobby Evans, the Giants’ vice president of baseball operations, used some powerful language Monday to suggest that Brian Wilson ideally will always wear a San Francisco uniform.
Of course, whether Wilson views matters the same way remains to be seen.
The Giants declined to tender Wilson a 2013 contract last Friday. They didn’t want to pay him a minimum of $6.8 million, the minimum they could have offered him under terms of the Basic Agreement. Players’ salaries cannot be cut by more than 20 percent; the $6.8 million figure represented a 20 percent reduction from the $8.5 million Wilson earned in 2012.
To listen to Evans, Wilson’s value to the Giants is priceless.
“I think Brian’s a Giant for life, and he’ll hopefully be a guy who’ll consider coming back here as he evaluates his options,” Evans said, adding that the organization respected Wilson’s right to look elsewhere.
Added Evans, “He’s a commodity that’s hard to find. It’s hard to find guys built like him that have the mentality that he has that led to a lot of his success. So that’s going to be very interesting on the open market, injury aside. His makeup is part of what makes him successful.”
Manager Bruce Bochy, who personally contacted Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro to help the Giants’ efforts to keep both players, said that he would call Wilson soon in an attempt to convince him to stay.
Whatever happens with Wilson, Bochy declared that Sergio Romo would open next season as the Giants’ closer, barring drastic roster moves. “I’ll tell you (that) right now,” Bochy said, though he indicated that he might continue the closer-by-committee strategy he employed in Wilson’s absence. Santiago Casilla saved a team-high 25 games, and Bochy mentioned Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez as others who could lend support — as they did in 2012.
So if Angel Pagan remains productive for the duration of his four-year contract, what happens to Gary Brown, the 2010 first-round draft choice who was billed as the Giants’ center fielder of the future?
Evans said that Brown, 24, remains highly regarded within the organization. “I don’t doubt Gary at all,” Evans said. “The timing for him will be dictated more by him than it will be us.”
In other words, if Brown excels, the Giants will find a place for him somewhere in the outfield. He hit .279 with 33 stolen bases at Double-A Richmond this year and followed that by hitting .313 in 17 games for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League.
“I think Gary will put himself in the big leagues at the right time,” Evans said.
– Chris Haft
Thursday, Oct. 11
CINCINNATI — The thumb on Jeremy Affeldt’s throwing hand, his left, became a mild concern for the Giants late in Thursday’s 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in Game 5 of the NL Division Series.
Affeldt fell in the dugout as he tried to avoid being hit by a foul ball in the top of the eighth inning and jammed his thumb. Otherwise, manager Bruce Bochy said that Affeldt, who pitched a scoreless seventh inning, might have begun the eighth inning, which would have eased the transition to Sergio Romo for the ninth inning.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Affeldt said of his injury. “We did X-rays. It seems to be clear. It’s just a little tight and a little stiff.”
Sergio Romo often has modestly said that he can’t replace Brian Wilson as the Giants’ closer. Probably not, but even Wilson himself approved of Romo’s efforts, including his most recent outing Thursday.
Romo yielded a run but secured the final four outs, including a 12-pitch showdown with Reds slugger Jay Bruce that ended with a harmless fly to left field.
“To keep his composure shows a lot about his character,” Wilson said.
Wilson, who’s recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery and missed virtually the entire season, has been around in recent weeks to offer support and counsel to teammates such as Romo. Wilson has warned Romo, who struggled in the 2010 postseason, that the air becomes tougher to breathe in October.
“I keep telling him, it’s a different beast in the playoffs,” said Wilson, who recorded six saves and didn’t allow an earned run in 10 postseason appearances in 2010. “It doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season.”
A few good lines:
Affeldt, on his seventh-inning confrontation against Cincinnati’s Ryan Ludwick which ended in a comebacker, thus stranding two runners: “That was probably one of the most honorable battles I’ve had all year with a guy.”
Center fielder Angel Pagan, relating how he felt as he watched Romo square off against Bruce: “I had my money on my guy.”
Cincinnati’s Ryan Ludwick on his team’s aborted comeback: “We rallied, you know? I think the main thing is we said we needed to answer, and we did. We answered with a couple of runs, but, shoot, it’s tough to beat Matt Cain four times in one year.”
Cincinnati’s Joey Votto on the same subject, including Buster Posey’s heroics: “I don’t really like saying that there are moments in games where you shift momentum, but when Buster hit that grand slam –- six runs is so difficult to come back from. That we almost came back was pretty impressive. But Buster totally broke our back with that swing.”
– Chris Haft
Tuesday, Oct. 2
LOS ANGELES — George Kontos became a Major League relief pitcher Tuesday night.
Admittedly, that’s a bit of an overstatement. Kontos must repeat what he did to end the seventh inning — preserving the Giants’ one-run lead by striking out the formidable Matt Kemp with Shane Victorino on third base — to establish himself further.
But this moment accelerated Kontos’ growth.
He learned to trust his stuff. He struck out Kemp on a 2-2 slider. There’s no way he was going to use a different delivery.
“My slider’s my best pitch,” he said. “I’m not going to change for anybody.”
He realized he can perform under more pressure than he faced in any of his previous 42 appearances with the Giants. Kontos spoke of his need to channel his adrenaline when facing Kemp and “just go after him like there weren’t 40,000 people yelling at me.”
He showed himself that he doesn’t necessarily have to overpower hitters. “I think one of the big things I’ve learned is not to try to do everything at 110 percent. Sometimes a little bit less is better,” he said.
If Kontos continues on this path, less definitely will be more for him and the Giants.
– Chris Haft
Saturday, Sept. 15
PHOENIX — Willie Mays remains an enduring natural resource for the Giants. Just ask Angel Pagan.
Pagan made a running catch of Justin Upton’s second-inning fly to center field Saturday that recalled some of the great grabs Mays made during his singular career. As Pagan revealed, this wasn’t a coincidence. He has seized upon the presence of the legendary Mays, who annually visits Spring Training and attends many Giants home games, to learn more about outfield play.
“His advice has been very encouraging,” Pagan said after the Giants’ 3-2 victory over Arizona.
Pagan began sponging up Mays’ knowledge early during the Cactus League season. As he related, he misplayed a ball in deep center. “The next morning,” Pagan said, “the first person I saw was Willie Mays. ‘Hey, I want to talk to you.’ “
Mays, who won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves (1957-68) for fielding excellence, advised Pagan to begin his pursuit of such fly balls at full speed, then decelerate. He reminded Pagan that the less his head moves while he runs, the easier it is to focus on the ball and make the catch.
As the season has unfolded, Pagan relishes being told, “Willie wants to see you,” then going to clubhouse manager Mike Murphy’s office to receive more tutelage from the master.
“I like it,” Pagan said with a gleaming, grateful smile. “I don’t consider myself a genius in baseball, so I have to learn as much as I can.”
He didn’t need to add the obvious — that Willie Mays is a baseball genius.
Whether manager Bruce Bochy includes Barry Zito in the postseason starting rotation probably will depend on which team the Giants face.
If San Francisco confronts the Braves, against whom Zito excels, he’ll likely be included. Should the Giants oppose the Reds, his chances are slimmer, particularly if the vacancy for which he’s considered is a game at Cincinnati’s
Great American Ball Park. He has compiled a 6.10 ERA in six starts there.
Though Bochy refuses to discuss any postseason-related issues at this time, he did indicate that he holds Zito in higher esteem than he ever has. “He’s throwing the ball as well as anybody right now,” Bochy said after the Giants’ 3-2 victory.
Zito amplified that statement by firing an 86-mph fastball past Upton for a strikeout that ended the sixth inning. Everybody knows that Zito’s fastball travels at below-average velocity. Though 86 is still on the slower end of the fastball spectrum, that’s searing speed by Zito’s standards.
“Sometimes the adrenalin can give you an extra mile an hour or two,” he said.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, Sept. 5
SAN FRANCISCO — It’s difficult to imagine a better defensive shortstop in the National League than Brandon Crawford.
Crawford probably won’t win the Gold Glove Award, because the coaches and managers who cast ballots for the honor are likely to vote for somebody with more experience or a greater reputation.
However, Crawford might emerge as a viable candidate. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Wednesday that coaches and managers from other teams have approached him to discuss Crawford’s defense. It can be safely assumed that Bochy has good things to say.
“This kid, the last two or three months, I don’t know who’s played better at short,” Bochy said. “That is how good he’s been defensively.”
Simply put, Crawford has every attribute an elite shortstop should possess. Sure hands. Vast range to either side. A throwing arm that would make many pitchers envious. Last year’s Gold Glove winner, Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, has been sidelined for most of the year, which potentially clears a path for Crawford.
Crawford compares favorably with his counterparts statistically, by traditional or modern measures. Entering Wednesday, he ranked third among NL shortstops with a .974 fielding percentage, behind Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins (.979) and Cincinnati’s Zack Cozart (.975). But his 4.70 range factor (putouts and assists divided by number of innings or games played) was superior to Rollins’ 3.93 and Cozart’s 4.30.
Curiously, Pittsburgh’s Clint Barmes, who’s generally considered solid but not stellar, was the runaway leader in Fangraph.com’s Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), which measures a fielder’s success at reaching balls determined to be in his zone of the field. Barmes had a 13.1 UZR, followed by Cozart at 6.3 and Crawford at 5.8.
Anybody seeing the double play Crawford generated in Tuesday night’s seventh inning would have handed him the Gold Glove right then and there. Crawford had to handle Ryan Wheeler’s slow bouncer, tag Miguel Montero before he could slip past and flip a quick throw to first. Displaying his wealth of skills, Crawford accomplished all that.
I’m obviously biased, since I watch Crawford virtually every day. But that’s just it: The more I see of him, the more I’m convinced that he’s a Gold Glove shortstop.
– Chris Haft
Sunday, Sept. 2
CHICAGO — Several developments in Sunday’s 7-5 Giants victory over the Chicago Cubs deserve extra attention:
Matt Cain pitched better than his line indicated (five innings, six hits, five earned runs, two walks, six strikeouts). He threw a perfect first inning that included a strikeout and two comebackers. He struck out two more batters in a scoreless second inning. Cain yielded a run in the third, but that inning might have progressed much differently had he been able to field Darwin Barney’s leadoff dribbler. Cain couldn’t make the play, which was scored a hit.
Yes, Alfonso Soriano pounded a three-run homer off Cain in the fifth inning. But Soriano does that to a lot of pitchers. He became only the 10th player to hit 25 or more homers in four or more seasons as a Cub.
“You turn around and hope the wind catches it,” Cain said. “But when he gets a hold of the ball, I don’t think it matters if the wind’s blowing. He put a good swing on that ball and got all of it.”
That put Chicago ahead, 5-3, until the Giants scored twice in the sixth after two were out with nobody on base. To prolong the inning, the Giants received a double from Xavier Nady, who broke in as a Giant with a nice pair of games (3-for-5, two doubles, two walks, two runs scored and three RBIs). Brandon Belt’s pinch-hit triple scored Nady. Nice work from a guy who was 2-for-10 as a pinch-hitter.
Belt then scored the tying run on a wild pitch that pinch-hitter Aubrey Huff, making his first plate appearance as a Giant since July 30, made possible with his tenacity. Facing reliever Manuel Corpas, Huff worked the count to 2-2 and fouled off a pair of pitches before Corpas threw one in the dirt.
Tying the score so quickly after the Cubs forged ahead gave the Giants a definite lift. “That kept the momentum back on our side, in a way,” Cain said.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, Aug. 22
LOS ANGELES — On the 47th anniversary of the Marichal-Roseboro incident, no fights erupted between the Giants and Dodgers. Just some injuries which, fortunately for the Giants, appeared mild.
Manager Bruce Bochy said after San Francisco’s 8-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers that catcher Buster Posey, who missed the game with a tight right hamstring, could return to the lineup as soon as Thursday, when the Giants open a four-game home series against Atlanta.
“We feel pretty good that he’s going to be OK to (play) tomorrow,” Bochy said. “If he needs another day (off), he’s going to take it.”
Bochy removed Pablo Sandoval in the middle of the sixth inning when the third baseman’s left hamstring tightened as he ran the bases. But Sandoval insisted that he’ll be fit to play Thursday, a sentiment that Bochy echoed.
– Chris Haft
Wednesday, Aug. 22
LOS ANGELES — Jose Mijares could be this year’s Javier Lopez.
Just ask the real Javier Lopez.
The Giants acquired Lopez on Trade Deadline day two years ago. He recorded a 1.42 ERA in 27 appearances for the Giants through the rest of the season to help them win the National League West. In the postseason, he allowed just one earned run in 5 2/3 innings spanning nine appearances as the Giants won the World Series.
Mijares’ statistics (1-0, 4.26 ERA) aren’t as dazzling as Lopez’s were. But that’s deceiving, because Mijares coughed up all three runs and four of the six hits he has allowed as a Giant last Sunday at San Diego. Usually, he has been as effective as he was Tuesday night, when he relieved Tim Lincecum and stranded runners on the corners by striking out Andre Ethier with a 93-mph fastball.
Welcome to the Giants-Dodgers rivalry, Jose.
“We don’t have time to ease him into these situations,” Lopez said. “From here on out, these are all must-win games, especially when you’re playing divisional rivals.”
Among the Giants’ left-handed relief contingent, Mijares complements Lopez, who relies more on sinkers, and Jeremy Affeldt, who throws just as hard yet mixes in curveballs to upset hitters’ timing.
“He has a little more under the hood than I do. That’s why he was able to run that fastball up there,” Lopez said. “He’s got a pretty good arm.”
– Chris Haft
Sunday, Aug. 19
SAN DIEGO — A somewhat rare event occurred Sunday: Padres left-hander Clayton Richard plunked Brandon Belt of the Giants with a fourth-inning pitch Sunday; everybody knew the act was intentional; and yet tempers didn’t fly out of control.
Richard was getting even for Ryan Vogelsong hitting Carlos Quentin with a pitch in the second inning.
“It’s part of baseball sometimes, so I wasn’t too upset about it,” said Belt, who was struck above his right hip.
Manager Bruce Bochy felt certain that Richard consciously threw at Belt. “There was no question,” Bochy said. “Obviously they thought we hit [Quentin] on purpose. But Vogelsong was laboring out there. No big deal.”
Vogelsong was the only Giant who sounded annoyed. But not because he had to settle a score with Quentin, who should be accustomed to getting hit. He has 14 HBPs this year, led the American League with 23 last year for Chicago and totaled 20 in two other seasons.
Quentin apparently glared briefly at Vogelsong after being hit. That didn’t sit well with the right-hander.
“The guy hammers balls out over the plate and then he gets [angry] when I throw him inside. It doesn’t make sense,” Vogelsong said. “I’m a sinkerball pitcher. Every once in a while the ball runs on you more than you think it’s going to. I wasn’t trying to hit him at all there. Every time you hit a guy in this game now, everybody thinks you did it on purpose. I’m frickin’ tired [of it].”
– Chris Haft