Results tagged ‘ Aaron Rowand ’

Shortstop search and more from Sabean, Bochy

Monday, Dec. 6

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — General manager Brian Sabean reiterated that “mutual interest” exists regarding Edgar Renteria’s possible return to the Giants.

“But I would say where we’re going to get bogged down is the [Pat] Burrell precedent,” Sabean said.

In short, Renteria probably would have to accept $1 million or thereabouts, as Burrell did last week, to return to the Giants as a backup shortstop and utility infielder.

Sabean tried to sound encouraging about retaining the 35-year-old World Series Most Valuable Player. “Neither side has ruled anything out,” Sabean said.

But Sabean warned that Renteria will be out of luck if the Giants sign another potential backup shortstop before him.

On another subject, Sabean wasn’t surprised by Boston’s acquisition of San Diego first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who was either the best or second-best player in the National League West — depending on your opinion of Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki.

But Sabean indicated that San Diego could remain a threat in the division. “It’s a pitching-centric division,” Sabean said. “… Like us, they didn’t have a prototypical set lineup and had to make some changes at the deadline. They were unfortunate to have their [10-game] losing streak when they did.”

*****

Manager Bruce Bochy addressed numerous topics during his half-hour session with the media, including:

– Pablo Sandoval’s physical conditioning. Bochy noted that Sandoval already has lost more than 10 pounds. “He seems determined to get back to where he was [in 2009],” Bochy said. But, Bochy added, “He’s got a little ways to go. I don’t want to put a number [on it], but he’s still got probably 15 or so.”

– The care and feeding of the club’s valuable pitchers. Keeping the staff injury-free will loom as a chief concern given the shortened offseason and the starters’ workload. Including the postseason, each starter exceeded 200 innings — except for Barry Zito, who finished with 199 1/3.

Bochy also will watch closer Brian Wilson carefully. “Whether I bring him in as much in the eighth inning this coming year, I don’t know,” Bochy said of Wilson, who led the Major Leagues with 10 saves of 1 1/3 innings or longer this year.

Nevertheless, Bochy said that he’s saddled with fewer roster issues than he ever has faced in his 17-year managerial career, largely due to the pitching staff’s stabiity.

– The wish for a left-handed batter to balance the lineup. Bochy said that this yet-to-be-obtained individual doesn’t necessarily have to be a power hitter. This prompted speculation that the Giants could again be eyeing Scott Podsednik, who they pursued previously. At 34, Podsednik might not be an ideal acquisition. But he has accented his .279 career batting average with 301 stolen bases in 10 seasons, which would meet the Giants’ goal of becoming more “athletic.”

– Existing outfield personnel. Bochy said that he might inform Aaron Rowand, who has spent most of his career in center field, that he’ll might have to fill in at the outfield corners occasionally. Bochy added that speedster Darren Ford, who needs to gain more consistency at the plate, almost surely will open the season at Triple-A Fresno.

– A friendly parting with shortstop Juan Uribe, who signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dodgers last week. Bochy said that Uribe called to thank him. “And I said the same to him,” Bochy said. “You understand. It’s part of the business. He was a free agent, and you’re not going to sign them all. … We’re champions partly because of what he did for us.”

– His contract status. Bochy is signed for 2011 with a club option for 2012. Asked whether he’d prefer to have a contract extension before next season opens, Bochy replied, “Not to skirt it, but it’s not even on my mind right now.”

Chris Haft

Upon further review, maybe Ford makes sense

Think about it: The Giants probably are going to struggle to score runs against the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series. Derek Lowe has been outstanding lately and always pitches well against the Giants. Tommy Hanson doesn’t scare me much, but Tim Hudson looked like Orel Hershiser circa 1988 the last time he faced San Francisco.

Ideally, the Giants won’t give up many runs, either. Which (duh) means a lot of low-scoring ballgames. To cope in this environment, the Giants just might need to keep the ultra-speedy Darren Ford on the postseason roster.

Lately, the Giants have relied far too much on homers while struggling to manufacture runs. It’s easy to envision scenarios in which they find themselves tied or trailing by one run late in a game. Then they get a runner on first base with nobody out or one out, putting them in a position where they absolutely have to try to generate a run.

They’ll need to advance that runner into scoring position without giving up an out. They’ll need a stolen base.

They’ll need Ford.

Ford conceivably can do what Dave Roberts did for the Red Sox in 2004 or what Chone Figgins accomplished for the Angels in 2002. It’s easy to regard Ford as a luxury, but under the circumstances, he might actually be a necessity.

Of course, keeping Ford means that a veteran position player such as Edgar Renteria or Aaron Rowand won’t make the Division Series roster. It would be a shame to see either player sidelined. Renteria and Rowand both happen to own World Series rings. Moreover, they’re solid professionals who won’t back down from tough, critical situations. They’d be ideal to have available.

But addressing what probably will be a desperate need for offense of any sort requires some extreme measures. For this reason, don’t be at all surprised if Ford joins San Francisco’s 25-man contingent for the Division Series.

– Chris Haft

Giants still seeking a bat; crowds highlight weekend

Sunday, Aug. 1

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants acquired two relief pitchers before Saturday’s Trade Deadline and led the National League with 149 runs scored in July. This combination suggested that the Giants are satisfied with their offense.

Wrong.

Insiders believe that the Giants will continue to actively pursue performers who can upgrade their offense. The process becomes a little more challenging now that a player must clear waivers before he can be traded. But engineering a deal is hardly impossible.

So many players get placed on waivers at this time of year that it’ll be easy for one or two of the hitters San Francisco sought to slip through. Exactly which ones might become available to the Giants is too difficult to determine. But consider management ready to pounce.

*****

Various Giants agreed that the sellout crowds for the Dodgers series were more inspirational than usual. Perhaps because the vast majority of the spectators were Giants fans. Often, the audience is a little more divided.

“When you have over 40,000 roaring for you, it does something for the players,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “They wanted to get the sweep for the fans.”

Matt Cain was frequently the object of Sunday’s cheering. But the right-hander concentrates so intensely that the noise melts away from him.

“It’s weird. You get out there and you don’t hear it as much,” Cain said. “Sometimes maybe you hear it between pitches or in certain situations. But it’s one of those things you definitely feel but sometimes don’t hear.”

*****

Cain broke a personal trend — actually, several of them — while recording his first career victory over the Dodgers.

Five Dodgers entered the game batting .290 or higher lifetime against Cain: Rafael Furcal (.357), James Loney (.345), Casey Blake (.300), Matt Kemp (.296) and Russell Martin (.290). Andre Ethier (.514) received an excused absence to be with his wife, who was delivering their child.

Furcal, Loney, Blake, Kemp and Martin combined for two hits in 16 at-bats. Nothing to it.

*****

Cain also received ample defensive support. First baseman Aubrey Huff made a remarkable stop of Xavier Paul’s one-hop smash in the fifth inning. Center fielder Aaron Rowand dove to snare Furcal’s line drive one inning later.

Cain delivered a succinct appraisal of those plays.

“I thought if the ball stayed up enough for Rowand, that seems to be a play he makes so many times,” Cain said. “I’m hoping and praying, ‘Stay up, stay up, stay up,’ and it did.<p/>

“Now, Huffy, he’s going to brag and say that he’s a special athlete and he’s going to make that play 10 out of 10 times. I’m pretty sure it found his glove. But he did a great job of being able to pick it for us.”

*****

Javier Lopez distinguished himself in his Giants debut by inducing Scott Podsednik’s inning-ending comebacker in the eighth after Cain yielded Jamey Carroll’s two-out single. Welcome to San Francisco!

– Chris Haft

Many wins, many heroes

Wednesday, July 28

SAN FRANCISCO — When’s the last time the Giants have been this hot?

No need to answer that by citing a specific time frame in a specific year. It’s a rhetorical question more than anything.

Rarely in recent years, though, has it seemed like the Giants win virtually every day for even a moderately extended period. Just a few weeks ago, some insiders were doubting the club’s ability to sustain the kind of streak they’re on now — 17 victories in 21 games.

Buster Posey’s emergence, Aubrey Huff’s consistency and Andres Torres’ verve are just a few of the factors that have brought the Giants to brink of first place in the National League West and positioned them to continue their drive for a postseason berth.

Asked if he and his teammates stride into the clubhouse each day expecting to win, right-hander Sergio Romo said after Wednesday’s 10-9, 10-inning victory over Florida, “Realistically, yeah. We’ve always said from the beginning, even in Spring Training, that we have a good team, we’re going to compete and can play with the better teams in the league. That mindset is paying off. We know if we get our jobs done and back each other up, good things can happen.”

The Giants still lead the National League in runs during July after scoring sporadically during the season’s previous three months (they entered Wednesday as the league’s seventh-highest scoring team). They firmly believe that this is not an aberration.

“We’re not playing above our capabilities; we’re not playing below,” Romo said. “We’re just doing what we’re able to do. We’re finding our roles and trying to stick with that.”

As manager Bruce Bochy mentioned during his postgame media gathering that “we had the right guy up there” when Juan Uribe batted with two on and two outs in the ninth, it struck me that several Giants could fit the “right guy” description these days. Not just Uribe, who has hit eight home runs that either put the Giants ahead or tied the score. But also Posey. Or Huff. Lately, Travis Ishikawa. Freddy Sanchez, too. And, of course, Torres.

“Everybody who’s going up there, we feel confident with them,” Bochy said.

Weeks ago, Bochy pleaded for more “timely hitting.” He’s getting it.

“When you look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see that the number of runs scored is close to the number of hits you got, that just means you’re stringing together hits and getting them at the right time,” said center fielder Aaron Rowand, who’s hitting .329 in his last 26 games. “You can pound out 11 hits and walk away with three or four runs. It’s not like you didn’t swing the bats well, it’s just that you didn’t get the timely hitting. It’s just about being able to string together hits with runners on base and runners in scoring position.”

Rowand noted that the Giants’ ability to cope, even thrive, against top pitchers (Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Roy Oswalt, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson, to name a few) bodes well for them if they reach the postseason.

“Our pitching staff is good,” Rowand said, necessarily stating the obvious. “So if we can scratch some runs together against a good pitcher, our chances of winning the game are pretty decent. That’s what gives this team the possibility of being dangerous in the playoffs.”

P.S. To answer that question posed at the start of this entry, two other impressive streaks do come to mind. Both helped the Giants win division titles. In 1971, they started 37-14. In 1987, they closed with a 37-17 rush. This surge is different, since it’s occurring in midseason. Let’s see how long the Giants can ride this wave.

– Chris Haft

Lincecum focuses on holding runners

Monday, May 31

SAN FRANCISCO — On the bright side, Tim Lincecum didn’t allow the Colorado Rockies to run wild on him Monday.

Lincecum paid much more attention to runners than he did last Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, who stole four bases off him. Against Colorado, Lincecum tried at least one pickoff throw for each runner reaching first base. A handful of times he looked the runner back by stepping off the mound. This sounds extremely simple, but it’s the kind of stuff Lincecum neglected earlier.

The Rockies still victimized Lincecum on the basepaths to some degree. Ian Stewart stole two bases, extending the success of larcenous opponents against Lincecum to 17-for-17 since last year and 14-for-14 in 2010 only.

As Lincecum said, he has plenty to work on.

*****

What are the Giants going to do with Aaron Rowand? Will they allow him to play his way out of his slump? Or will he soon get crowded out of his regular’s role in center field once Mark DeRosa (left wrist) returns from his injury rehabilitation assignment and Pat Burrell is summoned from Triple-A Fresno? Neither would directly replace Rowand, but Andres Torres conceivably could occupy center if manager Bruce Bochy wanted to keep him in the lineup and filled both outfield corners with other personnel.

Rowand spent much of the season at or near .300 until his last eight games. He’s hitting .091 (3-for-33) in that span, dropping his average to .227. He’s in a 1-for-18 skid (.056) with runners in scoring position. Oddly, the right-handed-batting Rowand is hitless in his last 19 at-bats against left-handers.

As much as Rowand has struggled, it’s difficult to envision his being banished to the bench. But the Giants are firmly entrenched in win-now mode, indicating that Bochy wouldn’t hesitate to sit Rowand if he wanted to try a different outfield contingent.

– Chris Haft 

Plenty to salvage for Giants in defeat

Saturday, May 8

NEW YORK — The Giants actually did a lot more right than they did wrong on Saturday. But their 5-4 loss to the New York Mets obscured that.

Many of their 44 plate appearances resulted in quality at-bats. Aubrey Huff made solid contact each time up. Aaron Rowand, after going 0-for-3, came through with a key single in the Giants’ two-run eighth inning that tied the score. Juan Uribe had a big two-out RBI single in the fourth. Eli Whiteside reached base safely in three of his four plate appearances, singling solidly twice.

Nate Schierholtz lined a pinch-hit single to lead off the eighth against Johan Santana and is now batting .471 (8-for-17) against left-handers. Facing Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez for the second game in a row, pinch-hitter John Bowker didn’t hit another home run, but managed to coax a 10th-inning walk.

As for struggling Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda still looked like he was fighting himself. But he wasn’t helpless, either. He blooped a fourth-inning single to right-center field and launched an eighth-inning sacrifice fly off Santana on a two-strike count. “That was a little relief for him,” manager Bruce Bochy said, summarizing Sandoval’s day. “I thought he took some better swings.”

Bochy will take all of this into account as he assembles Sunday’s lineup. He didn’t rule out resting Sandoval, who has started all 29 games at third base. Schierholtz likely will return to right field; his prowess against lefties — the Giants face Mets southpaw Oliver Perez — doesn’t hurt.

On to the pitching. Brandon Medders recorded what might have been his best outing of the season, working 2 2/3 scoreless innings to trim his ERA from 6.23 to 4.76. Jeremy Affeldt blew away the Mets for two innings, striking out two. The pair of eighth-inning hits he allowed were bloops that no fielder could reach. “That was the best I’ve felt all year,” Affeldt said. This is particularly encouraging for the Giants, who are relying on Affeldt to be a shutdown setup man.

“I was aggressive early [in the count],” he said. “I was getting strike one instead of falling behind early. I threw curveballs for strikes when I needed to and for balls when I needed to.”

About the only thing the Giants neglected to do was win.

– Chris Haft

Bowker may sit against lefties; Bochy backs Rowand

Tuesday, April 6

HOUSTON — John Bowker won the competition to be San Francisco’s Opening Day right fielder. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the everyday right fielder.

With left-hander Wandy Rodriguez starting Tuesday for Houston, Giants manager Bruce Bochy used switch-hitting Andres Torres in right field and sat the left-handed-batting Bowker, who contributed an RBI single to Monday night’s season-opening triumph.

Bochy insisted that it was too early to define this maneuvering as a platoon. But he did say, “Torres did such a great job against left-handers last year (.338) that early on he’s going to get some playing time against them.”

Torres went 0-for-3 with a walk. Meanwhile, Bowker grounded a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning off right-hander Matt Lindstrom.

Also, don’t expect Aaron Rowand to be rested in Wednesday’s series finale, just because he’s 0-for-10.

“It’s two games. It happens,” Bochy said. Reminding interrogators of Rowand’s excellent Cactus League hitting, Bochy added, “He just needs a hit to get going. But I don’t think he needs a day [off].”

– Chris Haft

Burriss hurts foot; Huff starts slugging

PEORIA, Ariz. — Despite their 8-7, 10-inning victory Wednesday over the Seattle Mariners, the Giants endured an ominous beginning to the Cactus League season, as infielder Emmanuel Burriss apparently aggravated his injured left foot.

Burriss, who considered himself fully healed after breaking a bone in his foot last July, hit a two-run double in the fourth inning and stole third base. He left the game after doubling again in the sixth inning.

“He said he felt something in the same foot, same area,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He looked very dejected and discouraged. It’s been a long road for him.”

With second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left shoulder) likely to begin the season on the disabled list and Juan Uribe expected to replace him in the lineup, Burriss entered Spring Training with a strong chance to make the Opening Day roster as a backup middle infielder.

*****

Cleanup hitter Aubrey Huff immediately asserted himself by belting a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw from Mariners starter Doug Fister with one out in the first inning.

“He wants to make a good first impression,” Bochy said.

Huff downplayed his prowess. “[Fister] happened to throw a fastball right there,” he said.

*****

Huff was more impressed with left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who threw two shutout innings.

“His pickoff move — holy cow! He caught me off guard,” Huff said. “He has one of the best pickoff moves I’ve seen.”

Bumgarner’s fastball was clocked in the 89-90 mph range, a tad slower than his best velocity readings. Then again, pitching coach Dave Righetti advised him not to overthrow. “He said, ‘You’re not going to make the team on the first day,’ and that makes a lot of sense,” said Bumgarner, who’s competing for the fifth starter’s spot.

Bumgarner said that he maintained his concentration despite the recent death of his half-sister, Dena Byrd. “I think it would be hard for me to get distracted,” he said. “It’s a huge loss, but when I get on the mound, everything goes away and it’s just me and the catcher.”

*****

Bengie Molina, for one, doesn’t anticipate any retaliation directed toward Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder on Thursday, when the Giants and Brewers meet in Scottsdale.

“I think we don’t want anybody suspended to start the season,” Molina said.

Fielder angered the Giants last Sept. 6 when he punctuated his game-winning, 12th-inning homer with an obviously choreographed home-plate celebration.

*****

Aaron Rowand more than did his job as San Francisco’s leadoff batter, collecting two hits and a sacrifice fly in five innings.

“It’s always exciting to be the first guy up there, especially in the first game,” said Rowand, who singled to open the game. “But nothing overwhelming.”

Three pitches after his game-opening hit, Rowand was on the move as he scored on Fred Lewis’ triple.

“It was actually kind of neat to get that out of the way right away,” Rowand said. “Hopefully, I’ll have to do that quite a bit this year.”

*****

Referring to the game’s three-hour, 44-minute duration, one Giants coach sarcastically declared before heading for the team bus, “I can’t believe the sun’s still out.”

– Chris Haft

The Man (Willie Mays) arrives

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Willie Mays’ presence is just as powerful as it was when he stood in the batter’s box.

Baseball’s greatest living player made his first appearance of the spring at San Francisco’s camp Monday and immediately commanded awe upon entering the clubhouse. You simply have to appreciate being in the same room with a genuine legend — particularly one as lively as Mays, who loudly greeted visitors.

Veterans such as Todd Wellemeyer, Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, who had never seen Mays in the flesh, simply stared at the man. Players who previously had met Mays, such as Aaron Rowand and Kevin Frandsen, gleefully shook hands with him. Now the spring can begin, right?

Two rookies were especially intrepid. Outfielders Darren Ford and Thomas Neal, who hope to achieve a fraction of what Mays did as a Giant from 1951-72, sat for more than an hour with the Hall of Famer, absorbing advice — as well as some good-natured abuse.

Ford is 24 years old and has never played above Class A. Mays unabashedly recited some of the accomplishments he had piled up at the Major League level by the time he reached that age. Ford, perhaps the fastest player in the Giants organization, mentioned that he had won a stolen-base title; Mays reminded everyone within earshot that he led the National League in thefts four years in a row from 1956-59. “Then I quit,” Mays said, meaning that he ceased concentrating on stolen bases and focused more on slugging.

This was a you-had-to-be-there scene. Any comparison between Mays and Ford is certainly unfair. But Mays made all of this sound playful, not mean and condescending. The smile never left Ford’s face. Toward the conclusion of his visit, Neal and Ford had their fielding gloves on, listening to Mays — a 12-time Gold Glove Award winner — share secrets of his defensive excellence.

Roger Angell, one of the finest baseball writers ever, once wrote of Mays, perhaps the best all-around player ever, “The leader is still leading.” That was in a 1971 article. Some 39 years later, it’s still true.

– Chris Haft
 

Wellemeyer may get No. 5 shot

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Todd Wellemeyer might receive a legitimate chance to challenge Madison Bumgarner for the fifth spot in the Giants’ starting rotation, manager Bruce Bochy indicated Wednesday.

When Wellemeyer signed with San Francisco last week, Giants officials said that the right-hander was being regarded more as a long reliever than as a candidate for the rotation. But Bochy said that Wellemeyer’s presence “makes it more competitive” as he, Bumgarner, Joe Martinez and Kevin Pucetas vie for the rotation’s lone opening.

Some observers believe that Bumgarner, the Giants’ top pitching prospect who’s just 20 years old, would benefit from more Minor League seasoning before taking his inevitable place in the club’s starting five.

*****

Aaron Rowand is 10 pounds lighter than he was last spring, and not because Bochy asked him to bat leadoff.

“I don’t know if he had a crystal ball at his house,” Bochy said.

Rowand took it upon himself to lose weight before Bochy called him to discuss life at the top of the order. Rowand said that he weighs 215, compared to around 225 last Spring Training. He finished the season at 205, reflecting the schedule’s physical rigors.

The center fielder said that he slimmed down by improving his diet and adding bicycling to his workout regimen. Rowand estimated that he rode approximately 2,000-2,200 miles, hitting the pedals four times a week at an average of 25 miles per excursion. 

“I’m 32,” Rowand said. “I need to start doing more cardio stuff.”

– Chris Haft

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