Results tagged ‘ Aubrey Huff ’

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

Veterans play key role for Giants against Phils

Monday, April 26

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants defeated the Phormidable Phillies on Monday night because their veterans contributed handsomely.

I could have written that the veterans “stepped up,” but I was taught long ago to avoid cliches. Either way, you know what I mean.

Mark DeRosa’s two-run single in the first inning started everything. Aubrey Huff added a key RBI single in the sixth inning.

Guillermo Mota recorded his ninth consecutive scoreless outing, but it was by far the most important one of the bunch. Jeremy Affeldt, having regained his curveball, used it to strike out Ben Francisco in the seventh inning and escape a bases-loaded jam.

Virtually everybody who played contributed in some way for the Giants. But against opponents such as the Phillies, proven champions who are capable of overcoming any deficit, a team needs its most reliable performers to provide stability and the winning edge. It needs its veterans. The Giants provided a reminder of that in the opener of a series which should be a compelling one.

– Chris Haft

More on efficient offense, solid Bowker, wayward Romo

Monday, April 5
HOUSTON — That was a well-executed rally the Giants staged in Monday’s second inning to grab a 3-0 lead.

As superb as Tim Lincecum was, this early outburst boosted their confidence considerably as they proceeded to win, 5-2, and improve to 7-1 all-time in season openers against Houston.

“I felt good about it, [ahead] 3-0, with the way he was throwing the ball,” left fielder Mark DeRosa said.

After Aubrey Huff began the uprising with a leadoff single off Houston ace Roy Oswalt, DeRosa lived up to his billing as a “professional hitter” by drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch after nearly slicing a double into the right-field corner.

“I’ve faced Roy a lot,” said DeRosa, who entered the game hitting .481 (13-for-27) in his career against Oswalt. “I study video religiously and come up with a game plan. I really don’t think you can succeed on the big league level if you don’t go up there with a game plan. In that sequence I fouled off a couple of pitches that I probably wanted to put in play.”

Ball four was a low changeup. “He kind of ‘spiked’ it,” DeRosa said. “It was a little easier to lay off than probably if he would have thrown it a little closer.”

Then came the inning’s hero, Bengie Molina. He lined an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch, then advanced from first base to third on John Bowker’s single off the left-field wall. Molina had to “read” the flight of the ball expertly to make his move. That enabled Molina to score on Juan Uribe’s sacrifice fly.

After Edgar Renteria got an early jump in Comeback Player of the Year Award consideration with his second hit, a two-out, seventh-inning RBI double off Chris Sampson, DeRosa poked an opposite-field homer to right with one out in the eighth off Tim Byrdak. Afterward, a reporter suggested that DeRosa’s homer would have a single at AT&T Park.

“Everyone’s saying that,” DeRosa said good-naturedly. “I don’t care. It’s a home run. I’ll take the single when we go home, but for now I’ll take the homer here.”

*****

Bowker, who pulled ahead of Nate Schierholtz in the second half of Spring Training in competition for the right-field job, had a memorable first Opening Day. He followed that run-scoring hit with a running catch in the corner on J.R. Towles’ tricky drive to end the bottom of the second inning.

Facing Oswalt in the second inning, Bowker sensed he would have a chance to do what he does best: Swing the bat. “Oswalt fell behind 2-0, so I knew I was going to get a pitch to hit.”

Did that help Bowker’s self-esteem in his first Opening Day start? Of course. “It felt good to get that first hit [and] first RBI out of the way,” he said.

Bowker described the catch by saying, “It was weird because I was playing shallow, and with two strikes [on the count] I moved over a little bit. The wind out there, I think, was swirling. It felt like it was blowing in, so I didn’t think [Towles] could drive one through the wind. But then when it got up it started taking off and drifting toward the right-field corner.”

*****

Right-hander Sergio Romo, whose Opening Day excitement was documented in another story on this site, showed just how pumped up he was when he bounded off the pitcher’s mound and began sprinting toward the Giants’ dugout … after striking out Michael Bourn for the second out of the eighth inning.

Romo stopped short of the third-base line and returned to the mound before he made himself look even more foolish.

“I was so into it,” Romo said. “I was excited. There was no disrespect [meant toward the Astros]. I got caught up in the moment. I got a big strikeout in my eyes and I went, ‘Ohhhh!’ “

– Chris Haft

Cain looks ready for regular season

March 23
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Matt Cain had every right to feel tired Tuesday. But he didn’t look fatigued at all.

Cain recorded the longest Cactus League outing by a Giants starter so far, working 6 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The Giants improved their Major League-best spring record to 16-6 with their sixth consecutive victory and seventh in their last eight games.

Cain surrendered just three hits. Fifth-inning fielding errors committed by first baseman Aubrey Huff and second baseman Matt Downs largely accounted for the lone, unearned run Cain yielded.

Though Cain pitched six innings in his previous appearance, a Minor League exhibition game last Thursday,the deepest he had gone in an exhibition game was a mere three innings. He relished the opportunity to push himself.

“You get to that kind of tired point and you have to start using your legs,” Cain said. “That’s what you want to get to toward the end of spring, to be able to carry that over into the season.”

Cain issued his first walk of the exhibition season when Paul Konerko drew a free pass with two outs in the fourth inning. That remained Cain’s lone walk in 15 1/3 innings this spring. The right-hander struck out just two batters but recorded several outs early in the count, helping him stay on the mound longer.

Cain augmented his effectiveness by using his slider for the first time this spring. “I’m feeling pretty good about everything,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure I can hit both sides of the plate with my fastball and throw strikes with my offspeed stuff.”

*****

The afternoon’s oddest play occurred in the fourth inning, when Chicago’s Gordon Beckham led off with a popup behind the mound. Huff and shortstop Edgar Renteria converged on the ball and collided. Renteria nevertheless caught the ball and held onto it while Huff fell over backward. Still on the ground, Huff pointed at Renteria as he asked him whether he made the catch.

“I will say, Huff wanted the ball,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

*****

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval ended his three-game absence in fine fashion by doubling twice in four at-bats, scoring a run and driving in one. “He didn’t look like he missed a beat,” Bochy said of Sandoval, who needed five stitches to close a cut on his right ankle last Friday after he slid into Cleveland catcher Lou Marson’s shinguard.

– Chris Haft

Maybe Omar will play forever

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Same time, next year for Omar Vizquel? Perhaps.

The former Giants shortstop returned to Scottsdale Stadium with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday as he approaches his 22nd Major League season. Vizquel turns 43 in April, but he didn’t rule out continuing to play beyond this year.

“I’m just letting my body tell me when,” Vizquel said as he fixed himself a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich before the Giants’ 6-2 exhibition victory. “My body’s holding on good, I’m feeling good, I feel I have the passion for it, I consider that I had a good year last year (.266 in 62 games with Texas) and that’s why I’m here, because my body’s telling me that I can still be out there and compete with the other guys.”

Lasting as long as Vizquel isn’t easy, though. He said that practically lived in the gymnasium during the offseason to prepare himself for this spring.

“There is so so much competition,” he said. “If I want to compete, I have to stay strong, flexible quick, agile.”

Also during the offseason, Omar Vizquel nearly joined a school for aspiring bullfighters in his native Venezuela.

By contrast, when it comes to managing a Major League team, which he’d like to do, Vizquel believes he can bypass an extensive apprenticeship. He’s willing to coach on the Major League level for a few years before becoming a big-league skipper. But spending years and years in the Minors before ascending, as some managers do, is not for him, as he has stated previously.

*****

So what if Mark DeRosa began facing “real” pitchers in batting practice only Sunday? He singled on the first pitch he saw in Tuesday’s exhibition.

“Spring Training’s about working on things. I understand you have to take some pitches,” DeRosa said. “But at the same token, this is my first time I’ve seen live action in four or five months. So I at least wanted to pull the trigger on a few things.”

DeRosa left the game after four innings — “I could have played nine,” he insisted — and isn’t expected to play Wednesday against the Chicago Cubs.

*****

First baseman Aubrey Huff rejoined the team after a case of food poisoning sidelined him Monday. Still feeling queasy, Huff didn’t play against the White Sox but likely will make Wednesday’s trip to Mesa for the Cubs game.

*****

Using closer Brian Wilson for two innings against the White Sox wasn’t really unusual. “It gives him a chance to work on his pitches,” Bochy said.

– 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

Epic showdown: Lincecum vs. Sandoval

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Imagining Pablo Sandoval facing Tim Lincecum is the sort of fantasy many fans probably entertain to break up the offseason monotony.

Well, fantasy became reality Wednesday at Scottsdale Stadium, where Lincecum pitched “live” (full-speed) batting practice to the Kung Fu Panda.

What unfolded was predictable. With pitchers being ahead of the hitters (have you heard that one before?) at this stage of Spring Training, Sandoval did not make authoritative contact off Lincecum. But Sandoval did swing four times in five pitches against the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, so not much has changed.

Sandoval swung and missed on a Lincecum fastball and took an offspeed pitch before tapping two grounders to the right side. The first of those might have bounced through for a hit, depending on how the infielders might have been positioned. Sandoval finished his confrontation against Lincecum by fouling off a pitch.

“You’re always wondering if he’s going to hit one off the ground that you’re trying to bury, or that changeup right back at you that you left up by accident,” Lincecum said. “I see why he’s a tough guy to face.”

Lincecum, who’ll start next Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against Seattle, was pleased with his batting-practice stint overall. He also faced Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey, whose line drive to right field was the closest semblance to a hit.

“Everything kind of felt where it should have been,” said Lincecum, who threw all of his pitches.

*****

In other camp developments, infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa (left wrist) took live BP but only “tracked” pitches and didn’t swing. He’s still expected to be able to participate fully in workouts soon.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left shoulder, left knee) could be ready to begin fielding groundballs by the weekend.

MLB Network will air the Giants’ “Inside the Clubhouse — Town Hall Meeting” on four separate occasions (all times Pacific): Sunday, 9:30 p.m.; Monday, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.; Wednesday, midnight.

– 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
 

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