Results tagged ‘ Barry Zito ’

Hudson aches along with Mulder

Sunday, Feb. 16

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Empathy was etched on Tim Hudson’s face Sunday as he spoke of his friend and former teammate, Mark Mulder.

Inactive since 2008, Mulder was attempting a comeback with the Angels. The left-hander’s dream was dashed Saturday when he ruptured his left Achillies tendon as he was about to throw his first bullpen session. Mulder hopes to try again in 2015, but that prospect appears dim at this moment.

So Hudson is the only remaining active pitcher among the Oakland A’s superb core of starters — himself, Mulder and Barry Zito — who dominated the American League from 2000-04. He wishes he weren’t alone.

Hudson sent Mulder a consoling text message. “I’m sure he’s dealing with a whole lot right now,” said Hudson, who signed with the Giants during the offseason. “I hate it. It makes me sick to my stomach. He’s really worked hard to try to get back.”

Praising Mulder’s gallant effort, Hudson concluded, “Not a lot of people could be in position to come back after five years of not playing the game.”

It’s worth recalling the greatness of Hudson-Mulder-Zito. Yes, “great” is overused. But the term applied to this trio.

Hudson joined the A’s in 1999; Zito performed for them through 2006. From 2000-04, when they occupied Oakland’s rotation together, they combined to post a regular-season record of 234-119. That’s a .663 winning percentage. During this span, they each won 20 games once and made the AL All-Star team twice. Hudson finished second in the AL Cy Young Award voting in 2000, Mulder did the same in 2001 and Zito won it in 2002.

Justifiably so, Hudson treasures his Oakland memories, judging from his reaction to Mulder’s misfortune. The fondness with which he spoke of Zito a couple of days earlier underscored his appreciation for his A’s days.

“He was a great guy and a great teammate when I was with him and everybody around here still has a lot of great things to say about him,” Hudson said of Zito. “I wish him the best. Man, I wish he was still here. If he were still here, I don’t know whether I’d be here. But it would have been awesome to be teammates with him one more time.”

Chris Haft

Hey, TBS, who won the World Series last year?

Wednesday, March 9

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The San Francisco Giants are the defending World Series champions.

That undeniable fact begs repeating upon examining the first two months of the “Sunday MLB on TBS” schedule.

TBS opted to televise the Giants — whose roster includes telegenic performers such as Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Buster Posey, Andres Torres, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff — exactly zero times through May 29.

We’ll give TBS a little bit of a break. ESPN grabbed the Giants for the regular season’s first Sunday, when they visit the Dodgers. Yours truly neglected to check with TBS’ media relations representatives to determine whether there’s a good reason for the Giants to be overlooked.

But at first glance, this looks like a classic case of East Coast bias.

TBS will show the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees three times apiece, the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays twice each, and the Dodgers, Cubs, Mets and Tigers once.

Didn’t the Giants defeat the Braves, Phillies and Rangers in last year’s postseason? Just checking.

*****

The Giants played some excellent defense in Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Barry Zito and Freddy Sanchez collaborated on the game’s first out. Zito pounced on Juan Pierre’s bunt and made a quick, risky yet accurate throw to Sanchez, who was covering first.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval demonstrated the benefits of his weight loss by pouncing on Alexei Ramirez’s fifth-inning bunt and whipping an off-balance throw to first for the out.

Buster Posey threw out Lastings Milledge, who tried to steal third base in the sixth inning.

*****

The Giants are 10-4 in Cactus League play, largely due to their pitching. Kind of like the regular season.

They trimmed their ERA to an even 3.00 on Wednesday. The starters’ ERA in the last  eight games is 1.27.

– Chris Haft

Contenders savor flavor of September

Sunday, Sept. 19

SAN FRANCISCO — All that stuff about how winning in April means just as much as winning in September is true. Mathematically, at least.

In reality, context changes everything. The pursuit of a postseason berth magnifies each game for contenders during the stretch drive.

“Back in May, you don’t really know how the season’s going to unfold,” Giants outfielder Cody Ross said after Sunday’s 9-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. “Now, we have a solid team. We’ve adapted to each other. We get the job done. That’s what makes it exciting.”

For ballplayers — especially playoff-hungry ones like the Giants, who haven’t qualified for the postseason since 2003 — the stretch drive represents the culmination of their year-round labor. Well, winning the World Series might mean more. But precious few players get to experience that. Participating in a pennant race is more attainable and, in some ways, provides more of a rush, since it sustains a high and prolongs the buzz surrounding a ballclub for weeks.

“Going out there every single day — I can’t speak for everybody; for me, I can’t wait to get to the field and keep going,” Ross said. “It’s going to be an exciting game no matter who you play.”

Said Barry Zito, who finally recorded a long-deserved victory, “This is why we do what we do all offseason, training and going to Spring Training, and [working] hard. It’s all about this last month here and getting in [the postseason.”

*****

Speaking of stretch drives, Zito and Jose Guillen were A’s teammates in the last couple of months of the 2003 season, when Oakland acquired the latter from Cincinnati to bolster the offense. Guillen batted only .265 in 45 games for the A’s after hitting a torrid .337 in 91 games with the Reds. But Zito has seen enough from Guillen, then and now, to know that the outfielder remains dangerous at the plate.

“He’s had some incredible hot streaks in his career,” Zito said after Guillen’s six-RBI day. “Being a veteran player, he knows what he needs to do to produce and stay in his comfort zone. Having him hot can be a huge addition for us.”

Guillen was one of the few productive Giants during their six-game homestand, batting .500 (7-for-14) with two home runs. His first-inning grand slam was the fifth of his career.

*****

Brewers pitchers might see Buster Posey in their nightmares this winter. Posey hit .500 (12-for-24) with four homers, nine RBI and nine runs scored against Milwaukee this season.

– Chris Haft

Ishikawa approaches return

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Travis Ishikawa could return to first base for the Giants by this weekend.

Ishikawa was expected to play first in a Minor League exhibition Wednesday, marking his initial appearance in the field this spring.

Ishikawa tore ligaments in his left foot before camp opened but has progressed steadily. He said that he accumulated 11 at-bats in Minor League intrasquad games Monday and Tuesday. While his Giants teammates enjoy Thursday’s off-day, Ishikawa will report to the Minor League complex to play another game. Barring setbacks, he believes that he can play in a Cactus League game by Friday or Saturday.

Ishikawa has tested his foot by running the bases after each game. “I don’t know what the speed looks like, but I’m pushing it pretty hard,” he said Wednesday.

The Giants will welcome Ishikawa’s return. Given starting first baseman Aubrey Huff’s occasional defensive struggles, Ishikawa likely will receive plenty of activity as a late-inning replacement this season.<p/>

*****

Wednesday was a promising day for what could be two-fifths of the Giants’ starting rotation.

Barry Zito worked 3 1/3 innings and allowed just one run despite yielding four hits and walking three. He faced a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third inning when he forced ex-teammate Eric Chavez to hit a comebacker, generating a forceout at home plate. Catcher Bengie Molina barely missed completing an inning-ending double play with his throw to first.

Molina praised Zito’s ability to throw his fastball inside to right-handed batters. “I was very excited every time he hit that corner,” Molina said.

Right-hander Todd Wellemeyer, who’s moving closer to locking up the rotation’s fifth spot, pitched a perfect fifth inning in what amounted to a bullpen tuneup for his start Saturday against Cincinnati.

All spring, Wellemeyer has insisted that he feels like the pitcher who finished 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA in 2008 for St. Louis and not the one who slumped to 7-10, 5.89 last year. He never rested his arm during the 2008-09 offseason, and he notices the difference in his fastball velocity.

“Being able to throw in the mid-90s again is huge,” said Wellemeyer, who has allowed two runs in 10 innings. “Last year it was 90 and I was hoping [the hitters] couldn’t catch up to it. But they did.”

*****

Emmanuel Burriss and the Giants’ medical staff will consider multiple options when they discuss the next move in the infielder’s recovery from a broken bone in his left foot.

Burriss, 25, consulted noted orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson on Tuesday in North Carolina. Dr. Anderson should be a familiar figure to Bay Area sports fans. He performed surgery to fix the stress fracture in the left foot of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in March. Crabtree was physically ready to play for the Niners once he ended his holdout in October.

Dr. Anderson didn’t urge any particular course of action, and Burriss isn’t yet certain what he’ll do. He could elect to undergo another operation, which might involve removing the pin that was inserted when he broke his foot last July and replacing it with a larger pin. Or he could skip surgery and allow nature to heal his foot. Burriss also mentioned the possibility that he could forgo surgery and be walking normally in two weeks. That’s obviously far from a guarantee.

*****

The Giants trimmed their spring roster to 46 by optioning third baseman Conor Gillaspie to the Minor Leagues and reassigning the following players to Minor League camp: outfielder Roger Kieschnick, left-handers Craig Clark and Clayton Tanner and right-handers Rafael Cova, Steve Edlefsen, Eric Hacker, Osiris Matos, Dan Turpen and Craig Whitaker.<p/>

– Chris Haft

Posey sparkles again; Torres is torrid

TUCSON, Ariz. — Buster Posey demonstrated Friday why the Giants drafted him fifth overall and handed him a $6.2 million signing bonus two years ago.

Posey opened the scoring in the Giants’ 9-2 exhibition victory over the Colorado Rockies with a two-out, first-inning single off Jorge De La Rosa, last year’s winningest National League left-hander with a 16-9 record. Posey drove in the final run in San Francisco’s four-run fifth inning with a double to left-center, a line drive that touched down in the middle of the outfield but was hit so hard that Rockies center fielder Carlos Gonzalez couldn’t catch up with it.

Posey also unleashed a fourth-inning throw to second base that nullified the decent jump Troy Tulowitzki got on a steal attempt. The throw beat Tulowitzki, but umpire Chris Guccione changed his call from “out” to “safe” when shortstop Kevin Frandsen dropped the ball.

“The more action he has gotten, the more comfortable he is,” Bochy said of Posey, who’s batting .333 (5-for-15) this spring and is competing with Eli Whiteside for the backup catching job.

Bochy was particularly impressed with Posey’s throw on Tulowitzki. “Electric,” said Bochy, adding that the Giants’ staff timed Posey’s release at 1.9 seconds. The Major League average is 2.0.

*****

Andres Torres also turned in a strong all-around performance, doubling twice in three at-bats and ranging far and wide in center field to record four putouts in the first two innings. By that time, Bochy said, “He pretty much locked up the game ball.”

Four of Torres’ five hits this spring have gone for extra bases, explaining why his slugging percentage (.556) doubles his batting average (.278).

*****

In Scottsdale, left-hander Barry Zito remained on his work schedule by throwing 60 pitches in the equivalent of five innings against Minor Leaguers. Zito yielded two hits and no runs while walking none, striking out one and hitting a batter.

*****

This was likely the Giants’ final spring game at Hi Corbett Field, since the Rockies are moving to a Phoenix-area facility next year. The cozy ballpark, which was built in 1937, is so old that Hall of Famer Bob Feller actually pitched in it.

The Giants and Rockies received an unofficial flyover during the National Anthem as a pair of Air Force jets returned to a nearby base. Several other planes flew overhead during the afternoon.

“I did think about it,” Bochy said of the Giants’ finale. “As much as the game, I’m going to miss the planes, the show they put on sometimes.”

– Chris Haft

Sandoval looks slick; Romo feels relieved

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pablo Sandoval presumably has more work to do before he reaches what the Giants consider an acceptable playing weight, but the third baseman looked nimble enough in their 5-3 exhibition victory Thursday over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Playing his first Cactus League game, Sandoval moved quickly to his left to snare catcher Eli Whiteside’s wide throw as Brewers baserunner Rickie Weeks, who had broken for second base, tried to advance to third once Barry Zito’s first-inning pitch went to the backstop. Sandoval deftly grabbed Whiteside’s one-hop peg and tagged out Weeks.

Sandoval also made a nice play to open the third inning as he charged Corey Hart’s roller and made a strong off-balance throw to first for the out.

*****

Right-hander Sergio Romo observed his 27th birthday Thursday. In his mind, he had more to celebrate than turning one year older.

Romo pointed out that he strained his throwing elbow last year in the second exhibition game and first home date of the Cactus League season, when he yielded six ninth-inning runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

So when Romo took the mound in the ninth inning against the Brewers, all he wanted to do was leave the game physically whole.

“I didn’t care what happened today,” Romo said. “They could have lit me up.” That didn’t come close to happening, as Romo struck out two in a perfect inning to record a save.

Romo, who the Giants are counting on to shoulder part of the late-inning setup load, praised the Giants’ athletic training staff for keeping him sound.

“I worked with them all offseason,” he said. “This is probably the most healthy I’ve been.”

*****

Two days, two at-bats and two hits for Jesus Guzman, who commanded attention with his torrid hitting last spring. “He’s starting up again, isn’t he?” manager Bruce Bochy said.

Another fast starter is Kevin Frandsen, who’s 3-for-5 in two games. Frandsen, who’s competing for a reserve middle infield role, could benefit from increased exposure while Emmanuel Burriss (left foot) is sidelined.

– Chris Haft

Zito’s a harsh self-critic; Wilson loves the challenge

SAN FRANCISCO — Barry Zito received a warm ovation from the AT&T Park fans upon leaving Saturday’s game once he walked Wladimir Balantien to open the seventh inning. But while Zito might have impressed observers, he sounded anything but impressed with himself.

Zito called his outing “a grind,” though his statistical line might suggest that he cruised through Cincinnati’s lineup in the Giants’ 4-2 victory. The left-hander allowed both Reds runs and only three hits in six innings. Zito, who’s 3-1 with a 2.32 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, has walked nine and struck out 25 in 31 innings in that span.

Zito meant that his results didn’t come easily. Manager Bruce Bochy, of course, was thrilled that Zito delivered, extra effort or no extra effort. Bochy pointed out that Zito has been the Giants’ “tough-luck pitcher” this year, having entered Saturday’s start with the Major Leagues’ lowest run support.

“I think he’s throwing the ball better than his record indicates,” Bochy said. “He has been exceptional this last month. He’s throwing strikes and pitching with a lot of confidence right now.”

Zito has won three consecutive decisions for the first time since May 23-June 4, 2007, his first couple of months as a Giant.

*****

A temporarily overlooked element of Brian Wilson’s blown save and loss Friday night was the simple fact that Bochy summoned him with the bases loaded and one out in the EIGHTH inning. Though Wilson has converted a National League-high seven saves of more than one inning, each of those was a 1 1/3-inning stint. Had he saved Friday’s game, his 1 2/3-inning outing would have been his longest of the season in a save opportunity. He pitched 2 1/3 innings in a 10-inning victory April 22 against San Diego and two innings July 17 in a 14-inning loss at Pittsburgh. Both were scoreless performances.

Second-guessing managers for using their closer for more than one inning is a favorite fan pastime. But Bochy hasn’t hesitated to insert Wilson in the eighth inning, and he won’t hesitate to do so again in the future.

“The game’s on the line,” Bochy said. “That’s where you want your closer.”

Speaking after he recorded his 28th save of the season in Saturday’s victory, Wilson said that entering games in the eighth inning is OK with him.

“They obviously have confidence in me to come in and shut the door,” Wilson said. “I’m not going to complain about that, because what’s the team going to think about a guy who complains about pitching? I play this game for the love of it. Any chance I get to pitch is a good chance.”

In a remark that bordered on a Yogi Berra-ism, Wilson added, “If you’re going to come in the ninth, you might as well come in the eighth, too.”

– Chris Haft

Pittsburgh’s Sanchez speaks; Zito stays calm

SAN FRANCISCO — Courtesy of my Pittsburgh counterpart, Jenifer Langosch, here are some thoughts from Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez, who has been linked in trade speculation to the Giants.

Asked if he knew whether anything was up between San Francisco and Pittsburgh, Sanchez said Tuesday, “As far as I know, it’s just speculation. Obviously, until something is in stone and it’s there, then it would be otherwise. I don’t know any more than anyone else right now.”

Sanchez acknowledged that it was somewhat strange to be sitting in the dugout across the field from the club he could be joining.

“But rumors are rumors,” he said. “There has been a lot of speculation on guys who haven’t gone anywhere at all. Speculation is speculation, but it is a little different when you are in the place that they’re talking about.”

When the Giants were in Pittsburgh recently, I talked to Sanchez for a Giants Magazine feature I did on Matt Cain. Sanchez was very friendly and extremely cooperative. From a reporter’s perspective, he seems like he’d be an excellent addition.

But if you’re reading this, you don’t care about that garbage. You just want somebody who can help the Giants score runs. Then know this: Sanchez is truly a professional hitter. That’s an overused cliche, but having watched him take batting practice, I believe it’s applicable. In Pittsburgh I saw him fire line drive after line drive the opposite way to right field, then concentrate on hitting the ball up the middle in his next round before concluding by yanking the ball to left field. Too many idiotic hitters waste their BP swings by trying to hit home runs. Not Sanchez. His was the best batting practice I’ve seen since Bill Madlock during his brief Giants tenure, or maybe Will Clark at his peak in the late ’80s-early ’90s.

*****

Barry Zito pitched 5 2/3 effective innings but was not involved in the decision. Zito yielded nine hits and walked two yet surrendered just one run, which the Pirates scored in the first inning on Andrew McCutchen’s double and Delwyn Young’s bloop single.

Zito left the bases loaded in the third inning by retiring Andy LaRoche on a popup. He also bequeathed two baserunners in the sixth to Sergio Romo (3-1), who seems to have regained manager Bruce Bochy’s confidence. Romo ended the threat by striking out McCutchen on three pitches.

But Zito plainly wanted to work out of the jam himself.

“I definitely support the team, but yeah, I didn’t expect to get taken out at that point,” Zito said. He diplomatically added, “I certainly support Boch’s decision as manager. He’s been in the game a long time. It worked out.”

– Chris Haft

Thursday leftovers: No ifs, ands or bunts

ATLANTA — A discerning manager does not ask his players to perform tasks they’re incapable of handling. That largely explained why Bruce Bochy didn’t order Fred Lewis to bunt in a pair of situations Thursday when most players might have been asked to sacrifice.

Lewis has one career sacrifice bunt. Bochy figured the Giants were better off letting Lewis swing away.

Bochy had an additional reason to avoid the bunt when Lewis batted in the fifth inning with Barry Zito on second base, Randy Winn on first and nobody out. With Zito as the lead runner, Bochy said, “I didn’t have any speed there.”

Lewis’ next at-bat followed Randy Winn’s leadoff double in the seventh. Lewis flied to center without Winn advancing. That wasn’t the sort of “productive out” the Giants had hoped for. Besides, said Bochy, “I wanted three shots” at driving the run in. As it turned out, Winn was marooned on second base, but the Giants scored four runs in the eighth to settle matters.

*****

Jeremy Affeldt hiked his Major League-leading total of double plays induced to 14 during his scoreless eighth. He’s having one of the best years I’ve seen from a reliever.

“The guy really could have made the All-Star team, when you look at the job he’s done,” Bochy said.

*****

Nate Schierholtz is one tough dude. His left leg looked as if a saber-toothed tiger had tried to have it for lunch.

Schierholtz nearly mangled his leg while leaping at Turner Field’s right-field wall, which has a cyclone fence “padding” in some parts.

“Just wait until you see my leg,” Schierholtz said after the Giants’ 5-1 win as he greeted reporters at his dressing stall.

We could have waited a little longer. The outside of Schierholtz’s leg was scraped almost from top to bottom. Discoloration — budding bruises? — were spread throughout.

*****

Has anybody noticed:

Barry Zito is 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four career appearances against Atlanta?

Infielder Matt Downs wears No. 37 — same as late-1980s right-hander Kelly Downs?

– Chris Haft 

Villalona injured; Molina praises Sandoval; fun facts

SAN FRANCISCO — First baseman Angel Villalona, one of the Giants’ leading prospects, is expected to miss at least four weeks with a strained left quadriceps.<p/>

Villalona injured himself Tuesday while playing for the Giants’ Class A San Jose affiliate. His injury will prevent him from participating in Sunday’s Futures Game with the World team. In 74 games, Villalona, who hit .267 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs in 74 games, played in last year’s Futures Game at Yankee Stadium.

*****

Bengie Molina delivered a high compliment to Pablo Sandoval after Thursday’s 9-3 vvictory over Florida.

“I really really hope that pablo can hit 30 home runs and get 150 RBIs,” said Molina, who’s tied with Sandoval for the team lead in RBIs with 50. “I wish and hope he beats me in RBIs, homers and average … I love that kid. After Roberto Clemente, he’s my favorite player. And he should have gone to the All-Star Game.”

*****

Tim Lincecum became the third Giants starter to lose a no-hitter upon facing the first batter of the seventh inning. It also happened to Randy Johnson on April 19 against Arizona and Barry Zito on June 21 against Texas.

– Chris Haft

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