Results tagged ‘ Bengie Molina ’

Lincecum still must heat up

Sunday, June 6

PITTSBURGH — Any further improvement Tim Lincecum experiences will revolve around his fastball.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask catcher Bengie Molina, who has been behind the plate for almost every inning of Lincecum’s Major League career.

“The only thing we have to work on right now is the fastball location,” Molina said after the Giants’ 6-5, 10-inning victory Sunday at Pittsburgh. “Today was way better than before. It was a big step. That kid is going to be fine. He’s something else. He’ll find it again.”

Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones said that Lincecum’s fastball “just missed a few spots here and there.” Jones, who hit a two-run homer off Lincecum in the fourth inning, also said of Lincecum’s fastball, “I felt like it was straight today.” Now THAT’s not good for Lincecum. But the hitters always tell a pitcher how he’s doing, and in Lincecum’s case, he was good enough to win. “I stayed consistent throughout the game,” said Lincecum, who allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings while walking two and striking out six.

Next up for Lincecum: Friday night’s series opener against the Oakland A’s at AT&T Park. Think the crowd will be stoked?

*****

The baseball gods must have felt like they owed the Giants one. Juan Uribe’s ninth-inning RBI double, which broke a 3-3 tie, was a line drive to left field that Lastings Milledge dove for and nearly caught. But the ball grazed his glove and trickled away.

One night earlier, Milledge made a running, diving catch on the warning track of Freddy Sanchez’s bases-loaded thunderbolt to left field that probably would have tied the score 6-6. Instead, it was the final out in the Giants’ 6-3 loss.

*****

Giants vs. Reds: Division Series preview?

– Chris Haft

 

One way to get Posey up here

Friday, May 14

SAN FRANCISCO — This is not a recommendation; I don’t know if it’s even a suggestion. It’s just a thought.

If the Giants believe that promoting Buster Posey from Triple-A Fresno and installing him in the lineup would help their offense, here’s an option:

Put Posey at first base and move Aubrey Huff to left field. I’m sure several bloggers and maybe one of my counterparts/competitors already has raised this subject. If so, I apologize for sounding like I’m plagiarizing. But I’m not, since it doesn’t seem to have been widely circulated.

I think manager Bruce Bochy was dropping a hint recently when he praised Huff’s athleticism and said that he believed that, with a little training, Huff could play the outfield respectably. I’m not sure whether this would complicate matters, but most of Huff’s outfield experience actually is in right field — 237 games out of 245, according to baseball-reference.com. Still, Huff probably would adjust better to left field at AT&T Park, since he wouldn’t have to deal with the tricky archways and the wall in right field at home.

The Giants wouldn’t necessarily be giving up on Posey as a catcher. There’s always next year, assuming Bengie Molina doesn’t return (and given Molina’s re-signing this past offseason, I won’t assume anything). Again, this is just a possible way to get Posey’s bat in the lineup.

Your move, Giants.

– 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

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 plays complete game in more ways than one

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Starting his first Cactus League game of this spring at catcher, Buster Posey demonstrated why he’s the Giants’ top position-player prospect.

Posey excelled defensively, which is always a catcher’s top priority, while playing all nine innings of the Giants’ 6-2 exhibition victory over the Chicago White sox. He threw out a Sox baserunner attempting to steal second, barely missed nabbing another runner and looked nimble overall.

Posey also rapped two hits, including an opposite-field home run to right in the Giants’ five-run eighth inning, though even he admitted that the drive was windblown.

A change at catcher is not imminent. Bengie Molina will remain the primary starter, and, as everybody who has been paying attention knows, Posey might open the season at Triple-A Fresno. Still, this was a step forward for Posey, especially since he shared game experience with five pitchers (Matt Cain, Jeremy Affeldt, Brian Wilson, Dan Runzler and Sergio Romo) who almost certainly will be mainstays for the Giants.

“He’s very observant,” Cain said of Posey. “He tries to see what you want to do. He asks questions. He does a great job on that part. He learns really quickly with catching guys.”

One of Posey’s finer moments was a quintessential not-in-the-boxscore play. In the third inning, speedy Juan Pierre chopped a pitch in front of home plate. Pierre didn’t move, believing the ball was foul. But Posey sprang from his crouch, grabbed the ball and tagged Pierre about as quickly as you can say, “You’re out.”

Posey explained that plays like that are why catchers work so diligently at improving their lower-body “explosion” through weightlifting. The more leg strength a catcher possesses, the quicker he can propel himself.

“That’s the type of stuff you can’t really work on,” Posey said, referring to the Pierre play, “other than in the weight room.”

Posey’s pair of hits lifted his spring average from .143 to .273. “I’ve felt pretty good the whole time,” he said. “My timing’s there, though I’ve clipped the ball a little bit or rolled it over.”

– 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

Randy Winn: An appreciation

Randy Winn wouldn’t care if he ever spoke to the media. That doesn’t mean he dislikes reporters. It’s just that he doesn’t crave attention.

But when anybody with a camera, microphone or notebook approached Winn during his four-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, he was cordial at the very least, thoughtful and engaging at his best and always — ALWAYS — accommodating. The phrase “no comment” didn’t exist in his vocabulary.

That’s part of the beauty of Randy Winn. While he surely appreciates the glory of being a Major Leaguer, he doesn’t coat himself in it. Beating his chest and declaring, “Look at me!” isn’t part of the job description for him. Rather, beating the other team is what it’s all about.

Unlike Bengie Molina, Winn wasn’t bound for a surprise return to San Francisco. Winn’s two home runs in 597 plate appearances during 2009 doomed him with the Giants, who were bent on upgrading their offense. His departure essentially became official Wednesday with the all-but-finalized news of his agreement on a one-year contract with the New York Yankees.

Yet Winn merits a final salute as he leaves San Francisco. The man was, and is, a complete professional. Winn delivered a consistent effort whether he was thriving or slumping, healthy or in pain. By driving himself to excel in all facets of the game — he’s an excellent baserunner and a polished, underrated outfielder — Winn separated himself from the sorry plethora of ballplayers who almost seem to refuse to improve themselves.

Body language says a lot about an athlete. That’s by definition, since they make their living with their bodies. Winn always carried himself like a U.S. Marine — focused, proud, intent on his impending tasks. It follows that a Marine veteran who’s one of my regular e-mail pen pals named Winn as his favorite all-time Giant. The earnest diligence Winn exuded impressed this man to no end.

Winn maintained that attitude behind closed doors. Some guys slouch or shuffle through the clubhouse; Winn held his head high, leveled his gaze, maintained an even stride and almost never limped, despite sustaining painful leg ailments (which was the only subject he refused to discuss). One exception occurred when Winn noticed a group of reporters and began hobbling, trying to trick us into seizing upon fake news.

Indeed, Winn had a healthy sense of humor. It showed in his feigned disdain for the “Good Guy Award,” given annually by reporters covering the team to the player whose cooperation is especially valued. This two-, three-year running gag between us and Winn ended last September when we voted him Good Guy for 2009. He clearly deserved it, and he seemed genuinely pleased.

Remember the familiar yet too-seldom-heard saying, “As good a ballplayer as he is, he’s an even better person”? Winn could be president of that club — along with Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, two other veterans who recently became ex-Giants. How fitting that they became known among the Giants as the “Rat Pack,” a nod to the famed entertainment troika of Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. How sobering, though San Francisco’s clubhouse remains filled with truly decent men, that they’re all gone.

One of Winn’s classiest acts occurred early this offseason. During a November conditioning camp held for Minor Leaguers at AT&T Park, the Giants supplemented the physical regimen by bringing in speakers to motivate and educate the prospects. Guests included J.T. Snow, general manager Brian Sabean and even Willie Mays.

Another speaker was Winn, who was about to plunge into free agency and thus wasn’t technically a Giant. Yet he felt compelled to share some of the wisdom he had accumulated through 12 big league seasons. His message focused on the importance of being a good teammate.

That’s the essence of Randy Winn.

The Yankees will quickly learn how lucky they are to have Winn in their midst. His professionalism will enhance the Yankees’ aura as reigning World Champions. They’ll cherish his ability to play all three outfield positions and his other diverse skills. On that club, any offense he provides will be a bonus.

Winn will be free to go about his business while the ravenous New York media descends on Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and other Yankees stars.

But when reporters need to speak to Winn, he’ll answer any question they have.

Giants eyeing Torrealba

SAN FRANCISCO — Preparing for the possibility that they won’t re-sign Bengie Molina, the Giants have contacted the representative for Yorvit Torrealba, another free-agent catcher.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean said last Monday that the Giants wouldn’t offer Molina, their regular catcher for the previous three seasons, more than a one-year contract, given 22-year-old Buster Posey’s impending readiness for the Major Leagues. Sabean also reiterated his belief that at least one other team will offer Molina the multiyear contract he seeks.

Conceivably, if the Giants signed Torrealba, their backup catcher from 2001-05, he would handle the bulk of the playing time until Posey developed sufficiently.

Melvin Roman, Torrealba’s agent, confirmed the Giants’ interest. “They called and asked about him,” Roman said Monday. “But as of right now I have no other comment.”

Torrealba rejected a two-year, $4.5 million offer from Colorado earlier this offseason. The Rockies also declined to pick up a $4 million option on his 2010 contract, which made him a free agent. Torrealba is a “Type B” free agent, so though the Rockies would receive a “sandwich” draft pick if another team signed him, the signing team wouldn’t lose one of its selections.

– Chris Haft

Why not Yorvit?

SAN FRANCISCO — If the Giants can’t re-sign Bengie Molina, they ought to consider bringing back Yorvit Torrealba, who caught for them from 2001-05 before being sent to Seattle in the Randy Winn trade.

Torrealba was a capable backup for the Giants and has remained an effective performer with Colorado for the past four seasons.

Torrealba’s 31, but he’s far from physically eroded. He has played more than 100 games only once in his eight Major League seasons. He hit only two home runs in 213 at-bats last season with Colorado, but he batted .291 and recorded a .351 on-base percentage, north of Molina’s corresponding figures of .265 and .285.

Moreover, Torrealba’s likely to be affordable. He rejected a two-year, $4.5 million offer from Colorado. The Rockies also declined to pick up a $4 million option on Torrealba’s 2010 contract, which made him a free agent. Torrealba is a “Type B” free agent, so though the Rockies would receive a “sandwich” draft pick if another team signed him, the signing team wouldn’t lose one of its selections.

– Chris Haft  

var OutbrainPermaLink=’http://hotstove.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/11/why_not_yorvit.html';
var OB_Template = “mlbblogs”;
var OB_demoMode = false;
var OBITm = “1241712535489”;
var OB_langJS =’http://widgets.outbrain.com/lang_en.js';
if ( typeof(OB_Script)!=’undefined’ )
OutbrainStart();
else {
var OB_Script = true;
var str = ”;
document.write(str);
}

Pondering ‘Willie Mac’ candidates

If you’re proud of your association with the Giants — whether you’re a player, club employee or fan — then Friday should be one of the biggest nights of the year.

Friday happens to be when the recipient of the “Willie Mac” Award, given annually to the most inspirational Giant, will be honored in a pregame ceremony. The award is named for Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction. Nor is it necessary to explain why the distinction was named for him. If you saw McCovey play and witnessed his grace, class and professionalism, or if you ever met him and realized that he possesses those same qualities off the field, you know that this isn’t any ordinary award and that Friday’s event isn’t just a routine observance.

The Giants have several worthy Willie Mac candidates this year, which helps explain why they’re destined for their first above-.500 finish since 2004. This is just my opinion, but I’d like to think others would share it. Here are the players who come to mind:

JUAN URIBE. Tales of his positive clubhouse influence followed him from Chicago, where the White Sox adored him. Uribe quickly began spreading that same good cheer among the Giants. Sometimes he has done it with the hearts games he led during Spring Training or his daily sessions of attack dominoes with Edgar Renteria, Brian Wilson and others. Sometimes he has done it with his veteran’s presence, such as when he went to the mound to counsel Jonathan Sanchez during a tight moment Wednesday night. Often he has done it simply through humor and remaining upbeat. Asked by one teammate if he ever felt down, Uribe’s response was, “Uribe’s never down.” And, of course, he has proven invaluable on the field.

BENGIE MOLINA. The Willie Mac winner in 2007-08 has remained a steady, calming influence. Pablo Sandoval admires him. Pitchers relish throwing to him. Every teammate appreciates his earnest, competitive spirit. It’s easy to say that the Giants shouldn’t re-sign Molina, who’s eligible for free agency, but they’ll miss a lot of his intangibles if they don’t. He’d be the award’s only three-time winner if he gets it again.

EDGAR RENTERIA. Since Renteria’s so quiet and unassuming, he tends to exercise his influence subtly or behind the scenes. He hasn’t delivered the offense the Giants sought when they signed him to a two-year, $18.5 million contract, but players, coaches and front-office members rave about his professionalism and impact on the team, particularly among the Giants’ younger Latin American players.

RANDY JOHNSON. Wednesday night’s telecast partially illustrated why Johnson’s on this list. There was, caught by the camera, filling Matt Cain’s ear with something. Whatever it was, it was valuable. The Giants’ pitchers have benefited immeasurably from having a 300-game winner and five-time Cy Young Award recipient in their midst who has been so willing to share his wisdom. “This is a guy we all look up to,” Barry Zito said. “I want to pattern myself after him in many ways.”

PABLO SANDOVAL. Why not? He plays hard, he’s always having fun and he’s the most effervescent Giant since Willie Mays circa 1951. Moreover, he has an appreciation for McCovey, as he revealed when he recorded his first “Splash Hit” home run on the 50th anniversary of Stretch’s Major League debut.

BARRY ZITO. This is Zito’s 10th year in the Majors, so he knows a little something about how to act as a big leaguer. He has disseminated his wisdom among younger players in tactful yet definitive fashion. Moreover, Zito has gained respect by improving his performance while ignoring the fan abuse he has prompted.

– Chris Haft

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers