Results tagged ‘ Brian Wilson ’

Giants make sensible move with Cain

Early Thursday morning, Sept. 30

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants’ decision to move Matt Cain ahead a day in the pitching rotation so he can start Friday night’s opener of the climactic series against the San Diego Padres made complete sense.

The move wasn’t engineered solely to give Cain his usual four days’ rest. He actually has started almost as often on five days’ rest (14 times) this season as he has with four days in between (16). He owns a better record on four days’ rest (8-5) than on five (4-5). But Cain’s ERA and WHIP (2.57, 0.982) on five days’ rest are superior to his corresponding figures on four days’ rest (3.34, 1.153).

One reason to hasten Cain’s start by a day is to maximize the Giants’ chances of winning the first game and establishing control in the series. He has been San Francisco’s best pitcher since the All-Star break, as the club has captured 12 of his 14 starts. Personally, he’s 7-2, 2.48 in that span, compared to 6-8. 3.34 before the break.

The shift also keeps Cain and Tim Lincecum separated by two days in their respective turns. When it comes time to set the postseason pitching rotation, it’ll be that much easier for manager Bruce Bochy to make one little tweak and schedule them back-to-back — unless he and the rest of the braintrust decide that continuing to separate them with a left-hander throws enough different looks at the opposition.

Bottom line: These days, when Cain pitches, it seems like a sure win for the Giants.

*****

You, Joe or Josephine Fan, deserve a salute.

You’re showing up at AT&T Park in big numbers, but moreover, you’re enthusiastic as hell. The ballpark atmosphere is intoxicating (in a positive way), and it’s fun to be around.

Moreover, the players have noticed.

“We feed off of that every day,” said closer Brian Wilson, who’s one save shy of tying Rod Beck’s record of 48 set in 1993. “You can feel the crowd getting pumped up through the course of the game. … “They believe in us. And when you have that kind of fan support, it makes baseball a little easier.”

*****

We’ll give San Diego right-hander Mat Latos a break and assume that he’s a poor misguided young soul who just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

As you probably have heard by now, Latos told CBSsports.com’s Scott Miller, “Baseball works in funny ways. The only way I can honestly put it is, we could be like the Giants and go and change our whole lineup, put guys with ‘San Francisco Giants’ across their jerseys. We didn’t. We added two guys [Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada]. We’ve been the same team all year. We haven’t just gone and grabbed guys from other teams.”

So, in the world according to Latos, there’d be no trades, certainly no Trade Deadline, maybe even no Minor League callups — none of the time-honored practices that ballclubs engage in to improve themselves.

Again, maybe Latos was speaking simply out of frustration or sour grapes. One thing’s for sure: If current trends hold up, it looks like the Padres should have added more than two players!

– Chris Haft

Excruciating enough for you?

Monday, Aug. 30

SAN FRANCISCO — My main man Michael, a faithful and long-suffering (that’s redundant) Giants fan who resides in New York, informed me via e-mail that he couldn’t immediately fall asleep after Monday night’s 2-1 loss to Colorado.

Neither could I, though I’m more tired than disappointed. I’m awake because I feel compelled to share a few more game- and Giants-related items:

– It’s tough and probably unfair to second-guess manager Bruce Bochy for his timing in summoning Brian Wilson to replace Jonathan Sanchez in the ninth inning. Sanchez didn’t look good in walking Dexter Fowler to open the ninth after jumping ahead on the count, 0-2. Immediately bringing in Wilson, a two-time All-Star with 36 saves in 39 chances, was a totally defensible move — even though he threw 33 pitches over 1 2/3 innings on Sunday.

Except Carlos Gonzalez, the next batter who hit the fateful triple off Wilson, welcomed the departure of Sanchez, who struck him out twice and induced a comebacker.

“I was happy,” Gonzalez said. “[Sanchez] basically dominated the whole night.”

– Sanchez added only two walks to his National League-high total of 75 he took into the game. Too bad the second free pass he issued was the one to Fowler.

– With their fourth loss in five games, the Giants clinched a losing record in August. They’re 12-15 this month, on the heels of their glorious 20-8 July.

– The Rockies have won four of their last five games at AT&T Park.

– The Giants’ defense has been charged with 11 errors in the last five games after committing 11 errors in the previous 27 games.

No wonder Michael can’t sleep.

– Chris Haft

Defeat could pay dividends

Wednesday, Aug. 25

SAN FRANCISCO — The concept of a team winning a game that it can “build upon” is overrated. Any kind of triumph for a club needing one is significant only if it can win its next game.

But Wednesday’s crazy affair at AT&T Park was different. The Giants’ 12-11 loss to Cincinnati should have a definite residual effect: Impregnable, unshakable faith in themselves for the rest of the season.

They overcame a 10-1 deficit to take a brief 11-10 lead in the ninth inning. Never in their long, storied history had the Giants completed a comeback from a nine-run deficit, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Brian Wilson applied the “build on” phrase to the Giants’ surge.

“To be able to battle back like that, you can’t really hang your head,” he said. “You can only build on it, knowing that we can definitely score a lot of runs when we’re down.”

“Come playoff time, this whole game right here is a great experience for everybody,” first baseman Aubrey Huff said.

The Giants have been criticized for acquiring outfielders they might not necessarily need, namely Jose Guillen and Cody Ross. However, their influence has been obvious. They provide depth for the batting order (directly) and the bench (indirectly).

Suddenly, opposing pitchers have much more to think about when they confront the Giants.

“We’ve got some guys getting hot now,” Huff said.

Examples:

– Pablo Sandoval has rapped three hits or more in three consecutive games for the first time in his career. Suddenly, the Panda is batting a respectable .276 after languishing around .260 for much of the season.

– Juan Uribe has homered in back-to-back games.

– Freddy Sanchez went 9-for-11 in this series.

– Huff is batting .435 (10-for-23) during a six-game hitting streak.

That said, Thursday’s off-day appears to be well-timed for the Giants. Wednesday’s series finale against the Reds forced every reliever to pitch and surely drained the team as a whole. They can use a day to recharge, forget about baseball and return fresh on Friday for the weekend series against the Diamondbacks.

*****

Here’s a look at a day when the Giants almost wiped out a nine-run deficit. You knew I’d delve into history at some point, didn’t you?

Actually, they trailed by more than nine. Facing Pittsburgh at Seals Stadium on May 5, 1958, their first year in San Francisco, the Giants were on the short end of an 11-1 score entering the ninth inning. They proceeded to amass nine runs but left the bases loaded in an 11-10 loss.

*****

The Giants endured a scary moment in the third inning when Huff appeared to injure his left wrist. As it turned out, the pain was fleeting.

Cincinnati’s Paul Janish essentially bumped into Huff’s wrist as the San Francisco first baseman reached for pitcher Ramon Ramirez’s throw on a third-inning play. The semi-collision knocked Huff’s glove off his hand, which was fortunate. Had the mitt remained attached, Huff might have been hurt. “The best thing was that the glove went flying,” he said.

– Chris Haft

 

No squaring around for Posey

Friday, Aug. 6

ATLANTA — In case you were wondering, Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t consider asking Buster Posey to bunt in Friday night’s 11th inning.

Many hitters would have been asked to attempt a sacrifice after Aubrey Huff walked to open the 11th against Braves reliever Peter Moylan. Not Posey, the rookie catcher who quickly has become one of San Francisco’s most prominent offensive assets.

“You could be conservative and go that route,” Bochy said. “But he’s hitting cleanup for a reason.”

After Posey walked, the next batter, Juan Uribe, tried to bunt Moylan’s first pitch and fouled it off. Bochy explained that Uribe was bunting on his own.

If Bochy were faced with the situation 99,000 more times, he’d eschew bunting on each occasion. Partly because the next sacrifice bunt Posey lays down will be his first as a professional.

“I don’t know how many times Buster as bunted in his career,” Bochy said. “And Uribe’s effort wasn’t pretty.”

*****

The bullpen again played an integral part in the Giants’ triumph, allowing two hits, walking none and striking out five in four scoreless innings.

Brian Wilson preserved the decision for Javier Lopez, who pitched the 10th to earn his first victory as a Giant. Lopez has suited up for five games and has appeared in four of them. He also has yet to give up a run for San Francisco in 3 2/3 innings.

Despite not having pitched since last Friday, Sergio Romo worked the ninth after Chris Ray handled the eighth.

The Giants, who entered the game with the National League’s third-best relief ERA, reduced that figure to 3.27.

– Chris Haft 

 

All-Star chance for Huff; praise for McCovey

Sunday, July 4

DENVER — The Giants just might send a third representative to the All-Star Game. But don’t count on it.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that Aubrey Huff is being considered as a replacement in case an existing National League All-Star is sidelined by injury.

Huff possesses decent statistics, including a .286 batting average to go with a team-high 15 home runs and 47 RBIs.

Huff demonstrated his value Sunday even while going 0-for-3. After drawing a one-out walk in the eighth inning — granted, he should have been out on a foul popup, but Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta and third baseman Melvin Mora let the ball drop — he further prolonged the inning with a takeout slide that prevented second baseman Jonathan Herrera from making a double-play relay to first.

Huff truly enhances his value defensively, however. He can play first base and either of the outfield corners. He would come in handy during the later innings of the All-Star Game after numerous players have been removed.

“That’s what would help,” acknowledged Bochy, whose remarks on the subject indicated that he has discussed it with Philadelphia’s Charlie Manuel, the NL All-Star manager. It all makes perfect sense, since Bochy is one of Manuel’s All-Star coaches.

Huff, who has never made an All-Star team in nine previous Major League seasons, received a hearty endorsement from teammate Brian Wilson, the closer who was chosen for his second Midsummer Classic along with Tim Lincecum, now a three-time All-Star.

“I think a guy who we all know should be going with us is Aubrey Huff,” Wilson said. “I can’t explain what the guy has done for us in our lineup. … The guy is more deserving than me, I feel.”

But since any of the NL’s five Final Vote candidates (San Diego right-hander Heath Bell, Colorado outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Vottto, Atlanta left-hiander Billy Wagner and Washington third baseman Ryan ZimmermanI) is likely to be considered as a late addition before Huff, don’t bet on seeing him in Anaheim on July 13.

*****

Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, received his props during TBS’ MLB All-Star Selection Show.

While commenting on the potential unavailability of Atlanta outfielder Jason Heyward due to injury, former pitcher David Wells said, “Let’s just hope he does go. This guy is a stud. He’s done everything. He’s got the arm; he’s got the hits. He’s got that Willie McCovey-type swing.”

Wells respectfully added, for the benefit of younger viewers nationwide, “For those who don’t know Willie McCovey, he was a stud, too.”

– Chris Haft

Tidbits from Tuesday

Tuesday, May 25

SAN FRANCISCO — Shortstop Edgar Renteria’s right hamstring injury is extremely ominous.

Renteria’s 34. He struggled through elbow and shoulder ailments last year. He worked hard to return healthy this season, and his .326 batting average reflects the fruits of his labor.

But he missed two games in late April with discomfort in his left shoulder. Then he went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right groin. Renteria rejoined the lineup last Saturday in Oakland, and now comes his hamstring injury.

It’s fair to wonder whether Renteria’s body is breaking down. This is not at all a criticism of Renteria. It’s just a question that inevitably arises when an athlete his age, who has played as extensively and diligently as he has, encounters an alarming sequence of injuries.

So much for the retooled lineup manager Bruce Bochy used in the series-opening 4-2 victory over the Washington Nationals. Juan Uribe likely will return to shortstop, with Pablo Sandoval going back to third base and Aubrey Huff resuming his tenure at first base after his Tuesday stint in left field. John Bowker probably will play left, unless Nate Schierholtz’s bruised right shoulder has healed enough to enable him to start in right field. If that’s the case, Andres Torres, who appears destined to stay in the lineup for a while, will occupy left.

*****

After striking out the side in Tuesday’s ninth inning for his 11th save, Giants closer Brian Wilson has 27 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings. That’s a rate of 14.02 whiffs per nine innings. Remarkable.

*****

You may have read this elsewhere, but right-hander Zack Wheeler, the Giants’ first-round selection (sixth overall) in the First-Year Player Draft who’s pitching for low-Class A Augusta, went on the disabled list with what manager Dave Machemer called “a problem with a fingernail” on his throwing hand, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

In the Minors, a visit to the DL requires a minimum seven-day stay instead of the 15-day base in the Majors.

Wheeler, who turns 20 on Sunday, is 1-3 with a 5.03 ERA in seven starts, though he has improved somewhat in his last four outings (1-1, 3.95).

*****

Don’t mean to scare you, but had the Giants lost Tuesday, they would have dropped into fourth place in the National League West. Then again, with 118 games remaining, there’s no need to dwell on the standings. 

– Chris Haft

RF up for grabs; long look for Posey; new pact for Cain?

Friday, March 26
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Don’t assume that Nate Schierholtz will be the Giants’ Opening Day right fielder.

Schierholtz was virtually handed the right-field job before Spring Training began, but his pedestrian offense and John Bowker’s torrid hitting prompted the Giants’ braintrust to rethink matters.

Schierholtz is a superior defender who has proven capable of handling AT&T Park’s tricky acreage in right field. But he’s batting .234 with a .280 on-base percentage and 12 strikeouts in 47 at-bats this spring. By contrast, Bowker began Friday tied for the Major League lead with 18 RBIs — due largely to his seven-RBI outburst Wednesday against Kansas City — and is hitting .298 with a .596 slugging percentage and a team-high four home runs.

Bowker also has been strikeout-prone, with 11 in 57 at-bats.

Giants general manager Brian Sabean confirmed that Schierholtz had slipped from his all-but-certain starting perch.

“He’s struggled to the point where you have to pay due respect to the other guys who are going well, including Bowker,” Sabean said Friday.

The Giants’ other reserve outfield candidates are Fred Lewis, who’s batting .222 but has a .528 slugging percentage; Andres Torres, who’s hitting .289 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .578 slugging percentage; and Eugenio Velez, a .298 hitter.<p/>

Referring to the preponderance of qualified outfielders, Sabean said, “Maybe our bigger challenge is how many infielders we keep over outfielders.” He cited left fielder Mark DeRosa, who can play every infield spot, and Velez, who made his first Cactus League appearance at second base Friday and booted a grounder for an error, as “dual-position guys” who can provide flexibility.

*****

Sabean also said that the Giants will keep Buster Posey with them through the conclusion of the exhibition season — though that doesn’t necessarily mean that the organization’s top prospect will make the Opening Day roster.

Reading between the lines of what Sabean said, it seems — <i>seems</i> — that Posey will begin the season with Triple-A Fresno. If that’s the case, Posey probably will join the Giants at the first sign of trouble.

“We’ll keep him to the end,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that the actual decision will need to go to the end. I think, internally, we know what we’re going to do, but obviously we’re going to hold that close to the vest because it’s subject to change and you never know what might happen.”

With the Giants trailing, 3-2, in Friday’s eighth inning against the Los Angeles Angels, Posey hit a windblown ground-rule double that tied the score and lifted his average to .415 with nine RBIs. He has a .442 on-base percentage and a .585 slugging percentage. Manager Bruce Bochy said that there are no plans to try Posey at any position other than catcher and first base.

*****

Friday ended with no official announcement regarding the reported contract extensions for relievers Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt. This prompted speculation that the Giants are engineering an extension for a third player.

A likely suspect is right-hander Matt Cain, whose ridiculously affordable $6.25 club option for 2011 surely will be picked up by the Giants barring a disaster. It would behoove the Giants to reach an agreement with Cain. Otherwise, they’d enter the 2011-12 offseason facing the burden of negotiating with both Cain and Tim Lincecum, whose two-year deal will have expired.

– Chris Haft

Posey (yawn) does it again

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey’s feats of Cactus League skill have become almost commonplace.

Friday, Posey’s two-out, eighth-inning double off Cleveland left-hander Tony Sipp drove in Matt Downs with Friday’s tiebreaking run as the Giants proceeded to a 7-6 victory over a Cleveland Indians split squad.

Posey again displayed the almost preternatural calm that distinguishes him from most rookies. He fell behind on the count 0-2 before a passed ball sent Matt Downs, who drew a one-out walk, to second base.

Posey then whacked a low curveball into left field and hustled into second base with a slide as Downs came home.

With his .382 batting average and ability to play first base as well as catch, Posey is increasing the Giants’ temptation to keep him on the Opening Day roster.

Manager Bruce Bochy praised Posey’s two-strike approach. “He doesn’t panic,” Bochy said. “He really kept his composure.”

*****

Eugenio Velez received a chance to prove himself in center field. The results were favorable — mostly.

Velez went 3-for-3, drew a walk and scored twice. He also recorded three consecutive outs spanning the first and second innings, making nice running catches on drives hit by Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns.

But Velez seemed to drift under a couple of seventh-inning fly balls that were wind-aided and fell for extra-base hits. Maybe the breeze rendered the plays impossible. But the impression here was that a more polished outfielder would have come closer to making the catches.

It’s believed that Velez and Andres Torres are in competition for the same reserve outfield spot. They’re both fast, they both switch-hit and they both can play all three outfield spots. Torres appears to be the better defender. But Velez, who’s out-hitting Torres .367-.290, may have an edge on offense.

*****

Travis Ishikawa, who has overcome torn ligaments in his left foot, made his first Cactus League appearance as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning. Ishikawa was robbed of a hit by first baseman Matt LaPorta’s diving play. Bochy said that Ishikawa will substitute at first base Saturday against Cincinnati and will start Sunday against Arizona.

*****

Brian Wilson, who has been pitching in the middle innings, received his first “save opportunity” Friday and struck out the side.

Wilson said that though it’s only the Cactus League, “you still have to treat it as a save situation. Whether it counts or not, you still have to get ready.”

– 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

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

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