Results tagged ‘ Eugenio Velez ’
Monday, July 26
Eugenio Velez sat in the visitors’ clubhouse at Chase Field after the Giants’ 3-2, 10-inning victory Sunday, dressed in street clothes and wearing a serene look. He probably felt lucky to be alive after surviving the concussion he sustained Saturday when Pat Burrell’s foul line drive struck him on the left side of the head.
The rest of the Giants were minding their own business, engaging in the hustle and bustle of preparing for a getaway day flight back to San Francisco. Since the Giants had won, the clubhouse stereo was happily blaring some dreadful-sounding music.
Suddenly Matt Cain approached Velez and asked him a question. “Is that too loud?” Cain asked, referring to the music’s volume. Velez shook his head, acknowledging things were fine.
But it certainly was nice of Cain to ask, since everybody knew Velez’s head was still pounding from the concussion. And it was another of the often unseen demonstrations of the bond that teammates share.
This might be the season’s most hilarious statistic so far. Travis Ishikawa, who hit .349 at home and .162 on the road last year, has undergone a complete reversal. Ishikawa’s currently hitting .368 on the road and .267 at home.
“Well, now they’re going to ask me why can’t I hit at home,” Ishikawa jokingly said.
He added, “You have a lot better chance to hit on the road. AT&T Park, no matter how you look at it, is not a hitter’s park.”
— Chris Haft
Friday, April 23
SAN FRANCISCO — Fully expecting an answer along the lines of, “Are you kidding?”, I asked manager Bruce Bochy before Friday’s game if he has considered trying Nate Schierholtz as a leadoff hitter during Aaron Rowand’s stay on the disabled list.
Somewhat surprisingly, Bochy said that he has indeed thought about batting Schierholtz leadoff. After San Francisco’s 4-1 victory Friday over the St. Louis Cardinals, Bochy dropped no hints regarding who would lead off Saturday against right-hander Adam Wainwright, St. Louis’ co-ace. Don’t be surprised if it’s Schierholtz, whose playing time in right field has increased lately (though that’s partly due to Rowand’s absence).
The case for Schierholtz:
— He’s hitting .320, and his on-base percentage is .414. Schierholtz has drawn three walks in 30 plate appearances, which isn’t much. But it’s a heck of an improvement over his career ratio. Entering this season, Schierholtz had walked 21 times in 506 plate appearances.
— He’s fast.
— Eugenio Velez, who has been leading off against right-handers since Rowand went on the DL, is in a 1-for-16 skid.
— It’s fair to say that Bochy is reluctant to use Andres Torres, Friday’s leadoff man, against right-handers. Torres, a switch-hitter, batted .210 off righties last year and is 0-for-8 against them this season.
Schierholtz has never started a game at leadoff during his Major League career. But there’s a first time for everything.
— Chris Haft
Monday, March 29
PHOENIX — Don’t assume that Nate Schierholtz will easily give up in the Giants’ right field competition.
Schierholtz, whose status as the likely Opening Day right fielder was eroded by his inability to hit consistently, smacked an RBI triple and a double, drew a walk and scored three runs Monday in the Giants’ 8-6 exhibition victory over Milwaukee. “It was good for Nate to get a few knocks,” said bench coach Ron Wotus, who managed the final three innings after Bruce Bochy left to attend to a personal matter.
Schierholtz also played the entire game in right field, though that wasn’t tremendously significant.
Here’s what was significant: John Bowker, Schierholtz’s apparent chief rival for the job, kept hitting. Bowker hiked his team-leading totals to five home runs and 20 RBIs with a two-run homer in the fifth inning. He also doubled in the first, helping lift his batting average to .308. Schierholtz is at .241, but his superior defensive skill will continue to be a factor.
Bowker has a Minor League option remaining, but he could make the Opening Day roster if Fred Lewis’ ribcage injury lingers and forces him onto the disabled list.
The afternoon’s most entertaining hitter, however, had to be Eugenio Velez.
Velez cranked a long, long, l-o-n-g drive past the right-field foul pole in the first inning off Milwaukee starter Dave Bush. Velez’s clout was ruled foul.
Undaunted, Velez crushed the next pitch to straightaway right field for a legitimate home run. Everybody knows that Velez is capable of spectacular deeds. But this?
“You don’t see that often, do you?” Wotus said. “We were talking about it in the dugout. [Shawon] Dunston said usually when you do that, it takes the air out of you.”
Historical/personal notes: Ed Bailey followed a foul home run with a “real” homer on the next pitch in Game 162 of the 1962 season to open the Giants’ scoring in their 2-1 victory over Houston that put them in a three-game playoff with the Dodgers. Somewhere I have a collection of highlight tapes that includes Willie McCovey performing the foul-fair/back-to-back act in the mid-1960s (I have a feeling he did this more than once).
And I distinctly recall attending a Giants-Padres doubleheader at Candlestick in 1974 or ’75 when Randy Moffitt faced Bobby Tolan with the bases loaded. Tolan yanked one foul into the upper deck before clobbering Moffitt’s next pitch almost as far, and this time fair, for a grand slam en route to another Giants loss.
To nobody’s surprise, center fielder Darren Ford won this year’s Harry S. Jordan Award in voting by his teammates, the coaches and the athletic training staff.
The award is given to the player in his first Major League camp whose performance and dedication best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit. Past winners include Tim Lincecum (2007), Pedro Feliz (2001) and Russ Ortiz (1998).
Ford, 24, was San Francisco’s sensation of the spring, impressing all observers with his .500 batting average (10-for-20) and sprinter’s speed.
Reassigned to Minor League camp last Friday, Ford is likely to begin the season with Double-A Richmond.
— Chris Haft
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
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
MESA, Ariz. — Jonathan Sanchez distinguished himself last year by pitching a no-hitter and ranking fourth among National League pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings and opponents’ batting average.
But that wasn’t all.
Opponents stole 24 bases while Sanchez was on the mound, the NL’s highest total. Though the responsibility for some those thefts rested with Giants catchers, basestealers undoubtedly capitalized on Sanchez’s leisurely pitching motion.
Toward the end of last season, Sanchez began working more intently with pitching coach Dave Righetti on improving his slide-step to home plate and his pickoff move to first base. Sanchez’s improvement with the latter was evident against the Chicago Cubs in Wednesday’s first inning, when he picked off Ryan Theriot.
“I had too many stolen bases last year,” said Sanchez, who practiced his move in the offseason in front of a mirror.
The successful pickoff contributed to the impression that Sanchez is poised for a breakout season. He blanked Chicago for three innings in the Giants’ 5-1 victory and is unscored upon over five innings in two exhibition appearances.
“My fastball was jumping out of my hand,” said Sanchez, who also expressed satisfaction with his offspeed pitches.
Sanchez, who’s expected to start the Giants’ April 9 home opener against Atlanta, said that he’s not yet ready for the regular season. “But I’m close,” he said. “Almost there.”
The competition for reserve roles on the Opening Day roster is too close to call at this juncture. Most of the contenders are playing well, and the remaining ones have not eliminated themselves.
John Bowker is batting .333 (6-for-18) with a team-high 11 total bases. He also has a .611 slugging percentage and a .429 on-base percentage.
Eugenio Velez and Kevin Frandsen are hitting .385 and .357, respectively.
Fred Lewis is hitting only .214 but has a .571 slugging percentage, thanks to a home run and a triple. Similarly, Andres Torres owns a .250 batting average but a .500 slugging percentage.
Manager Bruce Bochy knows that the Giants’ 7-1 Cactus League record is largely meaningless, though he pointed out that it does carry some significance.
“The one thing it indicates is that the kids are playing well,” he said, referring to San Francisco’s rookie corps. “They’re playing half the game and doing a great job.”
Bochy added that this will end after the weekend. Next week, he said, San Francisco’s regulars will begin playing together more frequently.
Right-hander Joe Martinez is experiencing soreness in his right shoulder and is expected to undergo an MRI to determine the source of his discomfort.
— Chris Haft
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t a regular-season Giants-Dodgers game, but rookie right fielder Roger Kieschnick sensed that he probably made a lot of fans happy on Monday.
With the score tied 2-2 in the 10th inning, Kieschnick cleanly fielded Angel Berroa’s single and made a strong, one-hop throw home that retired Ronnie Belliard, who was trying to score from second base. In the bottom of the inning, Kieschnick drilled a leadoff single and was replaced by pinch-runner Francisco Peguero, who scored on Ryan Rohlinger’s long single to right field to give the Giants a 3-2 victory.
Kieschnick, who excelled for San Francisco’s Class A San Jose affiliate last year, caught a whiff of hostility when the younger Giants would confront the Dodgers’ California League representatives, the Inland Empire 66ers. “They hated us just as much as anything,” Kieschnick said. “You definitely got a sense of the rivalry.”
Kieschnick, who’ll probably begin the season at Double-A Richmond, said that he was fully prepared mentally to handle Berroa’s single and Belliard’s fruitless dash home. “That play goes over and over in your mind before it happens,” he said.
The Giants went hitless in their first five at-bats with runners on third base and less than two out, which didn’t please manager Bruce Bochy. “Our execution wasn’t very good today,” he said.
Example: Eugenio Velez grounded out to first base on the first pitch with runners on second and third and one out in the second inning. “He was too aggressive,” Bochy said. Noting that Velez hacked at a breaking ball from Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, Bochy added, “We have to do a little better job of pitch selection there.”
Velez atoned in the fourth inning by dumping a two-out RBI single to center field following John Bowker’s triple off Clayton Kershaw.
Many “you-had-to-be-there” moments are often not worth retelling. But since this involved two Giants legends, I’ll give it a try.
Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, arrived on the scene Monday for his annual Spring Training visit. McCovey was beginning to leave the training complex, walking slowly on his crutches. Then he suddenly made a U-turn and headed for the Giants’ clubhouse, where Willie Mays — who also needs no introduction — was seated at his usual perch.
McCovey entered the clubhouse and headed directly for Mays. “Hey, Buck!” McCovey called, addressing Mays by the nickname he went by in his playing days. “Where’s my book?” Mays, whose recently released biography is soaring on the best-seller lists, laughed as 1,181 home runs shook hands.
The Giants’ shortage of first basemen worsened as Aubrey Huff remained home with an illness. Kevin Frandsen, who played 17 games at first base last season for Triple-A Fresno, started and played six innings capably. Buster Posey appeared in his second game in a row at first base, though he later switched to catcher.
Travis Ishikawa, recovering from torn ligaments in his left foot, took batting practice on the field for the first time. But Bochy wasn’t certain when Ishikawa, who had been expected to back up Huff, will be ready to play. Meanwhile, Frandsen, Posey, Matt Downs and Brett Pill will play first whenever Huff rests or is unavailable.
Mark DeRosa, who tested his surgically repaired left wrist by swinging off Minor League pitchers Sunday, felt fine and should play his first exhibition game Tuesday or Wednesday.
— Chris Haft
INDIANAPOLIS — Each manager attending the Winter Meetings participates in a half-hour question-and-answer session with reporters. Here are highlights from Giants manager Bruce Bochy’s stint Tuesday:
— On Eugenio Velez’s on-base percentage, which has been lower than desired for a leadoff man (the role he’s expected to play in 2010): “It’s something to work on. We know how important that leadoff guy is in getting on and on-base percentage. Your hope is the experience of getting playing time is going to help increase his on-base percentage and his discipline at the plate and his hitting ability. This kid just continues to get better and better. So that’s part of the growing process for young players, especially a leadoff hitter. I think the more Eugenio leads off, you hope that he does get better and finds more ways to get on base for you.”
— On Edgar Renteria’s position in the batting order if Freddy Sanchez bats second: “Where we are right now, Sánchez could hit second or third. You know, it’s not etched in stone that he will be our No. 2 hitter depending where we are at going into Spring Training. It’s nice to have that flexibility with him, because I think he would be a pretty good No. 3-hole hitter, and I think he does a pretty good job in the 2-hole. I think we could put Edgar in the 2-hole, who has a lot of experience in there, and drop Freddy to the 3-hole.”
— Where does Fred Lewis fit in? “Right now, Fred is one of our outfielders who will compete for a spot with John Bowker and Nate Schierholtz, Velez, (Andres) Torres. I know that’s a lot there, but where we’re at right now, he’s in the mix with the other guys.”
— Any chance you might consider Fred as the leadoff guy, since he had a decent on-base percentage? “I put him there last year. Fred actually came up to me. He wasn’t too comfortable leading off, and so I took him out of that spot. But that was my hope for him, to lead off, because he does see pitches. He does get on base. You know, he has speed and he could be a good leadoff hitter, but the guy has to want to do it and be comfortable. He admitted that he was not real comfortable with it.”
— How do you see right field playing out? “It’s going to be competitive. Nate obviously is going to be in the mix there. He’s playing winter ball and doing a nice job in Puerto Rico. My guess is it will be deep into spring before we know how we are going to have those guys placed in the outfield.”
— Is there any reason for optimism about Aaron Rowand putting up better numbers overall? “For me, Aaron had a good first half. Second half, he did tail off a little bit. But really, going into probably mid-August, his numbers were pretty good. … To have a normal year for him, that might be hitting .270 (with)15 to 20 home runs and driving in 75, 80 runs. Sure, I expect Aaron to have those kind of numbers at the end of the year.”
— You mentioned last year around this time that he may play fewer games, and he did. Seeing that he did tail off again, might you have the same mindset? “Yeah, I have talked about this, too. I haven’t with Aaron, but I did try to call him the other day. With the tailoff the last couple of years, it’s something I’ll sit down with Aaron this spring and talk to him about, maybe try to give him a break now and then in that first half to see if that can help him in the second half.”
— Chris Haft
INDIANAPOLIS — To nobody’s great surprise, Giants general manager Brian Sabean said Monday in his daily Winter Meetings briefing that Eugenio Velez and Andres Torres will enter Spring Training as the leading candidates to bat leadoff.
As was the case with most spots in the batting order, leadoff presented problems for the Giants last season. Their No. 1 hitters scored 94 runs, 14th in the National League and eight fewer than the league average. They hit .258, 12th in the NL and 14 points below the league average. Their .312 on-base percentage, good for 14th, fell .028 short of the league average.
Many readers have pointed out that Velez, despite his brief second-half surge, would be a poor choice to hit leadoff, given his .308 on-base percentage last season. Torres accumulated only 152 at-bats in 75 games, but .343 his on-base percentage outshone Velez’s. Torres also struggled to stay healthy, going on the disabled list twice with left hamstring strains.
Sabean mentioned that none of this takes into account what position Velez or Torres would play. Bruce Bochy will have a chance to discuss this issue further when he holds a question-and-answer session (as all Major League managers do at the Winter Meetings) on Tuesday.
As managing general partner Bill Neukom concentrated on another activity but sat within earshot in the Giants’ suite, Sabean reiterated that the club’s payroll would remain “in the realm of last year,” probably in the low $90 million range. Due partly to the settlement the Giants will have to reach with Tim Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who’s eligible for salary arbitration for the first time, they’ll need every penny (except Brad).
As the Giants continued searching for a catcher to play regularly while top prospect Buster Posey continues his apprenticeship, Sabean ruled out two possible fill-ins already on the roster: Pablo Sandoval and Ryan Garko.
The Giants have no desire to expose Sandoval to catching’s physical rigors, which could hamper their best offensive performer at the plate. “It’s too high a risk,” Sabean said. Sandoval started three games behind the plate last year, when he led San Francisco with a .330 average, 25 home runs and 90 RBIs. He caught 11 times in 41 games as a rookie in 2008.
Garko won the 2003 Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top collegiate catcher while attending Stanford University. He has never caught an inning in his four-year Major League career, though he caught 141 games in the Minors.
Speculation that the Los Angeles Angels might be pursuing outfielder Jason Bay, regarded as one of the market’s few premier free agents, sparked spinoff gossip: Were the Angels to sign Bay, they could be compelled to trade outfielder Juan Rivera.
Rivera would nicely fit the Giants’ needs for a proven hitter. The 31-year-old hit .287 with 25 home runs and 88 RBIs in 138 games last season. Moreover, he’ll earn only $4.25 million next year and $5.25 million in 2011. But the combination of Rivera’s skill and relatively modest salary might prompt the Angels to demand a package of players beyond the Giants’ capabilities.
— Chris Haft
SAN FRANCISCO — Truly rabid Giants fans still pondering What Might Have Been in 2009 can torture themselves further as the World Series begins Wednesday by recalling San Francisco’s efforts against the Philadelphia Phillies, who hope to capture their second consecutive Fall Classic.
The Giants were 4-3 against Philadelphia and easily could have fared better. They lost twice by one run in a Sept. 1-3 series at Citizens Bank Park. San Francisco took three of four from the Phils July 30-Aug. 2 at AT&T Park, emboldening those who suggested that the Giants would be tough to face in a short postseason series.
A game-by-game look at the season series showed that the Giants were alternately at their most impressive and most vulnerable against the National League champions:
July 30: Pablo Sandoval said he wasn’t acting out of revenge toward Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, who left him off the NL All-Star team. But it sure looked like it as Sandoval homered, doubled and drove in four runs in a 7-2 Giants victory. Jonathan Sanchez turned in a typical performance, lasting only 5 2/3 innings but allowing just three hits while striking out seven.
July 31: The punchless Giants showed up, mustering four hits in a 5-1 loss. Then again, they faced the formidable Cliff Lee, who allowed two runners to reach scoring position while throwing a complete game. San Francisco trailed 1-0 when Brandon Medders and Jeremy Affeldt endured rare struggles as they combined to issue three walks and hit a batter in Philadelphia’s three-run seventh.
Aug. 1: Tim Lincecum was nothing short of magnificent, striking out eight and retiring the final 10 batters he faced in an eight-inning effort. Juan Uribe drove in the game’s only runs with a pair of sacrifice flies off Joe Blanton in a 2-0 Giants victory. Lincecum improved to 12-3 and Brian Wilson pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save.
Aug. 2: Trailing 3-1 against Cole Hamels, the undaunted Giants scored three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to pull away and win, 7-3. Eugenio Velez contributed to both uprisings, blooping a two-out single and scoring on Freddy Sanchez’s two-run double in the fifth before stroking a two-run single in the sixth.
Sept. 1: The Giants arrived in Philadelphia tied with Colorado for the Wild Card lead, but Hamels precipitated their September slide by allowing two hits in a 1-0 decision. Sanchez struck out eight in six innings, lapsing only when Shane Victorino singled leading off the fourth inning and scored on Ryan Howard’s one-out double. Rich Aurilia opened the ninth with a pinch-hit single but pinch-runner Andres Torres was thrown out trying to steal second base, ending the rally before it began.
Sept. 2: Brad Penny dominated in his Giants debut, surrendering five hits in eight shutout innings. The resurgent Torres hit a fifth-inning single to open the scoring before Uribe and Aaron Rowand delivered back-to-back homers in a three-run sixth to hasten San Francisco’s 4-0 win.
Sept. 3: An instant classic ended in frustration for the Giants. Lincecum struck out 11 in seven innings while allowing two runs and four hits. But Pedro Martinez was slightly better, blanking San Francisco for seven innings after Velez homered to open the game. After the Cy Young Award winners left the stage, the Giants put runners on the corners with two outs in the ninth against Brad Lidge before pinch-hitter Fred Lewis grounded into a force play to end Philadelphia’s 2-1 triumph.
— Chris Haft