Results tagged ‘ John Bowker ’

Plenty to salvage for Giants in defeat

Saturday, May 8

NEW YORK — The Giants actually did a lot more right than they did wrong on Saturday. But their 5-4 loss to the New York Mets obscured that.

Many of their 44 plate appearances resulted in quality at-bats. Aubrey Huff made solid contact each time up. Aaron Rowand, after going 0-for-3, came through with a key single in the Giants’ two-run eighth inning that tied the score. Juan Uribe had a big two-out RBI single in the fourth. Eli Whiteside reached base safely in three of his four plate appearances, singling solidly twice.

Nate Schierholtz lined a pinch-hit single to lead off the eighth against Johan Santana and is now batting .471 (8-for-17) against left-handers. Facing Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez for the second game in a row, pinch-hitter John Bowker didn’t hit another home run, but managed to coax a 10th-inning walk.

As for struggling Pablo Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda still looked like he was fighting himself. But he wasn’t helpless, either. He blooped a fourth-inning single to right-center field and launched an eighth-inning sacrifice fly off Santana on a two-strike count. “That was a little relief for him,” manager Bruce Bochy said, summarizing Sandoval’s day. “I thought he took some better swings.”

Bochy will take all of this into account as he assembles Sunday’s lineup. He didn’t rule out resting Sandoval, who has started all 29 games at third base. Schierholtz likely will return to right field; his prowess against lefties — the Giants face Mets southpaw Oliver Perez — doesn’t hurt.

On to the pitching. Brandon Medders recorded what might have been his best outing of the season, working 2 2/3 scoreless innings to trim his ERA from 6.23 to 4.76. Jeremy Affeldt blew away the Mets for two innings, striking out two. The pair of eighth-inning hits he allowed were bloops that no fielder could reach. “That was the best I’ve felt all year,” Affeldt said. This is particularly encouraging for the Giants, who are relying on Affeldt to be a shutdown setup man.

“I was aggressive early [in the count],” he said. “I was getting strike one instead of falling behind early. I threw curveballs for strikes when I needed to and for balls when I needed to.”

About the only thing the Giants neglected to do was win.

– Chris Haft

Bowker may sit against lefties; Bochy backs Rowand

Tuesday, April 6

HOUSTON — John Bowker won the competition to be San Francisco’s Opening Day right fielder. That doesn’t mean he’ll be the everyday right fielder.

With left-hander Wandy Rodriguez starting Tuesday for Houston, Giants manager Bruce Bochy used switch-hitting Andres Torres in right field and sat the left-handed-batting Bowker, who contributed an RBI single to Monday night’s season-opening triumph.

Bochy insisted that it was too early to define this maneuvering as a platoon. But he did say, “Torres did such a great job against left-handers last year (.338) that early on he’s going to get some playing time against them.”

Torres went 0-for-3 with a walk. Meanwhile, Bowker grounded a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning off right-hander Matt Lindstrom.

Also, don’t expect Aaron Rowand to be rested in Wednesday’s series finale, just because he’s 0-for-10.

“It’s two games. It happens,” Bochy said. Reminding interrogators of Rowand’s excellent Cactus League hitting, Bochy added, “He just needs a hit to get going. But I don’t think he needs a day [off].”

– 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

Schierholtz picks himself up

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

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

Kieschnick excels, execution lags, legends reunite

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

Ford, Bowker highlight intrasquad game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Center fielder Darren Ford turned the Giants’ intrasquad game Monday into a one-inning personal showcase.

Widely considered the organization’s fastest player, Ford raced into the right-center field gap to catch Francisco Peguero’s line drive for the game’s first out. Ford then led off the inning’s bottom half by tripling to left-center field. He proceeded to score on Kevin Frandsen’s groundout.

Ford slid into third base, but he easily would have been safe had he gone in standing up. Not too many players possess enough speed to hit standup triples to left or left-center. This 24-year-old does.

“It’s always a blessing to go out there,” said Ford, who seems truly humble. “I was given a gift. I’m just using it any way I can, whether it’s offensively or defensively.”

Ford amassed nine triples (while stealing 35 bases) in 380 at-bats while hitting .300 for Class A San Jose. He acknowledged that he was thinking “third base” once he left the batter’s box. It’s a habit for him.

“I try tio go as far as I can until they stop me,” he said.

After Ford scored, John Bowker belted a drive down the right-field line that somehow stayed fair. It was an impressive home run by Bowker, a left-handed hitter who defied the percentages by victimizing left-handed pitcher Clayton Tanner.

That was it for the scoring as Richmond manager Andy Skeels’ “Armed Forces” defeated “Harper’s Heroes,” led by San Jose manager Brian Harper, 2-0 in three innings. Craig Clark, Tony Pena Jr., Dan Turpen, Craig Whitaker and Rafael Cova each pitched a shutout inning.

– Chris Haft

Lincecum makes another tuneup

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s February 26, not April 26 or September 26, so the sight of Tim Lincecum yielding line drives to John Bowker on back-to-back pitches Friday shouldn’t be alarming.

If anything, it was an encouraging sign from Bowker, who’s competing for a reserve outfield spot.

Bowker pounded a curveball that Lincecum dangled and a fastball that the two-time Cy Young Award winner left over the plate. Lincecum then coaxed a swing and a miss from Bowker on a breaking ball.

Overall, it was a matter of “getting work in” for Lincecum, who threw approximately 40 pitches to Bowker, Jesus Guzman, Brett Pill and Hector Sanchez. Lincecum is scheduled to start Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against Seattle.

*****

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez has insisted that his recovery from left shoulder surgery is ahead of schedule, and he’s about to prove it. Sanchez is expected to begin fielding ground balls Saturday in his first baseball-related activity since his Dec. 23 operation.

“Awesome” was how Sanchez described his feelings.

Sanchez still isn’t certain when he’ll begin swinging a bat, and he remains likely to open the season on the 15-day disabled list.

*****

Bruce Bochy, who possesses a dry and underappreciated wit, spun a good line when he delivered the news that catcher Eli Whiteside’s wife, Amy, gave birth to the couple’s first child, Whit.

Somebody asked whether the infant had gray hair, referring to Whiteside’s prematurely whitening locks. Bochy paused for a beat and replied, “DARK gray.”

*****

MLB Network will provide delayed telecasts of four Giants exhibitions from the Cactus League: March 16 vs. Cleveland, March 20 vs. Cincinnati, March 25 vs. Oakland and March 27 against the Los Angeles Angels.

– Chris Haft 

Tuesday’s Winter Meetings leftovers

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

Giants announce callups

PHILADELPHIA — Most of the transactions the Giants announced Tuesday were expected, as roster limits expanded to 40 across the Major Leagues.

First baseman-outfielder John Bowker, first baseman Jesus Guzman and right-hander Waldis Joaquin were recalled from Triple-A Fresno. The left-handed-batting Bowker and the right-handed-swinging Guzman will give manager Bruce Bochy more options off the bench, while Joaquin, a hard thrower, will deepen the bullpen.

Infielder Rich Aurilia and outfielder Andres Torres were activated from the 15-day disabled list, providing even more depth.

In a procedural move, infielder Emmanuel Burriss, whose season ended prematurely with a broken foot, was recalled from Fresno and moved to the 60-day disabled list. This cleared a roster spot for right-hander Brad Penny, whose Minor League contract was purchased. Penny will start Wednesday here, filling the No. 5 spot in the pitching rotation.

– Chris Haft

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