Results tagged ‘ Madison Bumgarner ’

Time for Giants to lower expectations

SAN FRANCISCO — After four consecutive winning seasons and two World Series titles in the last three years, the Giants have fallen from their perch alongside the Major Leagues’ elite ballclubs.

Only a dramatic reversal will enable them to finish .500 this year. As for returning to the postseason, that’s pure fantasy.

The Giants are playing without any apparent sense of urgency, perhaps because they have virtually no hope of contending in the National League West. New additions Jeff Francoeur, who reported to Triple-A Fresno, and Kensuke Tanaka might marginally improve the club’s depth. But they probably won’t accomplish more than that. Giants general manager Brian Sabean indicated to San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami that trying to upgrade the roster with major trades is pointless, since the organization lacks the surplus of prospects necessary to engineer deals. Moreover, the team’s performance doesn’t warrant acquiring a couple of handy veterans to accelerate a push for the division title.

Nor should the Giants adopt a scorched-earth policy and gut the roster. There’s always next year, and with it a fresh opportunity to compete in the always-balanced NL West. But implementing the quick fix of free-agent signings might be complicated, because the Giants’ payroll flexibility is limited. The likely departures of impending free agent Tim Lincecum (2013 salary: $22 million) and Barry Zito ($11 million net savings, if the club declines its $18 million option on his 2014 contract and pays him a $7 million buyout) will have limited economic impact, given the raises that Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Pablo Sandoval and Sergio Romo will receive.

Moreover, the potential free-agent class isn’t oozing with talent. There probably will be few helpful performers available besides Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, Brian McCann and the Giants’ own Hunter Pence. The Giants might be wise to forge a deal with Pence, the intense right fielder who seems sincere about wanting to stay here.

Or they can trade him in the next few weeks, which would mark the third year in a row for Pence to switch teams before the July 31 Trade Deadline. A critical factor here, obviously, is determining Pence’s signability.

That leads to the biggest name the Giants could jettison: Lincecum. The notion of trading the charismatic right-hander sounds almost blasphemous, given his popularity and everything he has done for the franchise. But this is a business. The Giants might be able to receive a useful prospect or two in exchange for Lincecum, who has value despite his 4.61 ERA and 1.407 WHIP. At least one American League contender has expressed interest in Lincecum as a reliever, the role he filled spectacularly in last year’s postseason. It’s not known whether that team has proposed a trade to the Giants involving Lincecum. But if one club has hatched this idea, it’s likely that at least a couple of others share that thought.

The schedule offers a shred of hope. The Giants play their first nine games at AT&T Park after the All-Star break. A strong homestand could advance San Francisco to the fringes of the division race.

But the mathematics of returning to respectability — widely defined as a .500 record — are daunting. To climb to .500 by the end of the season, the Giants must finish 41-31. That’s a winning percentage of .569, a pace the Giants haven’t come close to approaching recently. Remember, San Francisco owns the Major Leagues’ worst record (17-35) since May 14.

Reaching .500 sooner would require vast improvement. The Giants would have to win 13 of their next 16 games to climb to .500 by the end of the month. Push back the deadline to Sept. 1, Game No. 136. The Giants must go 28-18 from Thursday until then to hit the .500 level.

Next, forget the arithmetic and employ common sense. The Giants have done nothing — nothing — to indicate that they’re capable of executing such a turnaround.

Their pitching staff is no longer elite. The starting rotation has become unreliable. Matt Cain, once indomitable, is decidedly vulnerable. Nobody wants to admit that Cain is injured to some degree. If he isn’t hurt, he has forgotten how to pitch. Anybody who have followed his career know that’s not the case.

Lincecum and Zito can’t win on the road. Rookie left-hander Mike Kickham has good-looking stuff but an incomplete understanding of how to use it. Only Madison Bumgarner has maintained his excellence, and he can’t do more than pitch every fifth day.

Injuries and ineffectiveness have dulled the bullpen. The Giants miss Santiago Casilla, who hasn’t quite recovered from knee surgery. Ryan Vogelsong’s fractured right hand robbed the relief corps of Chad Gaudin, who’s in the rotation. Manager Bruce Bochy thus must rely on a group that includes rookies Jake Dunning and Sandy Rosario. Both have shown flashes of competence and could turn out to be keepers. But such inexperience does nothing for a World Series title defense.

On to the offense, or lack of it. Collectively, the Giants have misplaced the situational-hitting skills that sustained them in last year’s second half. They went 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position Tuesday, ending a 16-game stretch in which they hadn’t collected more than two hits in those instances. Overall, their .250 batting average with runners in scoring position actually places them in the top half of the NL team rankings. But it’s a sharp decrease from the .296 RISP average they compiled after last year’s All-Star break.

Individually, numerous players are is struggling to some degree. Sandoval is batting .140 (8-for-57) since returning from the disabled list. Pence is in an .098 skid (5-for-51) over his last 13 games. Gregor Blanco is in a .136 tailspin (6-for-44) spanning 12 games. Fellow outfielder Andres Torres’ past nine appearances have yielded a .154 average (4-for-26).

Monday, the Giants’ pitching excelled but the offense floundered. Tuesday, the offense improved while the pitching regressed. Wednesday, nothing went right. The Giants insist that they get along great, and that’s the way it seems when reporters are allowed in the clubhouse. But they can’t coordinate their efforts on the field.

That’s a glaring sign of a poor team. At the current rate, we’ll see more in the next couple of months.

Chris Haft

KNBR catches Posey’s thoughts

Wednesday, Feb. 1

SAN FRANCISCO — Virtually everything Buster Posey does during the next few months will make news. That includes his radio appearance Wednesday on KNBR, the Giants’ flagship station.

Posey said nothing outlandish or overly revealing during his 15-minute question-and-answer session with adept morning hosts Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey. But Giants fans are hungry for anything involving Posey, the gifted catcher whose 2011 season ended in a collision resulting from a wayward slide near home plate by Florida’s Scott Cousins. Posey painfully emerged with a fracture and torn ligaments in his left leg.

Posey, the National League Rookie of the Year during the Giants’ charmed 2010 season, is poised to return behind the plate. He and San Francisco’s medical staff aren’t sure how his ankle will handle the rigors of catching, and Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said that Posey might spend ample time at first base to keep his bat in the lineup and avoid the inevitable physical erosion of his primary position.

Here’s what’s certain right now: Posey, who became a father of twins while sidelined, is eager for any and all challenges. That became clear in his chat on the Murph & Mac show. You can hear the interview in its entirety on KNBR’s website, or you can read the following excerpts:

(Posey will encounter plenty of adoration and love at Saturday’s FanFest at AT&T Park. Does he find it overwhelming?) “I don’t know if it’s overwhelming. It’s a blast. I know it’s something we all look forward to. As much as it is to get the fans fired up, it gets us fired up as well. And we enjoy every bit of it.”

(On fatherhood) “It’s great, it really is. I was just telling my wife the other day that it’s going to be quite an adjustment for me once the season gets going and I’m away a lot and traveling because I’ve been with them a lot these first six months. I’ve enjoyed it; I definitely have.”

(Was that the silver lining to your injury?) “Oh, there’s no question. It’s funny how things work out. Obviously, if I could have avoided the injury, there’s no doubt I would have. But the timing of it, for where we were in our life, really worked out well. Because looking back on it, the team was in Miami when my wife gave birth, so there’s a pretty good chance I wouldn’t have been able to make it back in time. So I felt really fortunate to be there and to have as much time (with the children) as I’ve had these first six months.”

(How much recovery time has he spent in a catcher’s crouch) “I’ve done as much as I think I can without getting in there and playing some games. I think that’s the next step, and fortunately that’s not too far away with Spring Training right around the corner. So I’m very, very happy and pleased with where I am. Obviously, the game situation’s going to be a little bit different, but I’m optimistic and positive that it’s going to be great, just like the rest of this recovery process has been.”

(What were the targets head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner and his staff set for you? Are you 100 percent healthy?) “The 100 percent question, it’s tough to say without … To me, you can tell if you’re 100 percent if you can catch 10 games in a row. That’s still to be determined and I’m not sure if that’s realistic or not, but I’m going to do everything I can to be out there as much as I can. But to answer your question about hitting the targets, I think we’ve done that throughout the whole process for the past whatever it’s been — eight months, nine months. Whatever Dave’s laid out there, I feel like we’ve met that and exceeded it at times.”

(Have you been able to block pitches in the dirt?) “Yeah, actually, when I was finishing up my rehab in Arizona in October, I did a little bit of blocking, just straightforward blocking. To be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised, because I didn’t think I was going to be that far along at that point. I was hoping just to be taking some BP on the field and running. For my ankle to respond that well, at that point I was happy. Again, I’m positive, but at the same time I want to make sure I keep in my mind that there might be some bumps. Once the games start going, there might be some soreness or whatnot. But I just have to keep that positive attitude and continue pushing forward.”

(If you can’t catch 10 games in a row, are you comfortable with playing first base?) “Yeah, definitely. I think that when I got called up in 2010 and played whatever it was, 30 or 40 games over there at first, just having that in my back pocket will be nice for this year, knowing that I do have a little bit of experience over there.”

(Mike Krukow said you take pride in catching the pitching staff. Would it be difficult to give up those reins? Is it a challenge mentally, more than you’d like, to give it up?) “I don’t know if it’ll be a challenge, because I think that I have to do whatever’s going to be best for the team and what’s best for myself in the long haul of the season. We know it’s a long year. But you’re exactly right. That’s the part about catching I enjoy the most — the thinking, working with the staff and how lucky I am to work with these guys, the caliber of arms that we have. I think you could ask any catcher in the league and the part about catching they enjoy is that, kind of being in control and working through tough situations. Nobody really likes taking a foul tip off the shoulder or anything, but that’s part of it sometimes.”

(So the number of times you catch is something you and Bruce Bochy will discuss. Are you going to fight him or try to argue with him about some things, kind of like you did with your mom and dad to stay up late?) “Oh, I never argued with my mom and dad.”

(Or does what the skipper says, goes?) “I really do think it’s hard to answer that question just because so much is still to be determined. It’s just going to be a matter of how my ankle responds. Like I said before, I want to be behind the plate as much as I can. But I have to be smart about it at the same time.”

(How do you anticipate Spring Training will be different for you?) “… I think the biggest difference will be that there is going to be a schedule, I guess, or more so of a game plan of how much I’m going to catch, when I’m going to catch, because ultimately the most important thing is being ready to go on Opening Day in Arizona. Whatever we have to do in Spring Training to get to that point, that’s what we’re going to do.”

(Do you think last year’s team was on its way to the postseason? Was the late-season collapse frustrating to watch? Did you observe something?) “I think sometimes you just can’t explain why things happen. That’s the beauty of this game. It’s a crazy game. It’s hard to explain sometimes. I do know that I was in the clubhouse and I saw how bad the guys wanted it and how hard they were preparing before games and what they were doing after games, watching video and stuff. It was tough. It was tough on everybody. But it’s a new year now and we’re excited to get back to work and hopefully win as many games as we can this season and get back to the playoffs.”

(On the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan) “I haven’t had a chance to play against Melky, but playing against Pagan a little bit, he’s a tough out. He’s a guy who’s going to grind out at-bats. He’s not somebody I really enjoyed seeing coming to the plate, because I felt like if you get him down to two strikes, he’s going to chip away, he’s going to slap the ball the other way, he’s going to do what he can to get on base. I’m excited for him to be there. And then if you’re a baseball fan, you saw what kind of year Melky had last year. He had a great year. I think with our ballpark, they’re going to be good fits. At the same time, I know I’m going to miss (Andres) Torres. It’s just part of it, but he was a great guy to have around. Same with Ramon (Ramirez). They’ll be missed. But we’re excited to have Pagan and Cabrera coming to the team.”

(Did you observe anything about Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain from the sidelines that gave you a different perspective on them?) “I don’t know. I’ve always felt like to learn, you have to be in the middle of it. There are certain things you can sit back and watch, I guess, but I don’t think there’s any replacement for getting out there and being in the middle of it. Those two guys, they’re such workhorses. You look at the number of innings they throw every year and you talk about their stats and strikeouts and ERA. But to me the impressive part is they’re out there every fifth day. We’ve got that in Madison Bumgarner, too. We’re pretty fortunate to have guys who are such competitors and want to go out there and win each time.”

(Bumgarner: The sky’s the limit for that kid, right? Didn’t you see him grow last year?) “Yeah … I guess that one rough outing with, was it Minnesota, I think, after that — to me, that was a defining moment because it’d be easy to — I guess he gave up eight runs in one-third of an inning or two-thirds of an inning … and then the next time out came out and just dealt. That just shows you what kind of character this guy has. It’s exciting. It’s fun to work with those type of pitchers.”

(How at peace are you with dealing with that night against Marlins? How have you psychologically dealt with that night against the Marlins and how are you psychologically compartmentalizing it in your career?) “It’s done. It’s over with. I feel fortunate that I feel the way I do today. I’m excited to be able to compete and get out and play again. If anything, I think it’ll make me appreciate the game even more, make me appreciate being healthy and able to play. Fortunately, I hadn’t been hurt before that. Something like that really lets you know how quickly the game can be taken away from you. I’m going to enjoy every bit of it and just go with it.”

Chris Haft

Final facts from 2011

September 29

SAN FRANCISCO — You knew that Madison Bumgarner has outstanding control of his pitches. You might not have known that his excellence this year reached historic proportions.

Bumgarner began the season at age 21. According to researcher Roger Schlueter of Major League Baseball Productions, Bumgarner’s 4.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio (191 Ks, 46 walks) was the second best since 1893 for any pitcher that young. The only pitcher in his age-21 season to eclipse Bumgarner in this category was Kansas City’s Bret Saberhagen, who had a 4.16 ratio (158 Ks, 38 walks) in 1985. Bumgarner moved onto this list ahead of Don Sutton, who recorded a 4.02 ratio (209 Ks, 52 walks) as a Dodgers rookie in 1966. Bumgarner turned 22 on Aug. 1.

Of course, no discussion of strikeout-to-walk ratio is complete without mentioning Sergio Romo. The Giants right-hander posted a ridiculous ratio of 14 (70 Ks, five walks) in 48 innings. His figure led all Major Leaguers who pitched at least 35 innings.

Despite Bumgarner’s and Romo’s best efforts, Giants pitchers walked 559 batters, third-highest in the National League. Tim Lincecum issued a career-high 86 walks — a figure he vowed to trim. Aside from Romo, the relief corps of Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Guillermo Mota, Ramon Ramirez, Dan Runzler and Brian Wilson walked 154 in 336 innings. Despite this, San Francisco’s bullpen ranked second in the league with a 3.04 ERA.

***

More stats and history: The Giants’ abysmal total of 570 runs was their lowest in a non-strike-shortened season since they accumulated 556 in 1985.

You’ll remember that the ’85 club remains the only outfit in Giants history to lose 100 games.

Pablo Sandoval scored a club-high 55 runs. That’s the Giants’ lowest team-leading total, including strike-shortened years, since Heinie Smith scored either 46 runs (source: Giants media guide) or 48 runs (source: baseball-reference.com). Even in 1981, when the Giants played only 111 games, Jack Clark scored 60 runs.

***

Mark DeRosa, who possesses the gift of gab in abundance, will provide commentary during the postseason for MLB Network.

“That’s something I’ve had my eye on for a little bit,” DeRosa said. “They offered me a chance to come up there and help them out. Just to see if I enjoy it.I love being around the game. I love talking baseball. I’m not a guy who goes home in the offseason and forgets about it. I religiously watch every playoff game and World Series. I’ve got a lot of friends who have been playing in the league a long time with a lot of different teams. I’ve gotten to know a lot of guys around the league. I feel like I have a feel for what makes them tick.”

Here’s a not-going-out-on-a-limb-at-all prediction: DeRosa will do a heck of a job and set up a promising future for himself in radio or TV … once he finishes playing.

Chris Haft

Bumgarner remains in control

Tuesday, July 19

SAN FRANCISCO — Maybe it’s time to stop worrying about Madison Bumgarner and start wondering just how good he is.

Bumgarner’s excellence was somewhat obscured by Brandon Belt’s offensive fireworks Tuesday in the Giants’ 5-3 victory over the Dodgers. In case you missed it, Bumgarner pitched superbly.

He walked none, extending his streak of games in which he walked one or fewer to nine in a row.

He threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 28 batters he faced.

He worked eight innings, ridiculing the skeptics who believed that his huge increase in innings pitched last year would ultimately sap his strength or even endanger his health this season.

More than two months of the regular season must be played. That’s plenty of time for doom and gloom to befall Bumgarner. Right now, though, he looks ready to cruise into October and win another two or three postseason games.

*****

The evening might not have gone so well for the Giants without shortstop Brandon Crawford’s alert defense in the third inning.

The Dodgers had three runs in and appeared destined to score more as Juan Rivera followed Rafael Furcal’s two-run single with another single. As Furcal scooted to third base, Crawford cut off Nate Schierholtz’s strong throw from right field and noticed that Rivera had strayed a little too far from first base on his turn. Crawford threw quickly and accurately to first, retiring Rivera and dampening Los Angeles’ rally.

“That was a big-time play,” an appreciative Bumgarner said.

*****

All anybody heard about Dodgers starter Rubby De La Rosa before Tuesday was that he threw the heck out of the ball. Indeed, De La Rosa reached 100 mph on the AT&T Park velocity readings.

But if a pitcher’s stuff is predictable or lacks movement, he’s going to get hit. Crawford, for example, whacked a 95 mph heater from De La Rosa for a second-inning single, immediately after Brandon Belt stroked a. 91-mph delivery onto the right-field arcade for his homer. One inning later, Schierholtz singled by catching up with a 97-mph fastball.

*****

I was curious about what happened the last time the Giants built a six-game winning streak against the Dodgers — July 19-Sept. 26, 1969. As usual, baseball-reference.com had all the answers.

The Giants’ future Hall of Famers played key roles in those six games. No surprise there. Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry each won twice. Willie McCovey, in the midst of his Most Valuable Player season, homered twice. Willie Mays batted .389 (7-for-18).

Win No. 5 in that streak might have been the nuttiest game of the bunch. It was sealed in the 10th inning when McCovey drew an intentional walk with two outs and nobody on base. Reliever Pete Mikkelsen proceeded to walk Bobby Bonds and Ken Henderson unintentionally, loading thie bases. Jim Davenport then hit a ground ball that scooted between Maury Wills’ legs, giving San Francisco the winning run.

Chris Haft

Uggla to SF? Stranger things have happened

Thursday, Nov. 11

SAN FRANCISCO — Let the Dan Uggla-to-the-Giants rumors resume.

Maybe such talk is premature or even foolish, given Uggla’s stated desire to remain with the Florida Marlins despite the club’s apparent shutdown of talks regarding a contract extension.

And if the Giants didn’t part with Madison Bumgarner or Jonathan Sanchez for Uggla when they previously had a chance, as was rumored, they won’t do so now. Not with Bumgarner and Sanchez having thrived in the second half and through most of the postseason for the World Series winners.

But if Uggla, who’s eligible for salary arbitration, begins the 2011 season with the Marlins, they’ll almost have no choice but to trade him if the team falls out of contention by July. That might be the best time for the Giants to pounce, since the “price” on Uggla could be deflated somewhat by his impending free agency following next season.

Here’s another thing: While speaking with Florida-area reporters on Thursday after winning the Silver Slugger, Ugga professed his undying love for Miami and its enrivons. He also mentioned the joy he felt after his dear friend, Marlins-turned-Giants outfielder Cody Ross, won the World Series with San Francisco.

It’s safe to assume that Ross has to’d Uggla, who’s probably play third with the Giants, about the joys of performing for a successful team. Even if Uggla’s productivity dropped — another safe assumption, considering he’d be playing half of his games at AT&T Park — he’d boost the offense considerably.

Keep an eye on this one.

– Chris Haft

 

Giants think of you, praise Bumgarner

ATLANTA — In case you’re wondering, the Giants hope you had fun celebrating their Division Series victory.

As long as you remained somewhat responsible.

“I hope it’s a chaos-fest on every single street you can possibly think of,” closer Brian Wilson said. “Within reason.”

Left fielder Pat Burrell sounded ready to join the party.

“The city’s been waiting a long time for something like this,” he said. “We can’t wait to get home.”

It’s worth wondering what kind of long-term effect the Giants’ success will have on the Bay Area sports landscape. After all, none of the professional teams except for the San Jose Sharks has thrived recently.

If you believe that a rising tide lifts all boats, then the Giants’ impact will be minimal, since the 49ers and Raiders are a joke and the Warriors probably will struggle to make the playoffs — though they have a loyal, rabid fan base that keeps coming back for more no matter what.

At the very least, the Giants have bolstered their already solid presence among the area’s baseball fans and, more importantly, are likely creating new fans with each postseason win.

*****

There’s no underestimating Madison Bumgarner’s toughness, poise, maturity, grace under pressure or whatever you want to call it. In short, the 21-year-old is no ordinary rookie.

Pitching on 10 days of rest before a hostile, howling Turner Field crowd, Bumgarner recorded one of San Francisco’s biggest victories of the season. Nobody was that surprised, however.

“The kid’s tough as nails,” pitching coach Dave Righetti said. “He got all the big outs and got us late in the game. For a young man who sat that many days, waiting … He held all that together and went out with a lot of poise in a foreign ballpark.”

“His composure was unbelievable,” catcher Buster Posey said. Recalling a Braves scoring threat early in the game, Posey said, “I went out to talk to him and he just kind of smiled at me and said, ‘I’m all right. I got it.’ When you get that type of response you know you’re in for a good night.”

First baseman Aubrey Huff went one step farther. Referring to the mild fuss over who should start Game 4 — Tim Lincecum, if the Giants were trailing 2-1; Bumgarner, if they led the series; or Lincecum under any circumstances — Huff declared, “I would have taken him (Bumgarner) tonight regardless of whether we had won last night.”

– Chris Haft

Giants might have a winner with Bumgarner

Saturday, June 26

SAN FRANCISCO — What’s most impressive about Madison Bumgarner isn’t his fastball or his offspeed pitches or even his polished swing (that’s right, you should see him hit). It’s his poise.

Let it sink in: Bumgarner’s 20. He won’t turn 21 until Aug. 1. Yet he handled his 2010 Giants debut like a complete professional after those two rough early innings against the Boston Red Sox. He could have imploded after surrendering two quick homers and four instant runs, but instead he shut out the Major Leagues’ highest-scoring team for his final five innings.

Throw Bumgarner into the same category as Buster Posey. They’re not returning to Triple-A this year. Well, it’s possible, but it’s highly doubtful.

*****

Tim Lincecum remains extremely intriguing to watch. His outing Sunday against Boston will be no exception.

By winning his last three starts, Lincecum has indeed rebounded from his May slump (1-2, 4.95 in three appearances).

There’s just one mild sign of concern: Lincecum has allowed 28 hits in 29 innings spanning four outings in June. Allow me to emphasize the word “mild.” The bottom line is, Lincecum’s winning, and he looks much better than he did in May. But even he expressed some dissatisfaction over his yield of hits: “I kind of want it to be a little more simple and give up less hits,” he said last Tuesday after surrendering seven hits and an unearned run in eight innings at Houston.

Most pitchers probably would love to have this kind of worry. But Lincecum will be facing the Majors’ most potent offense — albeit without injured Dustin Pedroia and benched DH David Ortiz — so this will be a good test.

*****

Any of us lucky enough to live to age 91 should wish to be half as sharp as Monte Irvin is at that age. The former New York Giants outfielder, whose jersey number 20 was officially retired Saturday, remains witty and articulate, as the stories on the website demonstrate.

Saturday’s AT&T Park crowd was appreciative of all the Hall of Famers present, but the applause for Willie Mays seemed especially loud and long. I wouldn’t be surprised if James Hirsch’s remarkable biography, “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” has led readers/fans to rediscover the greatest Giant of them all.

– Chris Haft

Leftovers from Thursday

Thursday, June 10
CINCINNATI — Pablo Sandoval seemed pretty gloomy over missing a sign for a squeeze bunt in the seventh inning of the Giants’ 7-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Sandoval’s inaction caused Eli Whiteside, who had begun to charge home, to get trapped off third base for the inning’s second out.

“You learn,” Sandoval said. “That’s my first time to miss a sign.”

This spoiled a mostly good day for Sandoval, who went 2-for-5 and hit a third-inning drive that was caught at the right-field wall.

*****

Overlooked in the Giants’ defeat was their rough treatment of Reds starter Mike Leake, who entered the game 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA and left it with his worst all-around statistical line of the season.

The rookie right-hander allowed a career-high 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of his career. The five runs he surrendered tied a career high.

“I think what was different about this game is their coaching staff had a pretty good plan for me,” Leake said, crediting the Giants. “They punched me right off the bat and I couldn’t react fast enough.”

*****

The brief flareup between Giants right-hander Guillermo Mota and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto proved to be just a misunderstanding.

After Votto hit what proved to be the game-winning RBI single in Thursday’s eighth inning, he and Mota began yelling at each other. Cooler heads quickly prevailed.

Mota delivered a calm explanation. Votto believed that Mota was jawing at him. In reality, Mota was trying to communicate with Buster Posey. “I’m not looking at you, I’m looking at my first baseman,” Mota said.

*****

The Pacific Coast League suspended Giants pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner for three games and fined him an undisclosed amount for his Monday night meltdown in which he argued with an umpire and hurled a ball into the outfield.

This probably wouldn’t affect whether the Giants would call up Bumgarner from Triple-A Fresno to replace disabled list-bound Todd Wellemeyer. Nevertheless, it looks like Joe Martinez, who was scratched from his start for Fresno on Thursday, is headed for San Francisco.

– Chris Haft

Bumgarner apologizes for outburst

Tuesday, June 8

CINCINNATI — Madison Bumgarner apologized, through a statement issued Tuesday by the Giants, for his outburst in Triple-A Fresno’s 6-5 victory over Sacramento on Monday.

A sequence of events upset Bumgarner, who was ejected in the seventh inning. Teammates had to restrain him from charging the second-base umpire, who in Bumgarner’s opinion blew a call. Bumgarner then hurled a ball into the outfield.

Bumgarner was fined and received a talking-to from Giants officials. He also issued the following statement:

“I regret my actions during last night’s game in Fresno. I am a highly competitive person, but I let my emotions get the better of me. I want to apologize to the Giants organization and to the fans of Fresno and throughout baseball.”

Giants manager Bruce Bochy seemed barely concerned by the incident. “He’s competitive. We know that,” Bochy said.

More importantly, Bochy said that Bumgarner is “real close” to earning a Major League promotion.

“We’re excited about his progress,” Bochy said. “We feel like he’s a guy who’s really close. If there’s any move made, we’re going to do it when we feel like it’s the right time.”

– Chris Haft

Posey stays hot; what will Giants do?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants will face some heavy thinking if Buster Posey sustains his offensive surge.

Posey collected two hits for the second day in a row Saturday in the Giants’ 8-7 split-squad exhibition loss to Oakland. The rookie catcher, renowned as San Francisco’s top position-player prospect, lifted his batting average to .368 and his slugging percentage to .632.

Because Posey has been expected to begin the season with Triple-A Fresno so he could gain experience, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if the 22-year old might be forcing the Giants’ braintrust to reconsider that plan.

“It’s good to see Buster swinging like this,” Bochy said. “It’s really a matter of time. Buster can hit. As we get deeper into spring I can answer those questions a little better. It’s early, but he’s doing what we wanted him to do.”

Bochy plainly stated that he won’t bury Posey on San Francisco’s bench. “We want to continue his development. We don’t want him sitting,” Bochy said. “It’s a matter of if we think he would get enough playing time to warrant being on the club to help us or to continue his progress so we have him ready.”

Bochy added that Posey “possibly” will start a game at first base to help the Giants gauge whether he could play there occasionally. But Bochy also reiterated that he won’t sacrifice Posey’s growth as a catcher to experiment with him at other positions. “I like the way he’s catching. I want to keep him sharp back there,” Bochy said.

*****

In quick succession:

– Tim Lincecum will receive four days’ rest, his full regular-season complement, before making his next start Tuesday against Cleveland. Madison Bumgarner will start Monday night’s split-squad game against Texas while a host of relievers will work the evening’s other split-squad game against San Diego.

– Kevin Pucetas remained in contention for the fifth starter’s spot by throwing three hitless innings in the Giants’ other split-squad contest, an 8-4 victory over Seattle. Pucetas is unscored upon in seven innings spanning three appearances and has allowed three hits. He has walked none and struck out three.

– Right-hander Joe Martinez, the fifth starter candidate who allowed four runs in one inning in his lone spring appearance, believes that the inflammation in his throwing elbow will have subsided enough to allow him to resume throwing in a couple of days.

– This isn’t shocking news, but Bochy made his strongest declaration yet regarding second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s unavailability for the April 5 regular-season opener at Houston. “He’s not going to be ready,” Bochy said of Sanchez, who’s recovering from a left shoulder injury. “He’s come along fine, but there’s not enough time.”

– First baseman Travis Ishikawa (torn ligaments in left foot) might be ready to resume playing in about a week, Bochy said.

– Right-hander Matt Cain admitted that he elevated some breaking pitches while allowing Oakland five runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. However, Cain still hasn’t walked a batter in 8 2/3 innings this spring. “It obviously means you’re around the strike zone,” Cain said, pleased with this development.

– Right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, stuck in the Dominican Republic with visa problems, finally arrived in camp and struck out the only batter he faced, Ryan Sweeney, to end the fifth inning against Oakland.

– Chris Haft

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