Results tagged ‘ Matt Cain ’

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

Lincecum’s next start pushed back a day

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants announced what appeared to be a wise move after Sunday’s 9-5 victory, disclosing that right-hander Tim Lincecum’s next start will be delayed by a day.

Lincecum thus will start in Philadelphia on Thursday, giving him five days’ rest — one more than usual. He threw a season-high 127 pitches during his eight shutout innings Friday against Colorado, compelling the Giants to allow him more recovery time.

The ubiquitous To Be Announced temporarily fills Wednesday’s spot in the Giants’ rotation. They can’t recall right-hander Joe Martinez, who was optioned to Triple-A Fresno on Friday and must stay there at least 10 days (a period which extends virtually to the end of the Minor League regular season). Other possibilities abound at Fresno, including Ryan Sadowski, who had an earlier stint with the Giants; Matt Kinney or Ramon Ortiz, both big league veterans, or 10-game winner Steve Hammond.

***** 
Eli Whiteside, who caught all six games of the Giants’ homestand while Bengie Molina nursed a tight right quadriceps, contributed significantly to the club’s success. He hit only .238 (5-for-21), but threw out three of four runners attempting to steal bases and handled the pitchers smoothly.

“He saved us on this homestand with his play,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Any time you have a guy who has spent some time in the Minor Leagues like Eli has, they learn the game. They get so much more experience versus a young guy who might be rushed up here.”

*****

There was no such thing as a routine fly ball at AT&T Park on Sunday. It could have been the shifting breezes; it could have been the changing sky, as the fog burned off and the sun alternately retreated behind and emerged from clouds.

Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa had an adventurous time with Troy Tulowitzki’s third-inning popup, falling over backward at the pitcher’s mound after making an off-balance catch. Colorado left fielder Ryan Spilborghs seemed to have a shot at catching Fred Lewis’ sixth-inning double but missed it, and right fielder Brad Hawpe played Juan Uribe’s eighth-inning fly ball into a single and a two-base error.

“The park was playing a little funny today,” Giants right-hander Matt Cain said. “Balls were going a little farther than they should, the way this park [usually] plays. … Once it went up in the air, you really didn’t know where it was going to go or where it was going to come down.”

– Chris Haft

 

Cain’s Sunday start confirmed; Johnson needs more time

PITTSBURGH — Right-hander Matt Cain was universally pronounced fit to start Sunday’s series finale here, now that he has shaken off the effects of being hit by a line drive in his pitching arm.

“I should be fine,” said Cain, who threw a regular between-starts bullpen session Thursday during the Giants’ workout at PNC Park. “I have swelling [in the arm], but nothing out of the ordinary.”

The Giants anticipated days ago that Cain, who took a direct hit last Saturday from a line drive off the bat of San Diego’s Tim Stauffer, would be able to face Pittsburgh, though he was forbidden from performing in Tuesday’s All-Star Game. Despite the widespread confidence, prompted when X-rays taken of Cain’s arm were negative, Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that the 25-year-old’s condition was a “slight concern.”

Cain admitted that he “kind of wondered what it would be like going full speed.” Overall, though, he sensed no hidden trouble. “I wasn’t really that worried about it,” he said. “My range of motion was fine.”

*****

By contrast, left-hander Randy Johnson is still recuperating from his strained left shoulder and isn’t expected to join the Giants on their three-city, 10-game trip.

Obviously, Bochy admitted, Johnson will need more than three weeks — the most optimistic estimate given for his recovery — to return to the mound. Sunday will mark two weeks since Johnson grabbed his shoulder and took himself out of a game against Houston.

– Chris Haft 

Giants’ youth movement a starry success

SAN FRANCISCO — A look at the podium the other day as the Giants showed off their All-Stars, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, and their would-be All-Star, Final Vote candidate Pablo Sandoval, reflected the club’s makeover in recent years.

Giants management said that it wanted a younger team after jettisoning Barry Bonds following the 2007. Well, that has happened. Moreover, some of their youthful players have developed more quickly than the front office might have anticipated.

Just look at San Francisco’s All-Star trio (I’m counting Sandoval, for simplicity’s sake).

Sandoval is 22. Cain is 24. Lincecum is 25. What a triumph for the Giants’ scouting and development sector. If the Giants can somehow produce a few more players like them (Buster Posey? Madison Bumgarner? Angel Villalona?), maybe, just maybe, that elusive World Series Champions banner will fly from one of the center-field flag poles sometime in the next decade.

Randy Johnson, the 303-game winner whose experience and success legitimize pretty much everything he has to say about baseball, addressed the wondrous pair of Cain and Lincecum.

“To have two pitchers like that, doing what they’re doing on a high level every fifth day, it’s pretty exciting to watch,” Johnson said. “That was one reason why I got excited every fifth day, to go out there and be a part of that. To have both of them represent the Giants [as All-Stars] and be on top of their game right now, that’s great.

“I hope they can continue to do that in the second half because that’s what it will take, especially when we start playing the Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee again — teams that are right behind us in the Wild Card and ahead of us in the division.”

– Chris Haft 

Pick a starter, any starter, for Monday and Tuesday

MIAMI — If you’ve looked ahead to the Giants’ probable starting pitchers for Monday series finale here and for Tuesday’s series opener at Arizona, you’ll find that the same guy is pitching both games: TBA.

Finding a starter for Tuesday isn’t the issue. Monday is the predicament for the Giants, whose rotation was jumbled by last Wednesday’s rainout at Washington. That forced them to use Randy Johnson and Matt Cain on the same day for Thursday’s doubleheader, meaning that if either one pitched Monday, he’d be working on three days’ rest, one fewer than usual.

Johnson’s bruised shoulder complicated matters somewhat. But the newest member of the 300-win club felt good Saturday as he played long toss and threw from pitching distance on flat ground.

The Big Unit said that his shoulder, which he fell on while making a fielding play in his milestone start, responded better than he thought it would. “I was encouraged,” he said. “We’ll see what they have planned and go from there.”

Manager Bruce Bochy said that the Giants’ options for Monday include:

– Johnson, who threw only 78 pitches in his last start but has that shoulder to deal with;

– Cain, who was limited to 82 pitches by the rainout in his game;

– Triple-A Fresno right-hander Billy Sadler, who pitched only one-third of an inning Friday in case the Giants decide they need him.

Though Johnson might appear to be an unlikely choice given his health status and age (45), he’s renowned for doing whatever he can to help his team. Pitching on Monday might fall into that category. Because if he’s pushed back to Tuesday, the sequence of the Giants’ rotation would consist of right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, followed by three consecutive left-handers — Johnson, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez. Currently, they have close to an alternating patten with Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and Sanchez.

Obviously, whoever doesn’t pitch Monday has a good chance of starting Tuesday.

– Chris Haft

Burriss seizes chance to swing

SAN FRANCISCO — With, two outs, a run in, Fred Lewis on third base and the Giants leading 3-0 in Friday night’s fourth inning, the St. Louis Cardinals elected to pitch to Emmanuel Burriss, San Francisco’s eighth-place hitter. The alternative, which some teams might have selected, would have involved walking Burriss to face pitcher Matt Cain.

But St. Louis refused to bypass Burriss, who singled home Lewis for what proved to be a key run (they all are in close, low-scoring games) in the Giants’ 4-2 victory.

Burriss actually wasn’t surprised that the Cardinals pitched to him.

“Cain swings the bat pretty well,” Burriss reminded. “He’s not like a run-of-the-mill pitcher. He probably has more pop than I do. So having him behind me, I knew I was going to see some pitches.”

More pop, indeed, Cain has hit four career home runs to one for Burriss.

Burriss continued the Giants’ recent productivity with two outs. They’ve recorded 22 of their last 30 RBIs in those situations.

– Chris Haft

Leftovers from Giants 2, Mets 0 (5/17/09)

SAN FRANCISCO — A lot happened in this riveting game that couldn’t be squeezed into game coverage. In no particular order:

– Breaking down Matt Cain’s triumph was relatively simple. He limited Carlos Beltran, Gary Sheffield and David Wright, New York’s 3-4-5 hitters, to one hit in their first three plate appearances. In the series’ previous three games, that trio combined for 16 hits in their first three plate appearances.

– Kevin Frandsen went 0-for-4 in his (likely brief) return to the Giants, but he still contributed to the victory. He made a slick short-hop pickup as he charged Sheffield’s sixth-inning grounder, and he quickly collaborated with second baseman Emmanuel Burriss on an eighth-inning double play.

– After stealing 13 bases in the series’ first three games, the Mets had none in this one. Bengie Molina threw out Wright at second base in New York’s lone attempted theft.

– Cain on his three consecutive walks in the second inning: “I felt good. I was just missing a little bit here, a little bit there. He [plate umpire Brian Knight] wasn’t giving a ton either. So it was going to have to be that [kind of] day where you’re going to have to get it over the plate a little bit.”

– Brian Wilson, downplaying his ability to bounce back from absorbing defeats Thursday and Friday in the series’ first two games: “That’s what every closer is supposed to do.”

– Chris Haft 

Cain’s non-complaint; Martinez out of hospital

LOS ANGELES — Rarely will a pitcher differ with an umpire as calmly as Matt Cain did Wednesday night.

Asked if the 3-2 fastball he threw to Los Angeles’ Russell Martin was a strike — which was the way it looked — Cain said he thought it was. But instead of growling about plate umpire Ed Rapuano, Cain pointed out that Rapuano called balls on pitches in that low area all night. Thus, both Cain and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers knew what to expect.

“He stayed consistent with the zone. You can’t fault him,” said Cain, even though Rapuano’s call hurt Cain, who also walked the next batter, James Loney, to force in a run.

***

Right-hander Joe Martinez is out of the hospital, which is good news. But, remember, he’s not expected to resume physical activity for close to another month while those three hairline fractures, courtesy of Mike Cameron’s line drive, heal in his forehead.

Are the starters really that bad? Likely, no

SAN DIEGO — At the risk of contradicting myself, I’m about to point out the redeeming qualities of the mostly underwhelming performances by the Giants’ starting pitchers through the first turn of the rotation.

As noted in Saturday night’s final game report, the rotation’s 6.46 ERA won’t help the Giants win. But, after all, it was just the first go-round. And if you really wanted to pick apart each game, you can see that quality exists. It’s just a matter of each pitcher gaining consistency. For example:

Opening Day starter Tim Lincecum struck out five in three innings. He lacked fastball command, allowing three runs in three innings, but there’s nothing wrong with his arm.

The next night, Randy Johnson remained in control until his fifth and final inning. If he can keep the ball in the park (homers accounted for all four runs off him), he’ll win more than he loses.

Matt Cain’s Thursday performance (one run and four hits allowed in seven innings) was beyond reproach.

Barry Zito looked so smooth in his final three innings Friday that you wonder how he would have done if he hadn’t stepped all over himself in the first inning (39 pitches, three runs).

Jonathan Sanchez was absolutely dominant, striking out five of the six Padres he faced in the first two innings. Then Henry Blanco took him deep twice, which was inexcusable, and he lost his release point.

As they say, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, I could make a small fortune selling trail mix. But you can see how, with a little tweak here and there, the rotation could and should round into shape relatively soon.

– Chris Haft

Omar speaks on Burriss, Frandsen; Cain just wants to pitch

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Omar Vizquel, the still-popular former Giant, didn’t endorse either Emmanuel Burriss or Kevin Frandsen in the showdown for San Francisco’s second base job. But when Omar talks, he’s worth listening to, regardless of the subject. He paid sincere compliments to each player before Monday’s Rangers-Giants exhibition.

“Burriss showed a lot of improvement last year,” said Vizquel, who occasionally teamed up the middle with Burriss when the latter played second base. “I think everybody’s surprised at how well he did, coming from Single-A ball and taking the challenge to play short and second and do everything the right way. Obviously he’s young and has to learn all the habits and everything that happens in the major leagues.

“And Frandsen, a couple years ago, I thought he was the player everybody was looking to be the regular second baseman for awhile and then he got hurt. And when you get hurt you have to [take] a long time again to get used to everything. I don’t know how he’s doing this year, but he’s got the tools to be a Major League everyday player someday.”

***

It’s fair to suppose that Matt Cain, whose determination is beyond question, is dead set on not enduring another season like the previous two, when he posted respectable ERAs yet finished with dreadful records (7-16, 3.65 in 2007, 8-14, 3.76 in 2008) due to poor run support.

But Cain reminded reporters that the wins and losses assigned to a starting pitcher often depend on factors he can’t influence. So he’ll once again focus on lasting as long as he can in each game — a mindset that has enabled him to average 202 2/3 innings in his three full big league seasons.

“I try to keep that same goal, and I feel like that goal will pay off,” said Cain, whose solid effort against Texas (seven innings, four hits, one walk, eight strikeouts) was marred by two home runs.

Cain said that he employs different mental devices to push himself.

“You almost make it a little competition (with) yourself, staying in as long as possible, or you try to outdo the other pitcher — ‘Oh, he’s going back out there? Then I’m going back out there.’ You drive yourself in different little ways as well as trying to win.”

Both Cain and Tim Lincecum have been reluctant to throw their sliders, but since each has only one exhibition start left, the time to refine that pitch is at hand, if not overdue. Cain admitted this: “It’s kind of hit-and-miss right now. That’s kind of a big pitch. I need to be more consistent with it.” He concluded that his slider might react better out of the dry Arizona air, a common complaint from pitchers regarding their offspeed deliveries.

***

Jesus Guzman homered with two outs in the ninth and the Giants trailing, 5-4, to force extra innings. He’s now hitting .412 with five homers, a team-high (along with Juan Uribe) 15 RBIs, a .922 slugging percentage and a .444 on-base percentage.

But we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Because of his lack of polish at any position, he won’t make the Opening Day roster. Expect him to receive plenty of defensive tutelage at Triple-A, though.

– Chris Haft

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