Results tagged ‘ Matt Downs ’

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

Thursday leftovers: No ifs, ands or bunts

ATLANTA — A discerning manager does not ask his players to perform tasks they’re incapable of handling. That largely explained why Bruce Bochy didn’t order Fred Lewis to bunt in a pair of situations Thursday when most players might have been asked to sacrifice.

Lewis has one career sacrifice bunt. Bochy figured the Giants were better off letting Lewis swing away.

Bochy had an additional reason to avoid the bunt when Lewis batted in the fifth inning with Barry Zito on second base, Randy Winn on first and nobody out. With Zito as the lead runner, Bochy said, “I didn’t have any speed there.”

Lewis’ next at-bat followed Randy Winn’s leadoff double in the seventh. Lewis flied to center without Winn advancing. That wasn’t the sort of “productive out” the Giants had hoped for. Besides, said Bochy, “I wanted three shots” at driving the run in. As it turned out, Winn was marooned on second base, but the Giants scored four runs in the eighth to settle matters.

*****

Jeremy Affeldt hiked his Major League-leading total of double plays induced to 14 during his scoreless eighth. He’s having one of the best years I’ve seen from a reliever.

“The guy really could have made the All-Star team, when you look at the job he’s done,” Bochy said.

*****

Nate Schierholtz is one tough dude. His left leg looked as if a saber-toothed tiger had tried to have it for lunch.

Schierholtz nearly mangled his leg while leaping at Turner Field’s right-field wall, which has a cyclone fence “padding” in some parts.

“Just wait until you see my leg,” Schierholtz said after the Giants’ 5-1 win as he greeted reporters at his dressing stall.

We could have waited a little longer. The outside of Schierholtz’s leg was scraped almost from top to bottom. Discoloration — budding bruises? — were spread throughout.

*****

Has anybody noticed:

Barry Zito is 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in four career appearances against Atlanta?

Infielder Matt Downs wears No. 37 — same as late-1980s right-hander Kelly Downs?

– Chris Haft 

Ishikawa continues to hit

SAN FRANCISCO — It was encouraging to see first baseman Travis Ishikawa hit so proficiently Wednesday, when he doubled and homered in three at-bats.

“I was aggressive early [in the count] and took advantage of mistakes,” the ever-humble Ishikawa said.

Though it was understandable why Ishikawa got squeezed out of the lineup when Pablo Sandoval hurt his elbow and moved to first base, it happened just as he was beginning to hit proficiently. He went 7-for-11 in a three-game stretch May 25-27. Since then, he had started exactly once until Wednesday.

It’ll be interesting to see who manager Bruce Bochy uses in the infield during the Texas series. Juan Uribe, who can play second base, shortstop and third, supposedly will be ready to rejoin the lineup Friday. Asked before Wednesday’s game whether Uribe will play second or third, Bochy coyly said, “I’ll let you know.”

Though Matt Downs has looked extremely competent at the plate in his two games with the Giants, don’t be surprised if Friday’s lineup includes Ishikawa at first base, Uribe at second and Sandoval at third.

– Chris Haft

 

Going for the Downs, but maybe not for long

SAN FRANCISCO — It’s easy to envision another change in the Giants’ second-base picture within a few days.

By next Monday, Kevin Frandsen will have spent his requisite 10 days in the Minor Leagues. As much as Frandsen impressed as the Giants in his two stints with them, they’ll likely summon him yet again — unless Matt Downs, the second baseman of the moment, plays so well that San Francisco has to keep him in the Majors.

Or the Giants could hand the job to utiltyman Juan Uribe once his hamstring heals. .

Something else to ponder: How much time will elapse before Burriss forces the Giants to recall him? I imagine they’ll give him about 100 at-bats, possibly more, to try to develop the offensive skills that manager Bruce Bochy recommended — bunting, slapping the ball on the ground, basically acting more like a true leadoff hitter.

With all due respect to Downs, he’s unlikely to become the Giants’ full-time second baseman.

– Chris Haft

Stuff that Giants fans need to know

SAN FRANCISCO — Before Friday night’s exhibition against the Oakland A’s, Giants manager Bruce Bochy reiterated that the club’s braintrust is inclined to open the regular season with a 12-man pitching staff rather than an 11-man contingent.

Reasons are varied. Starters might not be prepared to pitch deep into games this early in the season. Rookie right-hander Joe Martinez might be well-suited for long relief duty, but if he is unavailable or not even on the team, the Giants will need multiple one-inning relievers to fill the “long” role.

Bochy acknowledged that the Giants might change their minds on this subject before they announce roster cuts, which could come as early as after Saturday’s game against the A’s in Oakland.

Also subject to change is the two-catcher versus three-catcher issue. The Giants are likely to keep Pablo Sandoval as their lone extra catcher — a considerable risk, given his status as the starting third baseman — and demote Steve Holm to Triple-A Fresno.

At the very least, Bochy gave Holm his due. “Steve Holm has played very well,” Bochy said of the Sacramento native, who entered the game batting .279. If it’s any comfort to Holm and his fans, Bochy indicated that the two-catcher plan might not last much beyond April, when the team has four scheduled off-days.

Quickies: The Giants and A’s mutually agreed to use designated hitters Friday, even though they were playing in a National League park. Bochy said that he didn’t want Randy Johnson, his starting pitcher, bothering with the task of hitting. “With Randy going today, we just want him to concentrate on pitching,” Bochy said.

– Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, whose left index finger has sufficiently healed from his cooking accident, threw in the bullpen and, in Bochy’s words, is “good to go” and will start Sunday’s exhibition finale against the Dodgers. 

– The Giants will summon six players from Minor League camp to use as substitutes for their final two exhibitions: outfielder Mike McBryde, catcher Eli Whiteside, right-handers Keiichi Yabu and Ramon Ortiz, and infielders Matt Downs and Jake Wald.

– Chris Haft

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