Results tagged ‘ Pablo Sandoval ’

Sandoval almost salvages day

Saturday, May 22

OAKLAND — The Giants’ best offensive moment occurred toward the end of their 1-0 loss Saturday.

Facing A’s closer Andrew Bailey with two outs in the ninth inning and Edgar Renteria on first base, Pablo Sandoval battled the right-hander through a 10-pitch plate appearance to draw a walk.

Sandoval did so despite falling behind on the count 0-2. He worked the count admirably, fouling off four two-strike pitches before Bailey threw ball four.

Bailey had thrown some wicked curveballs earlier in the inning, but threw exclusively hard stuff to Sandoval. Had Bailey tried an offspeed pitch to Sandoval, the Kung Fu Panda might have screwed himself into the dirt with the force of his swing.

But that borders on downright unfair. Credit Sandoval for a restrained, patient, effective at-bat that briefly prolonged the Giants’ hopes.

*****

Manager Bruce Bochy’s potential changes in the batting order could include the return of Juan Uribe, possibly as a designated hitter. Slowed by a tight left hamstring, Uribe pinch-hit Saturday and said after the game that he might be available to play more fully on Sunday.

– Chris Haft

Cain looks ready for regular season

March 23
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Matt Cain had every right to feel tired Tuesday. But he didn’t look fatigued at all.

Cain recorded the longest Cactus League outing by a Giants starter so far, working 6 2/3 innings in Tuesday’s 6-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. The Giants improved their Major League-best spring record to 16-6 with their sixth consecutive victory and seventh in their last eight games.

Cain surrendered just three hits. Fifth-inning fielding errors committed by first baseman Aubrey Huff and second baseman Matt Downs largely accounted for the lone, unearned run Cain yielded.

Though Cain pitched six innings in his previous appearance, a Minor League exhibition game last Thursday,the deepest he had gone in an exhibition game was a mere three innings. He relished the opportunity to push himself.

“You get to that kind of tired point and you have to start using your legs,” Cain said. “That’s what you want to get to toward the end of spring, to be able to carry that over into the season.”

Cain issued his first walk of the exhibition season when Paul Konerko drew a free pass with two outs in the fourth inning. That remained Cain’s lone walk in 15 1/3 innings this spring. The right-hander struck out just two batters but recorded several outs early in the count, helping him stay on the mound longer.

Cain augmented his effectiveness by using his slider for the first time this spring. “I’m feeling pretty good about everything,” he said. “I’m trying to make sure I can hit both sides of the plate with my fastball and throw strikes with my offspeed stuff.”

*****

The afternoon’s oddest play occurred in the fourth inning, when Chicago’s Gordon Beckham led off with a popup behind the mound. Huff and shortstop Edgar Renteria converged on the ball and collided. Renteria nevertheless caught the ball and held onto it while Huff fell over backward. Still on the ground, Huff pointed at Renteria as he asked him whether he made the catch.

“I will say, Huff wanted the ball,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

*****

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval ended his three-game absence in fine fashion by doubling twice in four at-bats, scoring a run and driving in one. “He didn’t look like he missed a beat,” Bochy said of Sandoval, who needed five stitches to close a cut on his right ankle last Friday after he slid into Cleveland catcher Lou Marson’s shinguard.

– Chris Haft

Hard slide sends Sandoval to bench

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval left Friday’s exhibition game against the Cleveland Indians after sliding hard into home plate to score a first-inning run.

Sandoval scored from first base on Aubrey Huff’s one-out double. Sandoval ran ful-speed all the way and plowed feet-first into Cleveland catcher Lou Marson, though there wasn’t a rough collision. Sandoval did not appear injured upon returning to the dugout, but Kevin Frandsen replaced him at third in the top of the second inning.

– Chris Haft 

Sandoval looks slick; Romo feels relieved

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pablo Sandoval presumably has more work to do before he reaches what the Giants consider an acceptable playing weight, but the third baseman looked nimble enough in their 5-3 exhibition victory Thursday over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Playing his first Cactus League game, Sandoval moved quickly to his left to snare catcher Eli Whiteside’s wide throw as Brewers baserunner Rickie Weeks, who had broken for second base, tried to advance to third once Barry Zito’s first-inning pitch went to the backstop. Sandoval deftly grabbed Whiteside’s one-hop peg and tagged out Weeks.

Sandoval also made a nice play to open the third inning as he charged Corey Hart’s roller and made a strong off-balance throw to first for the out.

*****

Right-hander Sergio Romo observed his 27th birthday Thursday. In his mind, he had more to celebrate than turning one year older.

Romo pointed out that he strained his throwing elbow last year in the second exhibition game and first home date of the Cactus League season, when he yielded six ninth-inning runs to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

So when Romo took the mound in the ninth inning against the Brewers, all he wanted to do was leave the game physically whole.

“I didn’t care what happened today,” Romo said. “They could have lit me up.” That didn’t come close to happening, as Romo struck out two in a perfect inning to record a save.

Romo, who the Giants are counting on to shoulder part of the late-inning setup load, praised the Giants’ athletic training staff for keeping him sound.

“I worked with them all offseason,” he said. “This is probably the most healthy I’ve been.”

*****

Two days, two at-bats and two hits for Jesus Guzman, who commanded attention with his torrid hitting last spring. “He’s starting up again, isn’t he?” manager Bruce Bochy said.

Another fast starter is Kevin Frandsen, who’s 3-for-5 in two games. Frandsen, who’s competing for a reserve middle infield role, could benefit from increased exposure while Emmanuel Burriss (left foot) is sidelined.

– Chris Haft

Epic showdown: Lincecum vs. Sandoval

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Imagining Pablo Sandoval facing Tim Lincecum is the sort of fantasy many fans probably entertain to break up the offseason monotony.

Well, fantasy became reality Wednesday at Scottsdale Stadium, where Lincecum pitched “live” (full-speed) batting practice to the Kung Fu Panda.

What unfolded was predictable. With pitchers being ahead of the hitters (have you heard that one before?) at this stage of Spring Training, Sandoval did not make authoritative contact off Lincecum. But Sandoval did swing four times in five pitches against the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, so not much has changed.

Sandoval swung and missed on a Lincecum fastball and took an offspeed pitch before tapping two grounders to the right side. The first of those might have bounced through for a hit, depending on how the infielders might have been positioned. Sandoval finished his confrontation against Lincecum by fouling off a pitch.

“You’re always wondering if he’s going to hit one off the ground that you’re trying to bury, or that changeup right back at you that you left up by accident,” Lincecum said. “I see why he’s a tough guy to face.”

Lincecum, who’ll start next Wednesday’s Cactus League opener against Seattle, was pleased with his batting-practice stint overall. He also faced Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey, whose line drive to right field was the closest semblance to a hit.

“Everything kind of felt where it should have been,” said Lincecum, who threw all of his pitches.

*****

In other camp developments, infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa (left wrist) took live BP but only “tracked” pitches and didn’t swing. He’s still expected to be able to participate fully in workouts soon.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that second baseman Freddy Sanchez (left shoulder, left knee) could be ready to begin fielding groundballs by the weekend.

MLB Network will air the Giants’ “Inside the Clubhouse — Town Hall Meeting” on four separate occasions (all times Pacific): Sunday, 9:30 p.m.; Monday, 7:30 p.m.; Tuesday, 1:30 p.m.; Wednesday, midnight.

– Chris Haft

First-day Winter Meetings leftovers

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

No shame for Giants against Phils

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

Pondering ‘Willie Mac’ candidates

If you’re proud of your association with the Giants — whether you’re a player, club employee or fan — then Friday should be one of the biggest nights of the year.

Friday happens to be when the recipient of the “Willie Mac” Award, given annually to the most inspirational Giant, will be honored in a pregame ceremony. The award is named for Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction. Nor is it necessary to explain why the distinction was named for him. If you saw McCovey play and witnessed his grace, class and professionalism, or if you ever met him and realized that he possesses those same qualities off the field, you know that this isn’t any ordinary award and that Friday’s event isn’t just a routine observance.

The Giants have several worthy Willie Mac candidates this year, which helps explain why they’re destined for their first above-.500 finish since 2004. This is just my opinion, but I’d like to think others would share it. Here are the players who come to mind:

JUAN URIBE. Tales of his positive clubhouse influence followed him from Chicago, where the White Sox adored him. Uribe quickly began spreading that same good cheer among the Giants. Sometimes he has done it with the hearts games he led during Spring Training or his daily sessions of attack dominoes with Edgar Renteria, Brian Wilson and others. Sometimes he has done it with his veteran’s presence, such as when he went to the mound to counsel Jonathan Sanchez during a tight moment Wednesday night. Often he has done it simply through humor and remaining upbeat. Asked by one teammate if he ever felt down, Uribe’s response was, “Uribe’s never down.” And, of course, he has proven invaluable on the field.

BENGIE MOLINA. The Willie Mac winner in 2007-08 has remained a steady, calming influence. Pablo Sandoval admires him. Pitchers relish throwing to him. Every teammate appreciates his earnest, competitive spirit. It’s easy to say that the Giants shouldn’t re-sign Molina, who’s eligible for free agency, but they’ll miss a lot of his intangibles if they don’t. He’d be the award’s only three-time winner if he gets it again.

EDGAR RENTERIA. Since Renteria’s so quiet and unassuming, he tends to exercise his influence subtly or behind the scenes. He hasn’t delivered the offense the Giants sought when they signed him to a two-year, $18.5 million contract, but players, coaches and front-office members rave about his professionalism and impact on the team, particularly among the Giants’ younger Latin American players.

RANDY JOHNSON. Wednesday night’s telecast partially illustrated why Johnson’s on this list. There was, caught by the camera, filling Matt Cain’s ear with something. Whatever it was, it was valuable. The Giants’ pitchers have benefited immeasurably from having a 300-game winner and five-time Cy Young Award recipient in their midst who has been so willing to share his wisdom. “This is a guy we all look up to,” Barry Zito said. “I want to pattern myself after him in many ways.”

PABLO SANDOVAL. Why not? He plays hard, he’s always having fun and he’s the most effervescent Giant since Willie Mays circa 1951. Moreover, he has an appreciation for McCovey, as he revealed when he recorded his first “Splash Hit” home run on the 50th anniversary of Stretch’s Major League debut.

BARRY ZITO. This is Zito’s 10th year in the Majors, so he knows a little something about how to act as a big leaguer. He has disseminated his wisdom among younger players in tactful yet definitive fashion. Moreover, Zito has gained respect by improving his performance while ignoring the fan abuse he has prompted.

– Chris Haft

Molina fine with move to fifth

SAN FRANCISCO — Did you notice the subtle difference in the Giants’ batting order Monday? Bengie Molina batted fifth in the series opener against the Colorado Rockies — marking the first time that he hadn’t hit cleanup since the 2007 season. Pablo Sandoval replaced Molina in the four-hole.

Manager Bruce Bochy explained that he hoped to re-create the magic of Sunday, when San Francisco lashed 15 hits and defeated the Dodgers, 7-2. As Molina rested, Sandoval went 2-for-4 from the fourth spot. In fact, each of San Francisco’s collected multiple hits and combined to go 10-for-17 with five RBIs.

“I like the way it went yesterday,” Bochy said before Monday’s game. “It’s not a lot of tweaking, but we put some runs on the board.”

Molina, who hit mostly sixth in 2007 before replacing Barry Bonds at cleanup, accepted the move unblinkingly.

“I always respect what Bochy has to do,” Molina said.

Molina said that Bochy didn’t consult him before making the move but noted, “He doesn’t have to. He’s the manager; [Brian] Sabean’s the general manager. They’re the ones who make the decisions.”

Many critics have charged that Molina isn’t a prototypical cleanup hitter. But he has been extremely productive, at least by the club’s standards. He amassed a career-high 95 RBIs last year and entered Monday ranked second on the club in homers (17) and RBIs (70). “I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of,” Molina said. “I probably did much more than they expected.”

– Chris Haft

Tight quad sidelines Molina again; picture Torres

SAN FRANCISCO — Catcher Bengie Molina was out of the lineup for the second game in a row with tightness in his quadriceps. Eli Whiteside replaced Molina, the Giants’ cleanup hitter who’s batting .261 with 15 home runs and 64 RBIs.

Manager Bruce Bochy sounded optimistic that Molina would return soon. But he didn’t want to rush the veteran. “Let’s get that thing healthy,” Bochy said, referring to Molina’s injury.

Third baseman Pablo Sandoval (strained right calf) also began his second consecutive game on the bench, though he remained available to pinch-hit, as he did Tuesday night.

The Giants want both Molina and Sandoval at full strength by Friday, when they begin their critical three-game rematch against the Colorado Rockies.

*****

The Giants posed for their team picture Wednesday, and it was too bad that outfielder Andres Torres wasn’t around. Torres is playing in Arizona as he recovers from a hamstring injury.

Torres hustled his way onto the Opening Day roster and was instrumental in a couple of victories earlier this season. The team photo simply wouldn’t be complete without him.

– Chris Haft

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 97 other followers