Results tagged ‘ Randy Johnson ’

Burriss rescues Big Unit; another Romo signs

WASHINGTON — Behind most big pitching victories lies impressive defense. This was proven again in Randy Johnson’s 300th victory on Thursday, which featured an outstanding and probably game-saving play by second baseman Emmanuel Burriss.

With runners on first and second, nobody out and the Giants clinging to a 2-0 lead in the fifth inning, Burriss made a diving stop of Ronnie Belliard’s one-hopper up the middle and shoveled the ball from his glove to shortstop Edgar Renteria to start a double play.

Johnson was appreciative, to say the least.

“That could have turned the whole game around if that was a base hit,” Johnson said.

Guzman’s smash caromed off the first-base side of the pitcher’s mound, which might have been a break for the Giants.

“I think its hitting the mound helped me get to it,” Burriss said, “because it was hit pretty hard and it took that high bounce off the mound and enabled me to gain some ground on it.”

Burriss said that Johnson’s immediate reaction was muted. But the Big Unit made sure Burriss knew how much that play meant.

“Right after the play he gave me one of those looks like, ‘atta boy,’ said Burriss, who added that Johnson was too mentally focused to gush over him or any other teammates in the dugout between innings.

After the game, Johnson gave Burriss a proper tribute.

“He came up to me and said, ‘great play.’ It was awesome,” Burriss related. “Everybody behind him wanted to do their part to help him get to that milestone.”

*****

The independent Golden Baseball League announced Thursday that the Giants have purchased the contract of right-hander Andrew Romo from the Tucson Toros, a club in that league. Romo, 21, is the younger brother of Giants reliever Sergio Romo.

Sergio Romo compared Andrew to himself, in that they both like to throw sinking fastballs, curveballs and changeups.

“I think he has potential, and potential can get you a long way in this business, as long as he puts in the work and listens to direction,” Sergio said of Andrew.

The younger Romo “sold” the Giants on Tuesday, when he yielded just an unearned run in three innings while striking out four in a Golden League game.

It was not immediately known which Minor League affiliate Romo will initially join.

– Chris Haft

Countdown (maybe) to Thursday’s first game

WASHINGTON — Regarding Thursday’s scheduled Giants-Washington Nationals doubleheader, the prevailing sense was that the teams would manage to play one game, thus giving Randy Johnson the opportunity to secure his 300th career victory.

But don’t even think about a second game, the experts believe.

Right now, you can forget about Game 1 starting on time. It’s about 30 minutes before the scheduled 4:35 p.m. first pitch, and it just began raining harder. Meteorologist — er, manager — Bruce Bochy told reporters during his daily pregame briefing that more storms were expected but that enough clear weather to play a game would follow.

Johnson appeared briefly in the Giants clubhouse in the pregame hours when reporters were allowed in. He glanced at a nearby television monitor when ESPN aired a report on the six-game suspension Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett received. After a short while Johnson strode away, iPod headphones planted firmly in his ears.

One Giant position player I talked to expressed concern about whether Johnson would get his shot at No. 300 tonight. This indicated that while the Giants aren’t obsessing over The Big Unit’s impending milestone, it’s definitely in the backs of their minds.

*****

Some non-Johnson stuff: Right-hander Joe Martinez, he of the healed skull, continued his recovery by throwing in the bullpen before showers began falling. The Giants remain pleased with Martinez’s progress. “There’s nothing wrong with his arm,” Bochy said. “He’s going to be fine.”

– Chris Haft 

Significance — or coincidence — before Big Unit seeks No. 300

WASHINGTON — Sometimes my media brethren amuse me. Though it was extremely obvious that Randy Johnson would not address reporters before his scheduled start Wednesday against the Washington Nationals, anywhere from 12 to 15 members of the Fourth Estate loitered in the general vicinity of his dressing stall in the Giants clubhouse. Maybe they were hoping the Big Unit would bound in, happily settle into his perch and invite everyone to pull up a chair so he could regale them with baseball stories.

That didn’t happen. But a few other things did that were worth noting as Johnson approached his first attempt at securing his 300th career victory.

As part of its late-afternoon programming, MLB Network replayed the telecast of an Aug. 12, 1998 game in which Johnson, then toiling for Houston, pitched a five-hit shutout against Milwaukee. Certainly the network planned it this way. Still, it was easy tio wonder whether Johnson was somewhere in the clubhouse watching himself on TV (my guess: No).

Johnson himself appeared a couple of times. He dropped by his locker to pull on socks and, about a half-hour later, strode silently through the clubhouse toward a back room. He looked like his concentration was going full-bore.

At the opposite end of the clubhouse from where Johnson disappeared, Felipe Alou chatted with a couple of reporters. Alou officially was there in his guise as a special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean, who wants him to watch the Major League club for a few days.

But Alou also welcomed the chance to see Johnson, who he managed briefly in the Minors when both were with the Montreal Expos organization.

“I’m glad that I’m here,” Alou said. “I wouldn’t balk at the opportunity to come here.”

A few minutes later, Giants manager Bruce Bochy held his pregame talk with the media. Mounted on the wall over Bochy’s left shoulder was a framed color portrait of the Atlanta Braves’ starting rotation circa 1997 — Denny Neagle, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz — with baseballs autographed by each. Glavine and Maddux, of course, happen to be 300-game winners.

Beneath the collage, Bochy was telling reporters that he has never seen a pitcher win his 300th game. “Hopefully I’ll see it tonight,” he said.

– Chris Haft

Every day in uniform’s a good day; so are days out of uniform

SAN FRANCISCO — It was suggested after the Giants’ 6-3 victory Wednesday over Atlanta, which completed a three-game sweep and gave them four wins in their last five games, that Thursday’s scheduled off-day was ill-timed and might halt the team’s momentum.

But center fielder Aaron Rowand, an expert in team dynamics, wasn’t worried.

“Honestly, I don’t think anybody’s really thinking about that,” Rowand said. “During a 162-game season, any off-day’s welcome. I don’t think an off-day is going to stop any sort of momentum. I think everybody’s pretty excited about the way we played the last three days and we’re going to try to carry it on against the Cardinals.”

Manager Bruce Bochy, however, stuck to the time-honored philosophy. “You’d rather have the off-day when you’re struggling a little bit,” he said.

*****

One Giant who can use the off-day is right fielder Randy Winn, who left the game after fouling a pitch off his left knee in the fifth inning. Winn insisted afterward that he felt OK, and he appeared to walk through the clubhouse without limping.

*****

It got overlooked by the Randy Johnson victory countdown and the rousing offense, but the play of the game had to be second baseman Emmanuel Burriss’ running catch of Matt Diaz’s pop-up to open the fifth inning. Burriss sped into foul ground and snared the ball near the right-field bullpen.

*****

Bengie Molina’s fifth-inning single interrupted a 2-for-35 slump. However, Molina came to the plate twice more and was retired both times, extending his skid to 3-for-38.

No controversy with Affeldt, etc.

SAN DIEGO — When Bruce Bochy removed Jeremy Affeldt after the left-hander fell behind 2-0 on pinch-hitter Edgar Gonzalez in the seventh inning, it was easy to imagine that the manager was impatient with the reliever for falling behind on the count.

That assumption, like many others, was false.

Affeldt had thrown 22 pitches, and probably would have needed a few more to finish the inning. With left-handed batters Andre Ethier, James Loney, Blake DeWitt and Doug Mientkiewicz awaiting the Giants in Los Angeles, Bochy wants Affeldt to be fresh. So he took the unconventional step of removing Affeldt in the middle of a plate appearance.

“I didn’t want to work him,” Bochy said. “We may need him tomorrow.”

***

Tim Lincecum’s next outing will be Saturday against Arizona. I expect him to pitch a strong game. Then again, I expected that here, and look what happened.

Lincecum doubtlessly has encountered mini-slumps like this before, and they didn’t stop him from reaching the Major Leagues. He’s good at analyzing himself, and if he has any questions, he can consult his father, Chris, who knows his pitching mechanics best of all. Lincecum might not finish 18-5 as he did last year, but he’ll remind everybody just how formidable he is sooner than later.

*** 

Ah, the first Giants-Dodgers series of the season. Time to unearth Willie McCovey’s great line about the rivalry: “You can hear the electricity.” The non-stop buzz, whether real or perceived, is intoxicating.

It’ll be intriguing to see how Randy Johnson, Monday’s starter for the Giants, responds to being thrust into baseball’s best rivalry (yes, I said “best.” I’ll explain some other time). As intense as Johnson is, it probably won’t make a difference in his approach. Not like when Juan Marichal or John “The Count” Montefusco would get extra pumped-up to face the Dodgers. The Big Unit gets pumped up to face everybody.

– Chris Haft

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

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

Sandoval, Renteria sustain mild injuries

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Third baseman Pablo Sandoval and shortstop Edgar Renteria sustained mild injuries in the Giants’ 11-10 exhibition loss to the San Diego Padres at Peoria, Ariz.

Sandoval sprained his left ankle while trying to avoid a pitch and Renteria developed tightness in his right (throwing) elbow, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Bochy added that although Sandoval will rest for at least one day, the same injury might not sideline him in the regular season. Renteria, said Bochy, might play Sunday against Milwaukee.

Still, these minor ailments foil Bochy’s plan to play his regulars for three days in a row. He also wants them to play significant numbers of innings to condition them for the regular season. But the slow pace of Saturday’s game — it took about two hours to play four innings — forced Bochy to remove some of his regulars prematurely. Also, catcher Bengie Molina stayed in Scottsdale on Saturday to catch Tim Lincecum in a Minor League exhibition and probably will skip Sunday’s game to collaborate with Randy Johnson, who’s getting his work in by pitching in a Minor League intrasquad game.

Though Friday night’s Jack Taschner trade robbed the Giants of a left-handed relief option, Bochy said that he would not hesitate to use an all-right-handed bullpen, save for Jeremy Affeldt. Asked if he’d find this arrangement comfortable, Bochy said, “It will be if e feel we have at least a guy or two who can get left-handers out. It doesn’t matter if they’re left-handed or right-handed.”

One other news tidbit: Right-hander Osiris Matos stayed at home Saturday with flu-like symptoms.  

What to expect on Monday

PHOENIX — In what could be one of the Giants’ most intriguing exhibition games in years (I know, “intriguing” and “exhibition” contradict each other), both Randy Johnson and Tim Lincecum will pitch against the Seattle Mariners in Scottsdale.

It’ll be a truly intriguing encounter for Mariners fans. First comes Johnson, who blossomed into a star while pitching for Seattle from 1989 to 1998. He’ll be followed by Lincecum, the Seattle-area native who the Mariners snubbed in the 2006 draft — leaving him for the Giants to take with the 10th overall selection.

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sunday that he expects Johnson, who missed his last start with irritation in his biceps, to pitch three innings. Bochy added that Lincecum just might work the rest of the game — which would enable the right-hander to keep pace with Barry Zito and Matt Cain in terms of advancing toward season-opening stamina. The aftereffects of bronchitis weakened Lincecum last Wednesday, when he allowed four runs and seven hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Cubs.

For several Giants, the morning will be unpleasant, or inevitable, depending on their point of view. Bochy and his staff will option or reassign a sizable number of players to Minor League camp, another sign that the Giants are getting down to serious business this spring.

– Chris Haft 

Reporting Day leftovers

The world “leftovers” in the headline isn’t meant to be dismissive. After all, leftovers are usually good for a couple of days. So snack on these morsels as you wait for the Giants to officially start Spring Training:

– Manager Bruce Bochy said Saturday that players will engage in conditioning exercises at the end of workouts instead of at the beginning. “One of the primary reasons I changed it was that I want these guys to have their legs fresh as they’re going through fundamentals and the pitchers are throwing on the side,” Bochy said.

– Left fielder Fred Lewis visited Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., in December to approve baseball spikes made specially for him. Lewis underwent surgery last September to have a bunion removed from his right big toe and actually has another bunion on his left foot that hasn’t yet proved bothersome. The shoes, he said, contain a mesh material around the toes to provide flexibility. Lewis expects to be ready to play in the Giants’ Feb. 25 Cactus League opener against Cleveland, although he hasn’t tried moving side to side or cutting sharply on his feet. “I feel like a little kid in a candy store,” Lewis said. “I can’t wait to get out there on the field. I feel like I have something to prove all over again.”

– Bochy named right-handers Kevin Pucetas, Joseph Martinez and Ramon Ortiz and left-hander Pat Misch as candidates to start if Martians abducted a member or two of the existing rotation (my words, not Bochy’s). Pucetas owns a 32-7 Minor League record but hasn’t pitched above Class A; Martinez led the Eastern League with a 2.49 ERA for Double-A Connecticut last year; Ortiz will prepare to pitch long relief as well as start; and Misch started 20 games in 2008 for Triple-A Fresno and the Giants.

– Bochy indicated that left-hander Randy Johnson’s training regimen will be adjusted to accommodate the 45-year-old’s history of back problems. “When you’ve been in the game as long as he has and you’ve had the success that he’s had, he has a routine and we certainly don’t want to change it,” Bochy said. When a reporter mentioned that the Arizona Diamondbacks protected Johnson last spring by prohibiting him from hitting in exhibition games, Bochy said, “We do want him to take a few swings so when he gets in a game he doesn’t hurt himself.” Bochy won’t completely baby Johnson either, judging from his response when another reporter mentioned PFP (pitchers’ fielding practice). “He’ll spend some time there, maybe not as much as a Jesse English,” Bochy said, humorously referring to the rookie right-hander who finished 13-7 last year for Class A San Jose.

– Chris Haft

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