Results tagged ‘ Randy Winn ’

Ex-Giant Winn among available free-agent outfielders

Tuesday, Dec. 7

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Randy Winn’s not returning to the Giants, but he intends to play somewhere.

Winn, who spent 2005-09 with San Francisco, is spending the winter in his Tampa-area home and training diligently while waiting to command interest from a team that needs a handy free-agent outfielder.

Winn’s agent, Craig Landis, acknowledged Tuesday at the Winter Meetings that his 36-year-old client probably will have to wait until late in the offseason to receive a deal.

“A lot of teams are focusing on the more expensive guys,” Landis said. “I don’t have a good feel yet on how the market’s going to be. But he definitely wants to play. He’s going to play somewhere.”

Winn’s career figures include a .284 batting average, a .343 on-base percentage and a .416 slugging percentage to go with 110 homers, 215 stolen bases and 662 RBIs. But his .239 average in 116 games last year with the Yankees and Cardinals was his worst for any of his 13 seasons, and his .307 on-base percentage equaled a personal low.

Winn also has the unlucky distinction of appearing in 1,717 games without performing in the postseason, most among active players.

“We’re going to have to try to find the right fit for him, where people can appreciate his switch-hitting ability, his ability to play three outfield spots and his ability to run the bases and steal a base every once in a while,” Landis said. “At this stage, he’s a smaller cog in the process. But the fit [with a team] is more important.”

Chris Haft

Defense adds sparkle to diamond

Tuesday, April 27

SAN FRANCISCO — Great pitching is sublime. Powerful, consistent hitting is impressive. But few aspects of baseball demonstrate its beautiful, skillful demands like defense.

There was plenty of that on display at AT&T Park on Tuesday as the Giants defeated the Phillies, 6-2. If you saw it, consider yourself fortunate.

The defensive display began early, as Schierholtz dove to snare Placido Polanco’s fly to right-center field for the second out in the first inning.

Schierholtz gained an accomplice in the second inning. He corralled Ryan Howard’s liner into the right-field corner and unleased a strong one-hop throw to second base, where shortstop Edgar Renteria was waiting nonchalantly. Fooled by Renteria’s passive posture, Howard slowed as he neared the bag, believing he had a sure double. Instead, Renteria slapped the tag on Howard a stride before he reached base.

The Phillies’ turn came in the third. With Renteria on first base and one out, Sandoval smacked a grounder up the middle that shortstop Juan Castro lunged for and gloved. Falling down, he shoveled the ball from his glove — under his right arm, like a basketball player making a no-look pass — to second baseman Chase Utley, who barehanded the ball and relayed it to first for a double play.

Footnote: I covered Castro for a few years in Cincinnati. He’s like a master violinist who performs in obscurity. Everybody in baseball, however, knows what a marvelous defender he is. That play he made was eye-popping but not surprising.

Recapturing the spotlight, Schierholtz ran down Carlos Ruiz’s long drive to right-center to christen the fifth inning. Then Schierholtz threw out Utley, who was trying to stretch a single into a double, to open the ninth. That gave Schierholtz two outfield assists in a game for the first time in his relatively brief career (193 games). The last Giants outfielder to record two outfield assists in a game was Randy Winn on April 15, 2006 at Los Angeles.

– Chris Haft

Randy Winn: An appreciation

Randy Winn wouldn’t care if he ever spoke to the media. That doesn’t mean he dislikes reporters. It’s just that he doesn’t crave attention.

But when anybody with a camera, microphone or notebook approached Winn during his four-and-a-half seasons with the Giants, he was cordial at the very least, thoughtful and engaging at his best and always — ALWAYS — accommodating. The phrase “no comment” didn’t exist in his vocabulary.

That’s part of the beauty of Randy Winn. While he surely appreciates the glory of being a Major Leaguer, he doesn’t coat himself in it. Beating his chest and declaring, “Look at me!” isn’t part of the job description for him. Rather, beating the other team is what it’s all about.

Unlike Bengie Molina, Winn wasn’t bound for a surprise return to San Francisco. Winn’s two home runs in 597 plate appearances during 2009 doomed him with the Giants, who were bent on upgrading their offense. His departure essentially became official Wednesday with the all-but-finalized news of his agreement on a one-year contract with the New York Yankees.

Yet Winn merits a final salute as he leaves San Francisco. The man was, and is, a complete professional. Winn delivered a consistent effort whether he was thriving or slumping, healthy or in pain. By driving himself to excel in all facets of the game — he’s an excellent baserunner and a polished, underrated outfielder — Winn separated himself from the sorry plethora of ballplayers who almost seem to refuse to improve themselves.

Body language says a lot about an athlete. That’s by definition, since they make their living with their bodies. Winn always carried himself like a U.S. Marine — focused, proud, intent on his impending tasks. It follows that a Marine veteran who’s one of my regular e-mail pen pals named Winn as his favorite all-time Giant. The earnest diligence Winn exuded impressed this man to no end.

Winn maintained that attitude behind closed doors. Some guys slouch or shuffle through the clubhouse; Winn held his head high, leveled his gaze, maintained an even stride and almost never limped, despite sustaining painful leg ailments (which was the only subject he refused to discuss). One exception occurred when Winn noticed a group of reporters and began hobbling, trying to trick us into seizing upon fake news.

Indeed, Winn had a healthy sense of humor. It showed in his feigned disdain for the “Good Guy Award,” given annually by reporters covering the team to the player whose cooperation is especially valued. This two-, three-year running gag between us and Winn ended last September when we voted him Good Guy for 2009. He clearly deserved it, and he seemed genuinely pleased.

Remember the familiar yet too-seldom-heard saying, “As good a ballplayer as he is, he’s an even better person”? Winn could be president of that club — along with Rich Aurilia and Dave Roberts, two other veterans who recently became ex-Giants. How fitting that they became known among the Giants as the “Rat Pack,” a nod to the famed entertainment troika of Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. How sobering, though San Francisco’s clubhouse remains filled with truly decent men, that they’re all gone.

One of Winn’s classiest acts occurred early this offseason. During a November conditioning camp held for Minor Leaguers at AT&T Park, the Giants supplemented the physical regimen by bringing in speakers to motivate and educate the prospects. Guests included J.T. Snow, general manager Brian Sabean and even Willie Mays.

Another speaker was Winn, who was about to plunge into free agency and thus wasn’t technically a Giant. Yet he felt compelled to share some of the wisdom he had accumulated through 12 big league seasons. His message focused on the importance of being a good teammate.

That’s the essence of Randy Winn.

The Yankees will quickly learn how lucky they are to have Winn in their midst. His professionalism will enhance the Yankees’ aura as reigning World Champions. They’ll cherish his ability to play all three outfield positions and his other diverse skills. On that club, any offense he provides will be a bonus.

Winn will be free to go about his business while the ravenous New York media descends on Derek Jeter, CC Sabathia, Alex Rodriguez and other Yankees stars.

But when reporters need to speak to Winn, he’ll answer any question they have.

Giants might bid adieu to Aurilia

SAN FRANCISCO — Nothing’s official, so this could be pure speculation. But a huge hint was dropped Monday night that when right fielder Nate Schierholtz is activated Tuesday, releasing veteran infielder Rich Aurilia will be the corresponding roster move.

If so, it’ll be an untimely development for an individual who has conducted himself with class through 12 Major League seasons. The thinking here is that the Giants could have used Aurilia’s bat off the bench down the stretch — if he’s indeed gone.

A Giants official said that no move had yet been made. But shortly after reporters were admitted into the Giants’ clubhouse following their 4-2 loss to the Dodgers, Aurilia and bench coach Ron Wotus were seen exchanging a hug. They wouldn’t have been doing that sort of thing if Wotus planned on hitting Aurilia grounders during batting practice on Tuesday.

Aurilia remained mostly mum — and cordial. “I’ve got nothing to say, guys,” he said. “Good night. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

*****

Some bright spots for the Giants:

– Bengie Molina homered for the third time in four games.

– Randy Winn, who entered the game in a 6-for-42 (.143) skid, went 2-for-4.

– Eugenio Velez extended his hitting streak to 16 games. He’s batting .420 (29-for-69) in that span.

– The bullpen was outstanding. Justin Miller worked two scoreless innings, Sergio Romo continued his dominance of the Dodgers (they’re 1-for-32 in seven games off him) and Merkin Valdez coolly stranded a runner on third base.

But …

– The Giants have lost back-to-back home games since the Angels swept them in mid-June.

– Chris Haft

Affeldt excels; ‘D’ isn’t that bad; history’s safe

ST. LOUIS — If Jeremy Affeldt seems like he’s one of the best setup relievers you’ve seen, it’s not your imagination.

Affeldt worked a perfect ninth inning Wednesday to extend his scoreless-innings streak to 19. It’s the longest streak by a Giant since Noah Lowry and Jason Schmidt each put up zeroes for 19 consecutive innings in 2005. The last Giants reliever to enjoy a longer streak was Joe Nathan, who went unscored upon for 22 1/3 innings in a row in 2003.

During Affeldt’s 20-game stretch, he has allowed only 10 hits in 60 at-bats (.167). Moreover, none of the 10 baserunners he has inherited in his last 11 appearances have scored. He also leads NL relievers with 10 double plays induced.

*****

Despite their three errors Wednesday, the Giants actually played some decent defense.

Center fielder Aaron Rowand made a breathtaking diving catch of Skip Schumaker’s third-inning line drive. Left fielder Randy Winn duplicated the feat on the luckless Schumaker in the fifth inning.

*****

They say it’s difficult to sweep any opponent. History proves that this is so.

Had the Giants won Wednesday, they would have entered Thursday’s finale with a chance to record their first four-game series sweep in St. Louis since May 6-9, 1912. Nineteen-twelve! That’s when Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard were the Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain of their day for San Fran — er, New York — and the roster included two star-crossed players: Fred Merkle (who failed to touch first base in a critical 1908 game) and Fred Snodgrass (whose error in the final game of the 1912 World Series helped opposing Boston prevail).

It’s worth remembering that four-game series aren’t played much anymore. Still, 97 years is a heck of a long time.

The Giants’ last four-game sweep of St. Louis anywhere occurred July 24-26, 1987 at Candlestick Park. It helped launch their second-half drive toward the National League West title.

– 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.

More from Sunday: Ishikawa explains “4-strike” AB; Winn’s OK

SAN FRANCISCO — Word quickly spread that Travis Ishikawa received four strikes during his ninth-inning at-bat in which he struck out looking. Ishikawa claimed this wasn’t the case, and two others in the press box who are paid to scrutinize each pitch — the official scorer and a game-tracker — supported his explanation.

Differences arose over a pitch that Ishikawa appeared to tip foul. But what apparently happened was that the ball grazed Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta’s glove.

“I never touched it, so I don’t know where the confusion was,” Ishikawa said. “I know I checked my swing, so I wasn’t sure if they called it a strike or if [the Rockies] were going to appeal or not. I asked after the third ball what the count was and he [plate umpire Casey Moser] said 3-0.”

Obviously, however, the umpiring crew wasn’t on the same page at that point.

“I took the next one for a strike,” Ishikawa added, “and that’s when Bill [Hohn] came down from third base [to double-check on the count].”

***

Randy Winn, strained right side and all, pinch-hit in the seventh inning and remained in the game to play left field. After the Giants’ 1-0 victory, Winn insisted he was fine, bolstering manager Bruce Bochy’s hopes that he’d need just a day to heal.

“I felt outstanding when I woke up,” Winn said, “and I feel great right now.”

Winn said this moments after having an ice pack removed from his side as part of his postgame treatment. His tone of voice also indicated that he was being ever-so-slightly humorous. But overall, he seemed sincere, so I’d bet that he’ll be in Monday’s starting lineup.

***

Manager Bruce Bochy on the National League West, now that the Giants have played each division foe:

“Nothing’s changed as far as my impressions,” Bochy said. “Going into this, I think we all felt that L.A. would be the club to beat in this division. But Arizona’s playing well now. That’s not a surprise. They have a lot of talent there. Colorado’s playing better and swinging the bats better. So I see it getting bunched up.”

Meanwhile, Bochy agreed — how could he not? — that the Giants have met expectations by relying on their superior starting pitching.

“I don’t think anything’s changed with how you look at teams within this division,” Bochy repeated.

***

If you felt confident as Rich Aurilia batted in the 10th inning, you weren’t alone. “He’s the best two-strike hitter we’ve got,” a Giants coach said.

Aurilia often will hack early in the count. But with two strikes, he widens his stance, tightens his swing and sharpens his skills.

“My approach changes with two strikes all the time,” said Aurilia, who singled to drive in Steve Holm with the game’s lone run. “I try to use my hands a little bit more and fight off tough pitches until I get one that I can do something with.”

Aurilia works on this technique during batting practice while others are swinging for the fences. No wonder he has stuck around for 14 big-league seasons.

– Chris Haft 

 

A scary, scary moment

SAN FRANCISCO — As of this moment, Joe Martinez’s condition remains unknown. We’re all praying that he’s OK.

Martinez needed one out to end the Giants’ 7-1 victory Thursday over the Milwaukee Brewers when Mike Cameron slammed a line drive back at the right-hander. The ball struck the right side of Martinez’s forehead with such force that the ball caromed all the way back to the Brewers’ dugout on the first-base side.

Martinez remained conscious but wisely sat on the mound, not trying to move and allowing Giants athletic trainers to attend to him. An angry red mark could be seen on Martinez’s forehead. Meanwhile, numerous players began praying — Brian Wilson, leaning against the Giants dugout railing; shortstop Edgar Renteria and all three outfielders, squatting on the outfield grass; Cameron, hunched over at second base and visibly upset. Randy Winn and Fred Lewis came over to console Cameron.

Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner held a bandage to Martinez’s forehead as the pitcher walked off the field under his own power — an encouraging sign.

– Chris Haft  

Worse than Candlestick? Quite possibly

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — One waited for trailers, cars and phone booths (excuse me, those are scarce nowadays) to blow through Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday night.

The Giants and Cubs played 6 1/2 innings through unforgiving winds before the game was called by agreement among the umpires and the teams’ managers. “You get the risk of injury. For the safety of the players, that was enough.”

The wind, which blew to right field, was measured at 25 mph with gusts reaching 30 mph at gametime. It was generally agreed that conditions worsened as the evening lengthened.

Giants right fielder Randy Winn resembled a cross between Fred Astaire and a drunk as he somehow caught three consecutive fly balls while battling the breezes.

“Miserable,” Winn said, describing the conditions which forced him to douse his eyes with Visine to remove the dirt that blew into them. “It was probably the most challenging outfield I think I’ve ever played.”

Winn never played at Candlestick Park, where the Giants dealt with infamous winds from 1960-1999. “If Candlestick was like that, I wouldn’t have wished that upon anybody,” he said.

Two drives to left field that appeared to be home runs upon contact — by San Francisco’s Bengie Molina in the first inning and Chicago’s Derrek Lee in the fourth — were caught in medium-deep left field, demonstrating the futility of hitting the ball into the wind.

Giants left-hander Barry Zito pitched adequately despite the elements, yielding three runs and seven hits in five innings.

“It was as bad as I’ve ever seen it, windy-wise,” Zito said. “It was really blowing you over in your windup. One time it even blew Bengie back out of his crouch. He had to call time out.”

Zito encouraged the Giants by striking out seven and even fanned the side in the first inning — retiring Alfonso Soriano, Mike Fontenot and Lee consecutively.

“It’s the result of being aggressive and just going after it,” Zito said. “I knew I had the ‘A’ lineup out there tonight. I wanted to come out and make a statement.”

– Chris Haft

An ode to Dave Roberts

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Dave Roberts’ value cannot be measured by statistics.

Roberts is that rarest of ballplayers: Somebody who’s good for the team even when he’s not playing. Unfortunately for the Giants, that was all too often over the last couple of years, partly explaining why they released Roberts on Thursday.

Sentiment is a luxury the Giants can’t afford. Eugenio Velez is proving capable of handling the backup outfielder’s role Roberts would have occupied. Velez also switch hits, plays second base and is faster than Roberts. As Giants general manager Brian Sabean said, “I told him [Roberts] we’re on a path to get younger and healthier. Right now that’s not on his resume.”

Still, as Roberts prepares to clean out his Scottsdale Stadium locker — his gear remained in it after he departed Thursday; he had mentioned dropping by one more time to bid goodbye to players he had missed — it’s only right to salute a truly fine individual.

Aaron Boone, another player I’ve known whose character eclipses his statistics, said upon being traded from the Reds to the Yankees that in the end, the relationships a ballplayer forges within the game are the richest assets he derives from it. Certainly a guy can feel fulfilled by making a lot of money or winning a World Series ring. But baseball, which throws disparate men together for 200 or more days a year, forces you to bond. Pity those who are incapable of forming or unwilling to relish those bonds. The best things in life, after all, are free.

Roberts knows this. So he savored the people who surrounded him. He offered a hello and a big smile to anybody who crossed his path, whether it was a clubhouse attendant, a reporter or a teammate.

On the Giants, he was closest to fellow veterans Randy Winn and Rich Aurilia. They were dubbed the “Rat Pack,” owing to the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Sammy Davis Jr. triumvirate of the 1960s (no, we’re not forgetting Joey Bishop or Peter Lawford, but let’s face it, the others were the Big Three). But Roberts didn’t confine himself to any clique. When Emmanuel Burriss, Rajai Davis or Velez showed their inexperience on the field, Roberts counseled them afterward, doling out fatherly advice on how to avoid repeating such transgressions. When Matt Cain had endured one luckless defeat too many, Roberts was there to remind him that there was nothing wrong with him and assure him that he’ll ultimately be rewarded. This might sound like self-evident stuff, but it’s easy to lose perspective under the pressure big leaguers face. Roberts was always willing to offer that perspective in a patient, understanding, caring package.

During Barry Bonds’ final ascent to the home run record in 2007, Roberts tirelessly answered reporters’ incessant questions about the slugger. Roberts didn’t do this to win points with the media or seem better than the other players. He did this because he knew the media’s demands wouldn’t subside, and by answering a question here or a question there he could spare teammates some of the hassle. In short, he took one (in this case, hundreds) for the team.

I’ve been blessed to cover baseball for most of my career since 1991, and when I grope through my memory for other players who possessed the same intangible worth that Roberts brought the Giants, I find few parallels.

There was Casey Candaele, who everybody thought was too small, too slow and just not physically gifted enough to play Major League baseball. His mere presence (never mind his outrageous sense of humor) inspired teammates to give their best.

There was Pete Harnisch, who pitched only every five days but provided influence constantly. Like Candaele, Harnisch had a stiletto-sharp wit that he could use to motivate, ridicule, or lead his teammates. I also remember how he literally gave up a start toward the end of the 2000 season with Cincinnati so Ron Villone could get a shot at his 10th win. Not only did Villone reach double figures, he also struck out 16 in a 150-pitch complete game that remains one of the most stunning efforts I’ve seen.

Roberts has been the same way, always there for others. It’s no surprise that he was a championship-winning quarterback in high school — playing the most important position in the ultimate team sport. He’s no longer a Giant, and he might have trouble finding a Major League job. But any team that picks him up ought to hold onto him. He’s a winner in a profound sense of the word.

– Chris Haft  

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