Results tagged ‘ Rich Aurilia ’

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.

Aurilia’s in the lineup for home finale

SAN FRANCISCO — Receiving a proper sendoff, Rich Aurilia, who’s likely in his last days as an active player with the Giants, was in the lineup for Thursday’s home finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Aurilia was slated to bat seventh and play first base in his first start since July 17.

Aurilia, 38, has spent 11 of his 14 Major League seasons with the Giants. He’ll likely receive a warm reception at AT&T Park from Giants fans, who consider him the last link to the club’s sustained excellence between 1997 and 2004. Aurilia spent most of that time as San Francisco’s starting shortstop, helping the team average 92 wins a year and reach the postseason or Wild Card playoff five times.<p/>

– Chris Haft

Giants announce callups

PHILADELPHIA — Most of the transactions the Giants announced Tuesday were expected, as roster limits expanded to 40 across the Major Leagues.

First baseman-outfielder John Bowker, first baseman Jesus Guzman and right-hander Waldis Joaquin were recalled from Triple-A Fresno. The left-handed-batting Bowker and the right-handed-swinging Guzman will give manager Bruce Bochy more options off the bench, while Joaquin, a hard thrower, will deepen the bullpen.

Infielder Rich Aurilia and outfielder Andres Torres were activated from the 15-day disabled list, providing even more depth.

In a procedural move, infielder Emmanuel Burriss, whose season ended prematurely with a broken foot, was recalled from Fresno and moved to the 60-day disabled list. This cleared a roster spot for right-hander Brad Penny, whose Minor League contract was purchased. Penny will start Wednesday here, filling the No. 5 spot in the pitching rotation.

– Chris Haft

Aurilia ready to play but remains on DL

SAN FRANCISCO — Infielder Rich Aurilia was eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday. He remained in limbo instead.

“I think he’s physically ready,” manager Bruce Bochy said of Aurilia, who had tendinitis in his left ankle. “We just don’t have a move to make right now.”

In other words, the Giants would rather have rookie Ryan Rohlinger on their 25-man roster than Aurilia, who has a wealth of experience and, despite his .220 batting average, remains more than capable of battling the best of pitchers, particularly during the late innings.

So Aurilia must wait until roster limits expand to 40 next Tuesday to be activated. Wisely, he remained mostly mum regarding Thursday’s non-events.

“I don’t make those decisions,” he said. “I’m healthy and ready to play.”

– Chris Haft

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

Looking past Reds to Dodgers? Naaah

SAN FRANCISCO — Bruce Bochy seemed horrified at the mere thought that any of the Giants might — m-i-g-h-t — be looking past this weekend’s series against the Cincinnati Reds to the three-game set against the National League West rival Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Monday.

“We’re playing the Reds right now,” Bochy said before Friday night’s 10-5 loss to Cincinnati. “That’s our focus. That’s how it has to be.”

Fresh off the disabled list and a Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment, infielder Rich Aurilia said that he’d be more than happy to help Bochy point the less-experienced Giants in the proper direction, if necessary.

“Hopefully we can instill that in some of the younger guys. Just worry about winning tonight and not about what happens Monday,” Aurilia said.

Still … as a public service, here are the pitching matchups for the Dodgers series:

Monday: Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 4.44 ERA) vs. Jonathan Sanchez (5-9, 4.49);

Tuesday: Randy Wolf (5-6, 3.55) vs. Joe Martinez (2-0, 5.87);

Wednesday: Chad Billingsley (11-6, 3.73) vs. Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.20)

Los Angeles right-hander Jason Schmidt was in line to face his ex-teammates, but he returned to the disabled list with a shoulder injury.

*****

Get this: Buster Posey hit his third home run for Triple-A Fresno on Friday night. As a shrewd witness in Fresno observed, the pitcher who yielded Posey’s homer, Clay Hensley, happened to allow Barry Bonds’ 755th career homer in August 2007. Hensley was then pitching for the San Diego Padres.

*****

Shortstop Edgar Renteria probably would have preferred a more pleasant 34th birthday. His double error in the fifth inning handed Cincinnati an unearned run. With two outs, Renteria fumbled Willy Taveras’ grounder, then threw wildly past first base. That allowed Taveras to reach second base and score on Alex Gonzalez’s subsequent single.

Nevertheless, I will leave AT&T Park tonight with a higher opinion of Renteria than I had when I arrived here. A Reds coach who I deeply admire told me before the game that Renteria’s positive influence, particularly on younger Latin American players, has been obvious. This echoes what a Giants coach recently told me. I suppose I feel somewhat ashamed that people had to point this out to me; this is something I should be able to observe myself. But Renteria is extremely soft-spoken and goes about his business in an unassuming manner, never calling attention to himself. I’m sure Renteria’s intangibles are an asset. I’m also sure he prefers to operate below the radar, so to speak.

*****

Also:

– The Reds have won six consecutive games against the Giants.

– Eugenio Velez extended his hitting streak to 13 games. He’s batting .429 (24-for-56) in this span.

– Pablo Sandoval recorded his fourth multiple-hit game in a row, hiking his batting average to .336.

– The last time San Francisco committed five errors in a game — June 25, 2005 at Oakland in a 6-3 loss — the club took that hangover into its next performance, a 16-0 loss to the A’s which had to have been one of the Giants’ worst defeats since moving to San Francisco in 1958. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that the current Giants won’t follow up Friday’s dud with another one.

– Chris Haft

Aurilia returns to active roster

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants regained a potentially valuable performer for the stretch drive Friday as they recalled infifelder Rich Aurilia from his Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment and optioned first baseman-outfielder John Bowker to Triple-A Fresno.

Short-term, Aurilia can supplement the Giants’ infield depth, since Juan Uribe has been bothered by a hamstring injury. Uribe did not appear in three of San Francisco’s last four games entering Friday.

More importantly, Aurilia’s .210 batting average belies his ability to put together a solid at-bat when it matters most. He remains competent in late-inning pressure situations, when he invariably works the count, shortens his swing, doesn’t panic with two strikes and, more often than not, makes meaningful, productive contact.

Aurilia’s only hits in 17 at-bats during his rehab assignment with Fresno and Class A San Jose were two home runs.

“It was valuable for me in the sense that I got to play and get some repetitive at-bats,” said Aurilia, whose five-game stint was precipitated by an infected right big toe. “I got out of it what I wanted to get out of it.”

Aurilia acknowledged that returning to Class A for the first time since 1993 awakened memories he would have preferred to remain dormant. San Jose’s ballpark lacks a center-field batter’s eye and, many believe, adequate lighting. “It makes you appreciate how spoiled we are up here,” Aurilia said.

Bowker played only twice in his second stint of the season with the Giants, but he went out in memorable fashion by belting a monstrous triple to center in Wednesday’s victory at Houston. Don’t be surprised if Bowker rejoins the Giants in September when rosters are expanded to 40 players.

Manager Bruce Bochy said that Bowker calmly accepted his demotion. “He understood that we have a need right now [for Aurilia] to give us insurance in the infield,” Bochy said.

– Chris Haft

Sanchez stars, Aurilia slugs, Giants rock steady

SAN FRANCISCO — Here’s why Jonathan Sanchez’s victory Thursday over the Phillies was more impressive than it looked:

Philadelphia typically mauls left-handed starters like Sanchez. Entering their encounter against him, the Phillies were 22-11 against lefty starters with a Major League-high 46 home runs. Philadelphia also led all National League teams in doubles, extra-base hits, RBIs and total bases against left-handers.

So for Sanchez to limit Philadelphia to two runs and three hits in 5 2/3 innings was a definite accomplishment.

*****

This comes courtesy of Doug Greenwald, Triple-A Fresno’s broadcaster:

Rich Aurilia hit a two-run homer in the third inning of Fresno’s game against Colorado Springs. Aurilia needed an injury rehabiIitation stint while his infected big toe heals.

Meanwhile, Greenwald pointed out that this was Aurilia’s first Triple-A homer since 1997.<p/>

*****

By defeating the Phillies in Thursday’s series opener, the Giants sealed a winning July. The Giants improved to 14-12 for the month, continuing their trend of posting winning records each month. It all started with a 10-10 April, continued with a 15-14 May and peaked with a 17-10 June.

– Chris Haft

What to look for on Thursday

DENVER — Manager Bruce Bochy said after Wednesday’s 11-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies that he’d probably make a couple of changes to the lineup for Thursday’s series finale.

One likely will be giving shortstop Edgar Renteria a rest, Bochy said. This will mean playing time for Juan Uribe, who hit the ball hard in his only at-bat Wednesday (a smash to shortstop) after entering the game late. He drove in San Francisco’s only run with that grounder.

As I pointed out in the game preview, first baseman Rich Aurilia has hit .300 lifetime (6-for-20) against Thursday’s starter, Jason Marquis. But Aurilia hasn’t started against a right-handed pitcher all season. Let’s see how that plays out.

By the way: The 11-1 score equaled the Giants’ worst margin of defeat this season. It happened in the Dodgers’ home opener on April 13, too.

– Chris Haft

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 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 104 other followers