Results tagged ‘ Tim Lincecum ’

Villalona injured; Molina praises Sandoval; fun facts

SAN FRANCISCO — First baseman Angel Villalona, one of the Giants’ leading prospects, is expected to miss at least four weeks with a strained left quadriceps.<p/>

Villalona injured himself Tuesday while playing for the Giants’ Class A San Jose affiliate. His injury will prevent him from participating in Sunday’s Futures Game with the World team. In 74 games, Villalona, who hit .267 with nine home runs and 42 RBIs in 74 games, played in last year’s Futures Game at Yankee Stadium.

*****

Bengie Molina delivered a high compliment to Pablo Sandoval after Thursday’s 9-3 vvictory over Florida.

“I really really hope that pablo can hit 30 home runs and get 150 RBIs,” said Molina, who’s tied with Sandoval for the team lead in RBIs with 50. “I wish and hope he beats me in RBIs, homers and average … I love that kid. After Roberto Clemente, he’s my favorite player. And he should have gone to the All-Star Game.”

*****

Tim Lincecum became the third Giants starter to lose a no-hitter upon facing the first batter of the seventh inning. It also happened to Randy Johnson on April 19 against Arizona and Barry Zito on June 21 against Texas.

– Chris Haft

Giants’ youth movement a starry success

SAN FRANCISCO — A look at the podium the other day as the Giants showed off their All-Stars, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, and their would-be All-Star, Final Vote candidate Pablo Sandoval, reflected the club’s makeover in recent years.

Giants management said that it wanted a younger team after jettisoning Barry Bonds following the 2007. Well, that has happened. Moreover, some of their youthful players have developed more quickly than the front office might have anticipated.

Just look at San Francisco’s All-Star trio (I’m counting Sandoval, for simplicity’s sake).

Sandoval is 22. Cain is 24. Lincecum is 25. What a triumph for the Giants’ scouting and development sector. If the Giants can somehow produce a few more players like them (Buster Posey? Madison Bumgarner? Angel Villalona?), maybe, just maybe, that elusive World Series Champions banner will fly from one of the center-field flag poles sometime in the next decade.

Randy Johnson, the 303-game winner whose experience and success legitimize pretty much everything he has to say about baseball, addressed the wondrous pair of Cain and Lincecum.

“To have two pitchers like that, doing what they’re doing on a high level every fifth day, it’s pretty exciting to watch,” Johnson said. “That was one reason why I got excited every fifth day, to go out there and be a part of that. To have both of them represent the Giants [as All-Stars] and be on top of their game right now, that’s great.

“I hope they can continue to do that in the second half because that’s what it will take, especially when we start playing the Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee again — teams that are right behind us in the Wild Card and ahead of us in the division.”

– Chris Haft 

Defense helps Lincecum; Wilson lauds Mariano; Rowand hurt

ST. LOUIS – For the first 4 2/3 innings Monday night, while it seemed as if Tim Lincecum might pitch a no-hitter, a handful of close calls and sparkling plays stood out.

Albert Pujols ended the fourth inning by scorching a line drive directly at third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Had it traveled a few feet in any other direction, it would have been a double.

Second baseman Juan Uribe preserved Lincecum’s perfect game in the fifth inning by darting up the middle to snare Chris Duncan’s smash on one hop and make an off-balance but strong throw to first base for the out.

Then Rick Ankiel swung at Lincecum’s very next pitch and broke his bat but managed to bloop the ball into right-center field for a single.

Still, I remain convinced that Lincecum or Matt Cain will throw a no-hitter someday.

Even Bruce Bochy admitted that thoughts of Lincecum pitching a no-hitter crossed his mind, though that’s not the kind of thing a manager often admits.

“To be honest, yeah,” Bochy said. “That’s a good-hitting ballclub over there. But with Timmy, sure.”

But Bochy added, with Ankiel’s hit squarely in mind, “It takes a lot of luck to throw a no-hitter.”

*****

Giants closer Brian Wilson, who has listened ad nauseum to coaches and managers telling him that he must mix up his pitches more, seized upon Mariano Rivera’s milestone 500th save as an example of a pitcher who excels without variety.

“The guy’s gone after hitters with one pitch his whole career,” Wilson said, referring to Rivera’s cut fastball. “Pitching coaches always harp on getting a third pitch, a fourth pitch, and he has always been the case where I’d say, ‘Well, Mariano’s got one pitch, so” — and then dot, dot, dot.

“It’s such a good pitch that it’s really four different types of pitches. He can throw it front door to a righty, back door to a lefty, he can throw it to the other side of the plate and he can throw it down. Maybe that’s all you need. His plate zone because of that pitch is expanded.”

*****

Center fielder Aaron Rowand left Monday’s game in the seventh inning after he was hit above the left knee by a pitch from St. Louis’ Clayton Mortensen, who was making his Major League debut. Rowand hopes to play Tuesday, though he sported an ugly bruise on his leg that’s likely to swell.

– Chris Haft 

Sadowski secures Sunday’s start

MILWAUKEE — The intrigue surrounding the status of the Giants’ starting pitcher for Sunday ended on Saturday afternoon as manager Bruce Bochy named Triple-A Fresno right-hander Ryan Sadowski to pitch the series finale against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The move cements Jonathan Sanchez’s demotion to the bullpen. Sanchez, 2-8 with a 5.54 ERA, has lost four consecutive games and, in the minds of Giants officials, simply wasn’t demonstrating much improvement.

Sadowski, 26, was 5-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 13 starts with Fresno. He walked 32 and struck out 59 in 72 1/3 innings. The Giants will officially purchase his contract Sunday and announce a corresponding 40-man roster move at that time. They conceivably don’t have to tinker with the active 25-man roster, since infielder Rich Aurilia will go on the bereavement list due to the death of his father and will be absent from Sunday’s game through the upcoming St. Louis series.

Bochy said that the Giants didn’t consider summoning Madison Bumgarner or Tim Alderson, two of their leading pitching prospects, from Double-A Connecticut. They did contemplate using Tim Lincecum one notch early but on his regular rest — a luxury afforded by Thursday’s scheduled off-day. But since Lincecum has pitched 26 innings in his last three starts, the Giants figured that he and the rest of the rotation could benefit more from an extra day’s rest.

Sadowski has been outperformed at Triple-A by right-hander Kevin Pucetas (7-2, 3.41 ERA). But Pucetas last pitched on Thursday, so returning on Sunday would give him just two days’ rest, half of his usual complement.

See the upcoming Sunday game preview for further details.

– Chris Haft 

 

 

Torres makes things happen; Wild Card musings

OAKLAND — At best, Andres Torres ranks as the Giants’ fourth outfielder. But he moved to the front of the line as a source of the Giants’ success in their 4-1 victory Tuesday night over the Oakland A’s.

Torres coaxed a first-inning walk on Vin Mazzaro’s 3-2 pitch and opened the scoring by rushing home on Pablo Sandoval’s double. Many runners might have held at third base. But third-base coach Tim Flannery, aiming to capitalize on Torres’ speed, waved the speedster home. Sure enough, A’s shortstop Orlando Cabrera’s hurried relay flew high and wide.

“He ignited us,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Torres. “That showed you what speed can do. He plays with a lot of energy, which you love.”

Torres helped seal the victory by making a not-so-routine catch of Adam Kennedy’s fly ball against the wall down the left-field line in foul territory. It ended the seventh inning and stranded two A’s baserunners.

“He probably saved us with that catch,” Bochy said.

Torres’ grab propelled Tim Lincecum to his complete-game victory. “I thought he was going to run into the wall, which he did, but it was nice the ball stayed in the playing field,” Lincecum said of Torres’ grab. “I was as pumped as anybody else.”

Torres, who wouldn’t boast about his skills if you paid him, explained that common sense helped him make the play on Kennedy’s fly. Kennedy, said Torres, had been trying to hit the ball to the opposite field all evening — probably a wise ploy against Lincecum. So, said Torres, “I tried to play that way a little bit.”

Encountering the wall didn’t concern Torres in the least. “I was just trying to catch the ball,” he said.

*****

I was all set to devote a sentence or two in my game wrapup to the Giants staying ahead in the National League Wild Card race. First, however, while waiting to interview Lincecum in the Giants clubhouse, I heard a player watch a televised sports report — I couldn’t tell which network was airing it — that trumpeted the Wild Card standings. This player shook his head in mild disgust. “Five years from now they’ll be talking about the Wild Card in April,” he told the Giant sitting next to him.

Translation: It’s far too early to make a big deal about the Wild Card. So I opted not to contribute to the hype.

I’ll occasionally mention it in the near future, though. It’s relevant to monitor, since the Giants’ position likely will influence what general manager Brian Sabean does or doesn’t do before the July 31 trade deadline. But getting overly worked up about it and delivering twice-daily updates is probably premature.

– Chris Haft 

 

nsing that aware of d the game’s first run e

Pick a starter, any starter, for Monday and Tuesday

MIAMI — If you’ve looked ahead to the Giants’ probable starting pitchers for Monday series finale here and for Tuesday’s series opener at Arizona, you’ll find that the same guy is pitching both games: TBA.

Finding a starter for Tuesday isn’t the issue. Monday is the predicament for the Giants, whose rotation was jumbled by last Wednesday’s rainout at Washington. That forced them to use Randy Johnson and Matt Cain on the same day for Thursday’s doubleheader, meaning that if either one pitched Monday, he’d be working on three days’ rest, one fewer than usual.

Johnson’s bruised shoulder complicated matters somewhat. But the newest member of the 300-win club felt good Saturday as he played long toss and threw from pitching distance on flat ground.

The Big Unit said that his shoulder, which he fell on while making a fielding play in his milestone start, responded better than he thought it would. “I was encouraged,” he said. “We’ll see what they have planned and go from there.”

Manager Bruce Bochy said that the Giants’ options for Monday include:

– Johnson, who threw only 78 pitches in his last start but has that shoulder to deal with;

– Cain, who was limited to 82 pitches by the rainout in his game;

– Triple-A Fresno right-hander Billy Sadler, who pitched only one-third of an inning Friday in case the Giants decide they need him.

Though Johnson might appear to be an unlikely choice given his health status and age (45), he’s renowned for doing whatever he can to help his team. Pitching on Monday might fall into that category. Because if he’s pushed back to Tuesday, the sequence of the Giants’ rotation would consist of right-handers Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, followed by three consecutive left-handers — Johnson, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez. Currently, they have close to an alternating patten with Lincecum, Johnson, Cain, Zito and Sanchez.

Obviously, whoever doesn’t pitch Monday has a good chance of starting Tuesday.

– Chris Haft

Velez, not Frandsen, sent down; Renteria returns; Tim’s dry wit

SEATTLE — In a mild surprise, the Giants optioned Eugenio Velez to Triple-A Fresno to clear room for infielder Juan Uribe, who was reinstated from the bereavement list Friday.<p/>

Velez actually had begun to hit proficiently despite playing sporadically. He collected two hits in each of two starts during the San Diego series, hiking his batting average from .111 to .194.

But the Giants want Velez to play more regularly. And manager Bruce Bochy indicated that with only Bengie Molina and Pablo Sandoval available to catch, San Francisco can use the versatility of Frandsen, who has sharpened his skills at the position behind the scenes. Bochy said that Frandsen’s skills behind the plate exceeded those of a typical “emergency” catcher.

Also, as expected, Edgar Renteria returned to shortstop after missing six games with a strained right hamstring. Though Renteria entered Friday hitting a pedestrian .256, he ranked second on the club with 17 RBIs upon being sidelined. Bochy acknowledged that the Giants could have used Renteria during the San Diego series, which consisted of three low-scoring one-run defeats.

“He’s such a professional hitter,” Bochy said of Renteria. “We missed him. We played such tight ballgames. A guy like that could have made a difference in all those games.”

*****

Seattle-area native Tim Lincecum held a dugout news conference for local media hungry for a word from The One Who Got Away.

Lincecum said all the right things, including when he was asked about whether he dwells on the Mariners’ bypassing him in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. “Not any more,” Lincecum said. “It’s just one of those things that happened and you go with it. I’m happy where I am.”

Lincecum spun a good line when asked what he remembered about Randy Johnson, who he grew up watching when the left-hander starred for the Mariners in the ’90s.

“The mullet and the fastball,” Lincecum said. “Not necessarily in that order.”

– Chris Haft

 

Lincecum to relieve in Seattle? Not a chance

SAN DIEGO — It was worth asking about, though it might have been a silly idea. After all, some of you might have been thinking about the same thing, once it became certain that Tim Lincecum wouldn’t start in Seattle.

Checking into the possibility, however remote, that Lincecum might give Seattle fans what they want and pitch in relief during the Giants’ upcoming Interleague series in his hometown, I talked to the Cy Young Award winner himself and pitching coach Dave Righetti. Conceivably, Lincecum could be used in relief on Saturday, the day he’d normally throw in the bullpen between starts, or perhaps Sunday.

Lincecum said that he had not requested to be used in relief. He indicated that making such demands would be out of character: “That wouldn’t be my way,” he said.

Righetti reacted much more strongly when posed the question. “Heck no,” he said, though he actually said something a little more salty than “heck.”

“No, no definitely not. We wouldn’t do that,” Righetti continued, adding that Jonathan Sanchez would be the only starter the Giants would consider using in that role “because he has [relieving] experience.”

Sorry, Seattle.

*****

So Jesus Guzman grounded into a double play in his first Major League at-bat in Thursday’s seventh inning with runners on the corners and one out. But don’t let the GIDP in the boxscore deceive you.

Guzman made solid contact, but the ball hit the side of the mound, so it caromed more directly to Padres shortstop Chris Burke. Otherwise, Guzman might have had an RBI single.

“I thought he had a good at-bat,” Bochy said, referring to the fact that Guzman hit a couple of stinging fouls off reliever Joe Thatcher before hitting into the double play. “He got a bad break there.”

Then again, the words of Lincecum were applicable in this situation, though he was speaking of his inability to field a third-inning comebacker by Burke, who came around to score.  “Shoulda, coulda, woulda,” Lincecum said.

– Chris H.

Behold Tim Lincecum, in all his glory

SAN FRANCISCO — Watching Tim Lincecum pitch is the best show in baseball.

I declared that in my final Mailbag column (which has since given way to the Inbox) last December, and that feeling was reaffirmed Saturday as the diminutive Giant struck out 13 in eight shutout innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

In a galling outcome for San Francisco, Arizona won, 2-0, with a pair of ninth-inning runs. But at least the Giants left the park knowing that their ace’s skills remained intact.

“He is so big for this ballclub. That’s no question,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s going to make us a better club having him healthy.”

Not that the Giants ever doubted Lincecum, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. But a handful of national baseball writers had expressed skepticism about the right-hander. Some cited scouts who pointed out that Lincecum’s velocity had diminished. Others considered the 49 2/3-inning increase in his workload last year over 2007 and whispered that his arm had weakened.

Lincecum knows this cynicism well.

“People are going to say what they want,” he said. “That’s been my whole life. People are saying I”m going to do something and I don’t. That just gives me more motivation to want to come out and get better. My expectations, of course, are the highest of anybody’s — [higher] than fans, my dad; I want to do better than any of them want me to. You try to live up to your own expectations; sometimes that can be tough. So you try to take a step back and make the game simple again. That’s what I tried to do today.”

What was simple wouldn’t have been possible without the subtle. By studying videotapes, Lincecum noticed that his left (front) foot was landing three inches closer than usual to the right-handed batter’s box. This flaw muted his fastball and threw his other deliveries askew. Steering his motion more directly toward home plate yielded the desired effect. 

Improved health also helped. Bronchitis bothered Lincecum in Spring Training, and a queasy stomach nagged him as recently as this week.

But the Lincecum who lasted a combined 8 1/3 innings while compiling a 7.56 ERA in his previous two starts was gone. He was replaced by the Lincecum whose fastball reached 95 mph as late as the seventh inning — though, as always, he complemented his heat with his arresting curveball and sweeping change-up.

The fans, who ended an otherwise glorious afternoon by showering boos upon San Francisco’s hitters and relievers, released their pent-up Timmy-love early and often. They sounded appreciative after Lincecum struck out the final two batters to end both the first and second innings. But after he repeated this feat in the third inning, the crowd’s roar was even louder and more triumphant — as if spectators had just received undeniable confirmation that their hero had returned.

Lincecum ended three of the next five innings with strikeouts, giving fans ample opportunity to cheer in anticipation when the count reached two strikes. They did so without prompting from the scoreboard — a welcome development and an improvement over 2008, when two-strike counts caused an oafish “Make Some Noise”-type exhortation to appear on the Big Mitsubishi.

As is often the case with Lincecum, his effectiveness began with his pregame warmup — which he didn’t even begin until after the National Anthem was rendered. “Usually I try to use my bullpens to get loose and get a rhythm,” Lincecum said. “But today I made a little bit better point of trying to throw strikes as well as trying to get a rhythm. Make it more of a game-like situation.”

– Chris Haft
 

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 102 other followers