Results tagged ‘ Travis Ishikawa ’

Many wins, many heroes

Wednesday, July 28

SAN FRANCISCO — When’s the last time the Giants have been this hot?

No need to answer that by citing a specific time frame in a specific year. It’s a rhetorical question more than anything.

Rarely in recent years, though, has it seemed like the Giants win virtually every day for even a moderately extended period. Just a few weeks ago, some insiders were doubting the club’s ability to sustain the kind of streak they’re on now — 17 victories in 21 games.

Buster Posey’s emergence, Aubrey Huff’s consistency and Andres Torres’ verve are just a few of the factors that have brought the Giants to brink of first place in the National League West and positioned them to continue their drive for a postseason berth.

Asked if he and his teammates stride into the clubhouse each day expecting to win, right-hander Sergio Romo said after Wednesday’s 10-9, 10-inning victory over Florida, “Realistically, yeah. We’ve always said from the beginning, even in Spring Training, that we have a good team, we’re going to compete and can play with the better teams in the league. That mindset is paying off. We know if we get our jobs done and back each other up, good things can happen.”

The Giants still lead the National League in runs during July after scoring sporadically during the season’s previous three months (they entered Wednesday as the league’s seventh-highest scoring team). They firmly believe that this is not an aberration.

“We’re not playing above our capabilities; we’re not playing below,” Romo said. “We’re just doing what we’re able to do. We’re finding our roles and trying to stick with that.”

As manager Bruce Bochy mentioned during his postgame media gathering that “we had the right guy up there” when Juan Uribe batted with two on and two outs in the ninth, it struck me that several Giants could fit the “right guy” description these days. Not just Uribe, who has hit eight home runs that either put the Giants ahead or tied the score. But also Posey. Or Huff. Lately, Travis Ishikawa. Freddy Sanchez, too. And, of course, Torres.

“Everybody who’s going up there, we feel confident with them,” Bochy said.

Weeks ago, Bochy pleaded for more “timely hitting.” He’s getting it.

“When you look up at the scoreboard at the end of the game and see that the number of runs scored is close to the number of hits you got, that just means you’re stringing together hits and getting them at the right time,” said center fielder Aaron Rowand, who’s hitting .329 in his last 26 games. “You can pound out 11 hits and walk away with three or four runs. It’s not like you didn’t swing the bats well, it’s just that you didn’t get the timely hitting. It’s just about being able to string together hits with runners on base and runners in scoring position.”

Rowand noted that the Giants’ ability to cope, even thrive, against top pitchers (Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, Roy Oswalt, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson, to name a few) bodes well for them if they reach the postseason.

“Our pitching staff is good,” Rowand said, necessarily stating the obvious. “So if we can scratch some runs together against a good pitcher, our chances of winning the game are pretty decent. That’s what gives this team the possibility of being dangerous in the playoffs.”

P.S. To answer that question posed at the start of this entry, two other impressive streaks do come to mind. Both helped the Giants win division titles. In 1971, they started 37-14. In 1987, they closed with a 37-17 rush. This surge is different, since it’s occurring in midseason. Let’s see how long the Giants can ride this wave.

– Chris Haft

Care & feeding of teammates; Ishikawa’s flip-flop

Monday, July 26

Eugenio Velez sat in the visitors’ clubhouse at Chase Field after the Giants’ 3-2, 10-inning victory Sunday, dressed in street clothes and wearing a serene look. He probably felt lucky to be alive after surviving the concussion he sustained Saturday when Pat Burrell’s foul line drive struck him on the left side of the head.

The rest of the Giants were minding their own business, engaging in the hustle and bustle of preparing for a getaway day flight back to San Francisco. Since the Giants had won, the clubhouse stereo was happily blaring some dreadful-sounding music.

Suddenly Matt Cain approached Velez and asked him a question. “Is that too loud?” Cain asked, referring to the music’s volume. Velez shook his head, acknowledging things were fine.

But it certainly was nice of Cain to ask, since everybody knew Velez’s head was still pounding from the concussion. And it was another of the often unseen demonstrations of the bond that teammates share.

*****

This might be the season’s most hilarious statistic so far. Travis Ishikawa, who hit .349 at home and .162 on the road last year, has undergone a complete reversal. Ishikawa’s currently hitting .368 on the road and .267 at home.

“Well, now they’re going to ask me why can’t I hit at home,” Ishikawa jokingly said.

He added, “You have a lot better chance to hit on the road. AT&T Park, no matter how you look at it, is not a hitter’s park.”

– Chris Haft

Posey (yawn) does it again

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey’s feats of Cactus League skill have become almost commonplace.

Friday, Posey’s two-out, eighth-inning double off Cleveland left-hander Tony Sipp drove in Matt Downs with Friday’s tiebreaking run as the Giants proceeded to a 7-6 victory over a Cleveland Indians split squad.

Posey again displayed the almost preternatural calm that distinguishes him from most rookies. He fell behind on the count 0-2 before a passed ball sent Matt Downs, who drew a one-out walk, to second base.

Posey then whacked a low curveball into left field and hustled into second base with a slide as Downs came home.

With his .382 batting average and ability to play first base as well as catch, Posey is increasing the Giants’ temptation to keep him on the Opening Day roster.

Manager Bruce Bochy praised Posey’s two-strike approach. “He doesn’t panic,” Bochy said. “He really kept his composure.”

*****

Eugenio Velez received a chance to prove himself in center field. The results were favorable — mostly.

Velez went 3-for-3, drew a walk and scored twice. He also recorded three consecutive outs spanning the first and second innings, making nice running catches on drives hit by Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns.

But Velez seemed to drift under a couple of seventh-inning fly balls that were wind-aided and fell for extra-base hits. Maybe the breeze rendered the plays impossible. But the impression here was that a more polished outfielder would have come closer to making the catches.

It’s believed that Velez and Andres Torres are in competition for the same reserve outfield spot. They’re both fast, they both switch-hit and they both can play all three outfield spots. Torres appears to be the better defender. But Velez, who’s out-hitting Torres .367-.290, may have an edge on offense.

*****

Travis Ishikawa, who has overcome torn ligaments in his left foot, made his first Cactus League appearance as a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning. Ishikawa was robbed of a hit by first baseman Matt LaPorta’s diving play. Bochy said that Ishikawa will substitute at first base Saturday against Cincinnati and will start Sunday against Arizona.

*****

Brian Wilson, who has been pitching in the middle innings, received his first “save opportunity” Friday and struck out the side.

Wilson said that though it’s only the Cactus League, “you still have to treat it as a save situation. Whether it counts or not, you still have to get ready.”

– Chris Haft

Ishikawa approaches return

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Travis Ishikawa could return to first base for the Giants by this weekend.

Ishikawa was expected to play first in a Minor League exhibition Wednesday, marking his initial appearance in the field this spring.

Ishikawa tore ligaments in his left foot before camp opened but has progressed steadily. He said that he accumulated 11 at-bats in Minor League intrasquad games Monday and Tuesday. While his Giants teammates enjoy Thursday’s off-day, Ishikawa will report to the Minor League complex to play another game. Barring setbacks, he believes that he can play in a Cactus League game by Friday or Saturday.

Ishikawa has tested his foot by running the bases after each game. “I don’t know what the speed looks like, but I’m pushing it pretty hard,” he said Wednesday.

The Giants will welcome Ishikawa’s return. Given starting first baseman Aubrey Huff’s occasional defensive struggles, Ishikawa likely will receive plenty of activity as a late-inning replacement this season.<p/>

*****

Wednesday was a promising day for what could be two-fifths of the Giants’ starting rotation.

Barry Zito worked 3 1/3 innings and allowed just one run despite yielding four hits and walking three. He faced a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third inning when he forced ex-teammate Eric Chavez to hit a comebacker, generating a forceout at home plate. Catcher Bengie Molina barely missed completing an inning-ending double play with his throw to first.

Molina praised Zito’s ability to throw his fastball inside to right-handed batters. “I was very excited every time he hit that corner,” Molina said.

Right-hander Todd Wellemeyer, who’s moving closer to locking up the rotation’s fifth spot, pitched a perfect fifth inning in what amounted to a bullpen tuneup for his start Saturday against Cincinnati.

All spring, Wellemeyer has insisted that he feels like the pitcher who finished 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA in 2008 for St. Louis and not the one who slumped to 7-10, 5.89 last year. He never rested his arm during the 2008-09 offseason, and he notices the difference in his fastball velocity.

“Being able to throw in the mid-90s again is huge,” said Wellemeyer, who has allowed two runs in 10 innings. “Last year it was 90 and I was hoping [the hitters] couldn’t catch up to it. But they did.”

*****

Emmanuel Burriss and the Giants’ medical staff will consider multiple options when they discuss the next move in the infielder’s recovery from a broken bone in his left foot.

Burriss, 25, consulted noted orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Robert Anderson on Tuesday in North Carolina. Dr. Anderson should be a familiar figure to Bay Area sports fans. He performed surgery to fix the stress fracture in the left foot of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree in March. Crabtree was physically ready to play for the Niners once he ended his holdout in October.

Dr. Anderson didn’t urge any particular course of action, and Burriss isn’t yet certain what he’ll do. He could elect to undergo another operation, which might involve removing the pin that was inserted when he broke his foot last July and replacing it with a larger pin. Or he could skip surgery and allow nature to heal his foot. Burriss also mentioned the possibility that he could forgo surgery and be walking normally in two weeks. That’s obviously far from a guarantee.

*****

The Giants trimmed their spring roster to 46 by optioning third baseman Conor Gillaspie to the Minor Leagues and reassigning the following players to Minor League camp: outfielder Roger Kieschnick, left-handers Craig Clark and Clayton Tanner and right-handers Rafael Cova, Steve Edlefsen, Eric Hacker, Osiris Matos, Dan Turpen and Craig Whitaker.<p/>

– Chris Haft

Posey stays hot; what will Giants do?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants will face some heavy thinking if Buster Posey sustains his offensive surge.

Posey collected two hits for the second day in a row Saturday in the Giants’ 8-7 split-squad exhibition loss to Oakland. The rookie catcher, renowned as San Francisco’s top position-player prospect, lifted his batting average to .368 and his slugging percentage to .632.

Because Posey has been expected to begin the season with Triple-A Fresno so he could gain experience, manager Bruce Bochy was asked if the 22-year old might be forcing the Giants’ braintrust to reconsider that plan.

“It’s good to see Buster swinging like this,” Bochy said. “It’s really a matter of time. Buster can hit. As we get deeper into spring I can answer those questions a little better. It’s early, but he’s doing what we wanted him to do.”

Bochy plainly stated that he won’t bury Posey on San Francisco’s bench. “We want to continue his development. We don’t want him sitting,” Bochy said. “It’s a matter of if we think he would get enough playing time to warrant being on the club to help us or to continue his progress so we have him ready.”

Bochy added that Posey “possibly” will start a game at first base to help the Giants gauge whether he could play there occasionally. But Bochy also reiterated that he won’t sacrifice Posey’s growth as a catcher to experiment with him at other positions. “I like the way he’s catching. I want to keep him sharp back there,” Bochy said.

*****

In quick succession:

– Tim Lincecum will receive four days’ rest, his full regular-season complement, before making his next start Tuesday against Cleveland. Madison Bumgarner will start Monday night’s split-squad game against Texas while a host of relievers will work the evening’s other split-squad game against San Diego.

– Kevin Pucetas remained in contention for the fifth starter’s spot by throwing three hitless innings in the Giants’ other split-squad contest, an 8-4 victory over Seattle. Pucetas is unscored upon in seven innings spanning three appearances and has allowed three hits. He has walked none and struck out three.

– Right-hander Joe Martinez, the fifth starter candidate who allowed four runs in one inning in his lone spring appearance, believes that the inflammation in his throwing elbow will have subsided enough to allow him to resume throwing in a couple of days.

– This isn’t shocking news, but Bochy made his strongest declaration yet regarding second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s unavailability for the April 5 regular-season opener at Houston. “He’s not going to be ready,” Bochy said of Sanchez, who’s recovering from a left shoulder injury. “He’s come along fine, but there’s not enough time.”

– First baseman Travis Ishikawa (torn ligaments in left foot) might be ready to resume playing in about a week, Bochy said.

– Right-hander Matt Cain admitted that he elevated some breaking pitches while allowing Oakland five runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. However, Cain still hasn’t walked a batter in 8 2/3 innings this spring. “It obviously means you’re around the strike zone,” Cain said, pleased with this development.

– Right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, stuck in the Dominican Republic with visa problems, finally arrived in camp and struck out the only batter he faced, Ryan Sweeney, to end the fifth inning against Oakland.

– Chris Haft

Kieschnick excels, execution lags, legends reunite

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It wasn’t a regular-season Giants-Dodgers game, but rookie right fielder Roger Kieschnick sensed that he probably made a lot of fans happy on Monday.

With the score tied 2-2 in the 10th inning, Kieschnick cleanly fielded Angel Berroa’s single and made a strong, one-hop throw home that retired Ronnie Belliard, who was trying to score from second base. In the bottom of the inning, Kieschnick drilled a leadoff single and was replaced by pinch-runner Francisco Peguero, who scored on Ryan Rohlinger’s long single to right field to give the Giants a 3-2 victory.

Kieschnick, who excelled for San Francisco’s Class A San Jose affiliate last year, caught a whiff of hostility when the younger Giants would confront the Dodgers’ California League representatives, the Inland Empire 66ers. “They hated us just as much as anything,” Kieschnick said. “You definitely got a sense of the rivalry.”

Kieschnick, who’ll probably begin the season at Double-A Richmond, said that he was fully prepared mentally to handle Berroa’s single and Belliard’s fruitless dash home. “That play goes over and over in your mind before it happens,” he said.

*****

The Giants went hitless in their first five at-bats with runners on third base and less than two out, which didn’t please manager Bruce Bochy. “Our execution wasn’t very good today,” he said.

Example: Eugenio Velez grounded out to first base on the first pitch with runners on second and third and one out in the second inning. “He was too aggressive,” Bochy said. Noting that Velez hacked at a breaking ball from Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, Bochy added, “We have to do a little better job of pitch selection there.”

Velez atoned in the fourth inning by dumping a two-out RBI single to center field following John Bowker’s triple off Clayton Kershaw.

*****

Many “you-had-to-be-there” moments are often not worth retelling. But since this involved two Giants legends, I’ll give it a try.

Willie McCovey, who needs no introduction, arrived on the scene Monday for his annual Spring Training visit. McCovey was beginning to leave the training complex, walking slowly on his crutches. Then he suddenly made a U-turn and headed for the Giants’ clubhouse, where Willie Mays — who also needs no introduction — was seated at his usual perch.

McCovey entered the clubhouse and headed directly for Mays. “Hey, Buck!” McCovey called, addressing Mays by the nickname he went by in his playing days. “Where’s my book?” Mays, whose recently released biography is soaring on the best-seller lists, laughed as 1,181 home runs shook hands.

*****

The Giants’ shortage of first basemen worsened as Aubrey Huff remained home with an illness. Kevin Frandsen, who played 17 games at first base last season for Triple-A Fresno, started and played six innings capably. Buster Posey appeared in his second game in a row at first base, though he later switched to catcher.

Travis Ishikawa, recovering from torn ligaments in his left foot, took batting practice on the field for the first time. But Bochy wasn’t certain when Ishikawa, who had been expected to back up Huff, will be ready to play. Meanwhile, Frandsen, Posey, Matt Downs and Brett Pill will play first whenever Huff rests or is unavailable.

Mark DeRosa, who tested his surgically repaired left wrist by swinging off Minor League pitchers Sunday, felt fine and should play his first exhibition game Tuesday or Wednesday.

– Chris Haft

Ishikawa sidelined but not forgotten

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Travis Ishikawa likely remains more than a week away from participating in workouts as he nurses the torn ligaments in his left foot. As part of a deep and relatively talented group of projected reserves, he conceivably faces a stiff challenge for a spot on the Opening Day roster.

Yet manager Bruce Bochy indicated Saturday that Ishikawa, despite losing his role as the Giants’ primary first baseman to free agent Aubrey Huff, has strong chance of claiming a Major League job.

It helps that Ishikawa plays excellent defense and hit .349 in 62 games at AT&T Park last year. The rest of the team batted .263 at home.

“You saw what he did at home. He’s a threat,” Bochy said. “I think ‘Ishi’ has shown that he can do some things to help you win ballgames. He’s still in the mix here.”

Ishikawa has tried to stay as sharp as possible by hitting off a tee and throwing in a batting cage, which he can do while wearing a walking boot on his left foot. Ishikawa, who underwent an MRI on Friday and saw a doctor Saturday, said that he’ll probably have to wear the boot for at least a week. But he’s healing.

“At least it’s going in the right direction,” he said.

*****

The Giants receive little “down” time in Spring Training. Their only scheduled off-day in the Cactus League season is March 18.

So Bochy, after consulting with general manager Brian Sabean, decided to excuse the team from workouts Tuesday. San Francisco opens the exhibition season Wednesday against Seattle.

Lest you think the Giants are a bunch of slackers, remember that they opened camp before most of their Cactus League brethren.

“We’ve had some long days here,” Bochy said. “This gives them a chance to freshen up before games start.”

*****

The alternative rock group O.A.R. visited Scottsdale Stadium and met several Giants, including leading musicologist Tim Lincecum, before Saturday’s workout. The group, in town for a concert, filmed excerpts for an upcoming video. Accompanied by Lincecum, band members took the mound and held a contest to see who could throw the hardest fastball. Left-hander Alex Hinshaw, another music enthusiast, served as catcher, while infielder Kevin Frandsen provided encouragement.

*****

Injury updates, comings and goings:

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez, recovering from left shoulder surgery, felt healthy and enthusiastic after his initial session of fielding ground balls. Sanchez said that he’ll continue to take grounders daily, though no timetable has been set for when he’ll begin swinging a bat.

Infielder-outfielder Mark DeRosa (left wrist) still hasn’t swung against Giants pitchers in “live” batting practice, though he has taken hundreds of hacks in the cages and against coaches. Bochy said he wasn’t sure when restrictions on DeRosa will be lifted, but it could be soon. “He’s eager to start letting it go,” Bochy said.

Catcher Eli Whiteside returned a day earlier than expected after his wife, Amy, gave birth to their first child, Whit.

Left-hander Madison Bumgarner returned home to North Carolina for personal reasons. He’s expected to return Sunday night and should make his scheduled appearance in Wednesday’s exhibition opener. Left-hander Dan Runzler was sent home with the flu.

Last but not least, pitching coach Dave Righetti was excused to travel to the Chicago area to be inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. Former big leaguer Gary Gaetti was among the other inductees.

– Chris Haft 

Lincecum’s next start pushed back a day

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants announced what appeared to be a wise move after Sunday’s 9-5 victory, disclosing that right-hander Tim Lincecum’s next start will be delayed by a day.

Lincecum thus will start in Philadelphia on Thursday, giving him five days’ rest — one more than usual. He threw a season-high 127 pitches during his eight shutout innings Friday against Colorado, compelling the Giants to allow him more recovery time.

The ubiquitous To Be Announced temporarily fills Wednesday’s spot in the Giants’ rotation. They can’t recall right-hander Joe Martinez, who was optioned to Triple-A Fresno on Friday and must stay there at least 10 days (a period which extends virtually to the end of the Minor League regular season). Other possibilities abound at Fresno, including Ryan Sadowski, who had an earlier stint with the Giants; Matt Kinney or Ramon Ortiz, both big league veterans, or 10-game winner Steve Hammond.

***** 
Eli Whiteside, who caught all six games of the Giants’ homestand while Bengie Molina nursed a tight right quadriceps, contributed significantly to the club’s success. He hit only .238 (5-for-21), but threw out three of four runners attempting to steal bases and handled the pitchers smoothly.

“He saved us on this homestand with his play,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Any time you have a guy who has spent some time in the Minor Leagues like Eli has, they learn the game. They get so much more experience versus a young guy who might be rushed up here.”

*****

There was no such thing as a routine fly ball at AT&T Park on Sunday. It could have been the shifting breezes; it could have been the changing sky, as the fog burned off and the sun alternately retreated behind and emerged from clouds.

Giants first baseman Travis Ishikawa had an adventurous time with Troy Tulowitzki’s third-inning popup, falling over backward at the pitcher’s mound after making an off-balance catch. Colorado left fielder Ryan Spilborghs seemed to have a shot at catching Fred Lewis’ sixth-inning double but missed it, and right fielder Brad Hawpe played Juan Uribe’s eighth-inning fly ball into a single and a two-base error.

“The park was playing a little funny today,” Giants right-hander Matt Cain said. “Balls were going a little farther than they should, the way this park [usually] plays. … Once it went up in the air, you really didn’t know where it was going to go or where it was going to come down.”

– Chris Haft

 

Ishikawa continues to hit

SAN FRANCISCO — It was encouraging to see first baseman Travis Ishikawa hit so proficiently Wednesday, when he doubled and homered in three at-bats.

“I was aggressive early [in the count] and took advantage of mistakes,” the ever-humble Ishikawa said.

Though it was understandable why Ishikawa got squeezed out of the lineup when Pablo Sandoval hurt his elbow and moved to first base, it happened just as he was beginning to hit proficiently. He went 7-for-11 in a three-game stretch May 25-27. Since then, he had started exactly once until Wednesday.

It’ll be interesting to see who manager Bruce Bochy uses in the infield during the Texas series. Juan Uribe, who can play second base, shortstop and third, supposedly will be ready to rejoin the lineup Friday. Asked before Wednesday’s game whether Uribe will play second or third, Bochy coyly said, “I’ll let you know.”

Though Matt Downs has looked extremely competent at the plate in his two games with the Giants, don’t be surprised if Friday’s lineup includes Ishikawa at first base, Uribe at second and Sandoval at third.

– Chris Haft

 

Frandsen optioned to Fresno as Ishikawa returns

SAN FRANCISCO — The knowledge that he had accomplished something seemed to comfort Kevin Frandsen after he learned, to no particular surprise, that he had been optioned to Triple-A Fresno. The move cleared roster room Friday for first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who was reinstated from the bereavement list.

During Frandsen’s last Giants stint in May, when infielder Juan Uribe went on the bereavement list, the San Jose native played mostly shortstop. This time, he started two of three games at second base. On both occasions, Frandsen played impressive defense, reflecting his aptitude as a potential multiple-position handyman.<p/>

“My time will come,” Frandsen said. “I’ll be patient with it. I know I’ll get a chance.”

One reporter asked Giants manager Bruce Bochy whether Frandsen might be considered as an option to play left field if Fred Lewis continues to struggle. “Right now, no,” Bochy said, though he didn’t rule out the possibility that Frandsen eventually could play some left and become a jack-of-all-trades in the manner of Ryan Freel or Chone Figgins.

“Those types of guys are invaluable,” Bochy said.

Frandsen has hit just .071 (2-for-28) in his nine games with the Giants, but that didn’t faze him or Bochy.

“It’s a small sample size,” Frandsen said, citing his robust .339 average with Fresno. “If people want to make their assumptions off of that [his big-league hitting], I don’t care.”

Said Bochy, “He’s doing what he needs to do. He’ll get his opportunity.”

– Chris Haft

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