March 2010

Freddy Sanchez will miss first month of season

So after a winter of mystery and a spring of veiled projections, the Giants finally came out with a timetable on the return of second baseman Freddy Sanchez.

And it’s not great.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News that Sanchez’s first appearance with the Giants is “looking like the end of April or first of May.”

Bochy insisted that Sanchez has not been dealt a setback, and we guess we can believe that since the Giants NEVER really said when Sanchez would be ready for the season.

Currently, Sanchez has graduated from hitting off a tee to taking soft-toss batting practice. But with the month moving into its latter stages, it is looking more likely that Sanchez won’t be able to get into a Cactus League game this spring.

So, until Sanchez is ready, the Giants will turn to Juan Uribe at second base. So the good news is the Giants get Uribe’s bat into the lineup early. Uribe was one of the Giants’ better run producers last season, although he’s scuffled a bit this spring.

Bochy appears to be leaning of using Edgar Renteria in the No. 2 hole while Sanchez is mending. That likely will produce a lineup that looks like this:

CF Aaron Rowand (RH)
SS Edgar Renteria (RH)
3B Pablo Sandoval (SH)
1B Aubrey Huff (LH)
LF Mark DeRosa (RH)
C Bengie Molina (RH)
2B Juan Uribe (RH)
RF Nate Schierholtz (LH)

Now, when More Splash Hits first heard this before the start of spring training, we cringed. After watching Renteria struggle last season, we were convinced the Giants would be better with the following lineup:

CF Aaron Rowand
LF Mark DeRosa
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
2B Juan Uribe
C Bengie Molina
LF Nate Schierholtz
SS Edgar Renteria

MSH is still not convinced that this lineup wouldn’t be the better one. But after watching Renteria play Saturday against the Reds, we’re less worried about having Renteria in the No. 2 hole.

Renteria’s procedure last winter to remove bone chips in his elbow seems to have paid off. On Saturday, Renteria pulled on an inside pitch and spanked it over the left-field fence. Later, he turned on another inside pitch and hit it just foul down the left-field line. So clearly he’s doing things this spring that he wasn’t able to do last season. Still, MSH would prefer to see him do those same things in the regular season before automatically putting him in the No. 2 hole.

Bochy said he remains open to other lineup options.

Spring training: Giants 6, Reds 0

Well if he hadn’t done so already, Todd Wellemeyer looks to have all but locked up the No. 5 rotation spot Saturday, becoming the first Giants pitcher to pitch five innings in San Francisco’s 6-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Wellemeyer, a non-roster invitee, dropped his spring ERA to 1.20 by giving up no runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out three.
“I like starting,” Wellemeyer told the Associated Press. “My best season was as a starter (13-9 with St. Louis in 2008). I like to get out there and get a good pace going.”
Kevin Pucetas, who gets the start Sunday against Arizona, also has pitched well this spring. But given the choice between a veteran like Wellemeyer and a rookie like Pucetas, the choice for the Giants should be clear. 
Unless Wellemeyer’s arm falls off in one of his two or three remaining spring starts, it looks like the job is his.
Inside the box score
Andres Torres was 1 for 2 with a walk. But he was also caught stealing AND picked off.
Edgar Renteria hit a solo home run in three ABs.
Mark DeRosa was 1 for 3 with a run scored.
Aubrey Huff was 1 for 2 with walk and a two-run home run. Also, the much-maligned first basemen turned a nifty double-play.
Bengie Molina kept collecting spring hits. He was 1 for 3.
John Bowker was 2 for 4 with an RBI

Travis Ishikawa was 0 for 2. He came in to play first base in relief of Huff, a sight Giant fans should get used to seeing this season.
Up next
The Giants travel to Tucson to face the Diamondbacks at 1:05 p.m. Sunday. Kevin Pucetas will start. Tim Lincecum won’t make the trip. Instead, he will pitch in a minor league exhibition or an intrasquad game on Sunday.

Spring training: Giants 7, Indians 6

Buster Posey continued to make his case for making the Opening Day roster by doubling home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth as the San Francisco Giants beat the Cleveland Indians 7-6 Friday in Scottsdale.

Posey was 1 for 2 coming off the bench for Bengie Molina, who was 1 for 3 with an RBI.

Brian Wilson struck out the side in the ninth to record his first spring save.

Jonathan Sanchez pitched four innings for the first time this spring, giving up three runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out three.

Inside the box score

Eugenio Velez, starting in center, went 3 for 3 with a triple and two stolen bases and two runs.

Edgar Renteria was 2 for 4 with a run and RBI.

Aubrey Huff was 2 for 3 with a double, run scored and three RBI.

Pablo Sandoval was 1 for 1 with a run scored before leaving after being spiked when he scored. His listed as day-to-day.

Guillermo Mota had his first rough outing of the spring, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk in one-third of an inning.

Travis Ishikawa made his spring debut, going 0-for-1 as a pinch-hitter.

Up next

The Giants face the Reds at 1 p.m. Saturday. The game will be aired on a tape-delay basis on MLB Network at 2 p.m. The broadcast is a feed from CSN Bay Area, so fans can enjoy Kruk and Kuip on the game descriptions. Todd Wellemeyer gets the start for the Giants.

Final push to opening day roster: Pitchers

We’re basing these assessments on the assumption the Giants will carry 11 pitchers to open the season, given that the team has off-days every Thursday in April (after opening day).

The first four rotation spots are locked:

RH Tim Lincecum

LH Barry Zito

RH Matt Cain

LH Jonathan Sanchez

No. 5 spot: Todd Wellemeyer, Kevin Pucetas and Madison Bumgarner are contenders. According to those who cover the Giants, it looks like Wellemeyer has the inside track to this spot. He’ll pitch again Saturday vs. the Reds in an effort to lock down that spot. Pucetas also has pitched well. But Wellemeyer has a clause in his contract that states the Giants need to tell Wellemeyer, by a certain date, how he will be used this season. If Wellemeyer doesn’t like what he hears, he has the option to leave the team and try to find a job elsewhere. Given that it’s March 19 and he’s still with the Giants, it looks good that he’ll claim the No. 5 spot.

If Bumgarner doesn’t win the No. 5 spot, he’ll open in Fresno.

Bullpen (6 spots): Three spots are locked by pitchers who have guaranteed major league contracts: RH Brian Wilson, LH Jeremy Affeldt, RH Brandon Medders.

That leaves three spots left and with how well RH Sergio Romo pitched late in game last season, it would figure he would snare one of those spots.

That leaves two spots. The contenders are: LH Alex Hinshaw, RH Waldis Joaquin, LH Joe Martinez, RH Kevin Pucetas, LH Dan Runzler, RH Henry Sosa and RH Guillermo Mota.

With Martinez set to open the season on the DL, that Giants will need to consider if they want another lefty other Affeldt in the bullpen. That will give one spot to Hinshaw or Runzler. Our money is on Runzler.

That leaves one spot left for a righty: Mota has pitched very well as a non-roster invitee. But so has Pucetas. The Giants could send Pucetas back to Fresno to continue to work as a starter. But they would also like to use him as a long reliever, at least until Martinez is set to return. The other option would be to use Hinshaw as the long man, and send Runzler to the minors. 

Of course, the Giants can decide to carry 12 pitchers, which would change some options here.

Final push to opening day roster: Position players

After the Giants optioned 3B Conor Gillespie to Triple-A Fresno and reassigned OF Roger Kieschnick to minor league camp, there are 37 players left on the Giants active roster.

The team has a little more than two weeks to get that number down to 25 by Opening Day.

The Giants may open the season with 11 or 12 pitchers. Given that the Giants have scheduled days off on the first four Thursdays of the season, we’re going to base our assessments on an 11-pitcher staff.

Two of the 37 players left on the active roster will open the season on the disabled list: IF Emmanuel Burriss and 2B Freddy Sanchez.

That gets us down to 35 … 10 more to go.

Let’s start with the bench. We’ll start with the presumed opening day lineup.

1B: Aubrey Huff

2B: Juan Uribe

SS: Edgar Renteria

3B: Pablo Sandoval

C: Bengie Molina

OF: Mark DeRosa

OF: Aaron Rowand

OF: Nate Schierholtz

That leaves six bench spots left.

Catcher: One of those spots would have to go to the backup catcher: either Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside. Posey has been hitting well this spring, leading the Giants to give him starts at 1B this spring to see if they can find another spot for him on the field other than getting him two starts a week relieving Molina. Or the Giants could decide they want Posey to develop his catching skills with regular playing time. That would mean a trip to Fresno and a roster spot to Whiteside. Fresno manager and former Giants catcher Steve Decker is already talking about how he plans on mentoring Posey on his catching skills.

First base: There’s better a lot of chatter this spring about the defensive limits of Aubrey Huff. That’s why players like Posey, Kevin Frandsen and John Bowker have been getting looks at 1B this spring. DeRosa and Sandoval also can play the position. However, if Travis Ishikawa can show he’s healthy and ready to play, his glove will almost guarantee him a roster spot. Ishikawa hopes to make his Cactus League debut this week.

The other four bench spots: Frandsen, Bowker, Eugenio Velez, Andres Torres and Fred Lewis are the leading contenders. At least one of them will be the odd man out. And that’s only until Freddy Sanchez returns, which should be by mid-April. Here’s how the size up.

Kevin Frandsen: RH batter (Spring stats: 0 HR, 2 BI, .214 avg). Can play all infield positions; still has one minor-league option left. Only player among aforementioned five who can play on left-side of infield. However, DeRosa’s and Uribe’s ability to play over there diminishes that fact.

John Bowker: LH batter (1 HR, 7 BI, .257). Corner outfielder, who can also play some 1B. Has minor league options left. Leads team with 5 spring BB.

Eugenio Velez: Switch batter (O HR, 2 BI. 296) Can play all OF positions, even played some CF this spring to show he can handle that. Also possible at 2B. Good candidate to bat leadoff. Good pinch-runner. Versatility a plus. Has one option left.

Andres Torres: Switch hitter (1 HR, 4 BI, .290) Can play all OF positions; only true CF among this group; leadoff candidate; strong pinch-runner. Out of options.

Fred Lewis: LH hitter (3 HR, 6 BI, .267) Limited to playing LF, and not really that well. Out of options.

The others: IF Matt Downs, IF Ryan Rohlinger, OF Darren Ford, OF Francisco Peguero. Downs and Ford have played very well this spring, but chances are they open in Fresno.

Spring training: Giants 6, Athletics 1

Barry Zito gave up one run in 3 1/3 innings and Juan Uribe broke out of his spring slump by collecting two hits as the Giants returned to their winning ways with a 6-1 win over Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.

Zito gave up four hits, walked three and struck out two. The five relievers who followed Zito (Tony Pena, Todd Wellemeyer, Jeremy Affeldt, Henry Sosa and Santiago Casilla combined for 52/3 scoreless innings of work and only allowed two hits.

And the Giants needed that pitching, because it was a quiet day for the Giants hitters — at least those who started the game. One bright spot was Juan Uribe, who went 2 for 3 with his second spring home run. Uribe raised his spring average to .185.

But again, the Giant hitters struggled to anything early in the game. The Giants mustered just two hits in four innings of A’s start Brett Anderson.

The Giants were also 4 for 4 on stolen bases, with Darren Ford stealing two and one each by Francisco Peguero and Fred Lewis. All of the stolen bases came late in the game.

Inside the box score

Darren Ford was 2 for 2 with a two runs score and an RBI

Ryan Rohlinger got some much needed offensive production, going 2 for 2 with a run and two RBI. He’s now hitting .161 for the spring.

Bengie Molina was 1 for 3

Aubrey Huff was 1 for 3

Nate Schierholtz was 1 for 3 with a double, run scored and RBI.

Buster Posey, starting at DH, had his first unproductive day in a while, going 0 for 4.

Up next

The Giants (11-6) get their first — and only — scheduled day off of the spring on Thursday. They’ll return to action Friday against the Indians in Scottsdale. Jonathan Sanchez will take to the mound.

Giants reassigned eight pitchers

We thought more roster decisions would be made today. And we were right.

The Giants reassigned eight pitchers to their minor league camp: Craig Clark, Rafael Cova, Steve Edlefsen, Eric Hacker, Osiris Matos, Clayton Tanner, Dan Turpen and Craig Whitaker.
No surprises here. None of these guys were expected to land a spot on the Opening Day 25.

Lincecum’s start: Further analysis

Tim Lincecum says he’s just fine. The Giants say they aren’t worried that their ace’s spring ERA  is over 9.00.

And More Splash Hits is hear to tell you that the two-time Cy Young Award winner is just fine.
Splash Hits took some time to watch Lincecum’s latest spring training start Tuesday against the Indians. Although the final stats were not impressive: 4 earned runs, 4 hits, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts in four innings pitched, a more careful analysis will show this outing wasn’t all that bad.
Lincecum faced 20 batters on Tuesday. Only five of them hit the ball out of the infield. 
Lincecum recorded 12 outs — 4 by strikeout, 2 by outfield flies, 2 on infield pop-ups and 4 ground outs.
Two of the four Inidans got off Lincecum were legit. But two others looked more like outs.
Let’s review: Lincecum struck out two batters in the first with just 3 pitches each. He also gave up a home run to Shin-Soo Choo, an opposite-field shot that appeared to carry well to left in the thin Arizona air. We’re guessing that shot would not have carried out in most major league stadiums, and certainly not AT&T Park.
Lincecum gave up a single in the second, but that came on a come-backer on which Lincecum broke the bat of Jhonny Peralta. Both the ball and the jagged barrel of the bat flew out to Lincecum, who was unable to secure the ball.
The Indians scored a run in the third despite never hitting the ball out of the infield. Three walks issued by Lincecum helped that cause. The Giants pitcher walked the first two batters, then Grady Sizemore hit hard grounder to first. Buster Posey, making his first start at first, knocked the ball down and got the out at first. However, if he had fielded the ball cleanly, the Giants probably would have been able to turn a double play, and the Indians likely don’t score.
In the fourth, another walk put a runner on first. That runner was on the move when Lou Marson hit a chopper to the right of second base. However, with the runner moving, 2B Juan Uribe went to cover the bag, leaving him out of position to field the chopper. If Renteria had covered the bag, Uribe would have been in perfect position to turn a double play, even with the runner on the move. The Giants get two there, and Lincecum leaves the game with no more runs on the board.
Here’s how Lincecum’s day broke down:
FIRST INNING: Trevor Crowe struck out on 0-2 pitch; Grady Sizemore grounded out to 2nd on 1-0 pitch; Shin-Soo Choo homered to left on 2-1 pitch; Travis Hafner struck out on 0-2 pitch.
SECOND INNING: Jhonny Peralta infield single on 1-2 pitch; Mark Grudzielanek fouled out to first on first pitch; Andy Marte struck out on 2-2 pitch; Lou Marson flies to right on 0-1 pitch
THIRD INNING: Jason Donald walked on 3-1 pitch; Crowe walked on 3-1 pitch; Sizemore grounded out to first on 2-2 pitch; Choo grounded out to first on first pitch, run scores; Hafner walked on 3-1 pitch; Peralta struck out on 3-2 pitch

FOURTH INNING: Grudzielanek grounded out to 2nd; Marte walked on 3-2 pitch; Marson singled to center on 1-1 pitch; Donald popped out to first; Crowe doubled to left on 0-1 pitch, two runs score; Sizemore lined out to right on 2-0 pitch.
Lincecum finished with 78 pitches, which leaves him on great pace to open the season at full steam.
If you want see more on what Lincecum and the Giants are saying about Tuesday’s outing, click here.

First of Giants’ spring cuts

The San Francisco Giants made the first cuts of the spring, sending 1B Brett Pill to Triple-A Fresno, and reassigning SS Ehire Adrianza, OFThomas Neal, OF Wendell Fairley, C Johnny Monell, C Hector Sanchez, C Jackson Williams and IF Nick Noonan to minor league camp.

It’s curious that none of these moves involved pitchers. So, we would guess that a second round of cuts likely will be coming Wednesday.
In another move Tuesday, the Baltimore Orioles returned pitcher Steve Johnson to the Giants. Johnson was a Rule 5 draft pick in December by the Orioles. Johnson was assigned to Bowie of the Eastern League.

Spring training: Indians 7, Giants 1

Giants fans who were hoping to see a Tim Lincecum-esque outing from Tim Lincecum on Tuesday didn’t get that. The Giants ace gave up four earned runs on four hits and four walks in four innings of works as the Cleveland Indians beat the San Francisco Giants 7-1.

Lincecum also struck out four Indians.
Things started well enough for Lincecum, as he struck out Cleveland lead-off man Trevor Crowe on three pitchers. After retiring Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo homered off Lincecum. The Giants right-hander ended the inning by striking out Travis Hafner on three pitches.
Lincecum says he isn’t worried by his spring results, which include an ERA of 9.39.
“A couple of balls just got away from me,” he told the Associated Press. “Other than that, I’ll try to take something away from this. My body still feels good. The velocity of my fastball is getting a little bit better. It’s coming out of my hand better. I know I had three or four walks, but it’s spring training.”
If fans want to see a scoreless outing from Lincecum this spring, there aren’t that many opportunities. Lincecum’s next schedule day on the mound in Sunday. But the Giants don’t want to subject their ace to a four-hour bus trip to Tucson, so Lincecum will stay in Scottsdale and pitch in a minor-league game.
That means Lincecum’s next scheduled start against major leaguers should come on March 26 against the Angels. And that would put his spring training finale on March 31 against the Dodgers, the day the Giants break camp and return to San Francisco.
Tuesday was a quiet offensive day for the Giants. They managed only five hits and went down in order in the first three innings.

Inside the box score

Kevin Pucetas continued to make a strong case for the No. 5 rotation spot by pitching two perfect innings, no hits, walks, runs or strikeouts.
Andres Torres was 1 for 3 with a run scored.
Edgar Renteria was 1 for 3 with an RBI.
Bengie Molina was 1 for 3.
Buster Posey was 1 for 3. He got the start again at first base.
Up next
Barry Zito returns to the mound as the Giants face the Oakland A’s. Zito sailed through his last outing against minor leagues, pitching four scoreless innings. 
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