Anquan Boldin looks good in San Francisco Giants cap

Anquan Boldin

Anquan Boldin

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin talked to the media Friday at training camp … wearing a San Francisco Giants cap.

Uh oh. MoreSplashHits hopes he doesn’t get fined.

Actually, Boldin looked pretty good in a Giants cap (San Francisco Giants cap!). And wearing that sleeveless shirt, Boldin looks like he could hit a ball a loooooooong way.

Instead of asking Boldin how he is fitting in with the 49ers, maybe somebody should have asked him if he’d be interested in moonlighting as a baseball player.

He looks like he would make a great left fielder for the Giants.

At least we know he can CATCH THE BALL!!!!!!!!!!!

MLB allowed itself to be beaten again by Ryan Braun

File-Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun reacts after striking out after pinch hitting during the 11th inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins Sunday, July 21, 2013, in Milwaukee. Braun, a former National League MVP, has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season and admitted he "made mistakes" in violating Major League Baseball's drug policies. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced the penalty Monday and released a statement by the Milwaukee Brewers slugger, who said: "I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions." (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

File-Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun reacts after striking out after pinch hitting during the 11th inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins Sunday, July 21, 2013, in Milwaukee. Braun, a former National League MVP, has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season and admitted he “made mistakes” in violating Major League Baseball’s drug policies. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig announced the penalty Monday and released a statement by the Milwaukee Brewers slugger, who said: “I am not perfect. I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions.” (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

You ever see a player get into some kind of mischief on the field — throwing at a batter or charging the mound — and draw, say, a five-game suspension.

So, of course, he appeals the penalty.

And while he waits for his appeal to be heard, he plays on.

But then a couple of games go by and he tweaks his hamstring or rolls an ankle, causing him to miss a couple of games.

So the player decides to drop his appeal and start serving his suspension, using the five days to rest and recover from his injury.

Doesn’t that annoy you? How a player can manipulate the system to lessen the impact of his penalty.

It happens frequently. But this week it happened on the biggest stage, when Ryan Braun agreed to begin serving a 65-game suspension for unspecified violations of the MLB’s drug program.

MLB may think, after more than 21 months of pursuit, it finally got its man. But in reality, they let Braun wriggles himself off the hook.

Braun’s 2013 was been a walking pain. He was bothered by a neck problem for most of April and lingered into May. Then in late May, he was bothered by a thumb injury that eventually landed him on the DL for a month.

He returned from the DL and played in one game on July 9 before a trip on the bereavement list took him out of action through the All-Star break. When he returned, Braun declined to detail the nature of the “family medical emergency” that sent him home, only saying “This was one of those moments where I needed to be home with my family. Everybody is doing much better.”

After playing in three more games, his 2013 season was ended by the suspension.

To review, his 2013 season has been marred by injury, the inflamed nerve in his thumb was not completely healed even after his month-long stint on the DL and the Brewers’ season was going nowhere fast.

Sounds like a perfect time to cease his battle against MLB and take a 65-game suspension, and come back in 2014 and start fresh.

It seems to me that Braun beat MLB, again, just like he did in the spring of 2012 when he was suspended for testosterone use from a failed test during the 2011 playoffs that followed his MVP season. He appeals that penalty, and won … on a technicality.

He played it off as vindication.

Now who is vindicated?

Certainly not MLB. It had a chance to show it was serious about eradicating performance-enhancers by hitting one of the game’s biggest stars where it hurts.

But does this hurt?

Braun gets to go home, spend time with his family, heal his thumb that has been hurting him for more than a month, all while not hurting his team which was not a playoff-bound team with him in the lineup at less-than-100-percent.

Sure, there is the $4 million in salary that he will forfeit. But considering he’s due another $100 million-plus from the Brewers over the next seven seasons, what’s $4 million? Uncle Sam is going to take way more of Braun’s money as a normal course of business than what MLB will take by invoking a penalty.

But that is the penalty. And until MLB, and the players union, get serious about cleaning up the game and proposing some far more serious consequences to violators — and not allow players the right to plea bargain their way to a lesser penalty because it’s easy and convenient — MLB will again find itself allowing the cheaters to gain the upper hand.

After another loss to Reds, time to take a look at starting pitching prospects for Giants

San Francisco Giants starter Eric Surkamp, right, is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy during the third inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starter Eric Surkamp, right, is pulled from the game by manager Bruce Bochy during the third inning of the first game of a baseball doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, July 23, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Cincinnati Reds have faced two San Francisco Giants pitchers who were called up from Triple-A Fresno this season.

The Reds lit both of them up for seven runs on nine hits in 2.2 innings.

The first was Mike Kickham on July 1 in Cincinnati. The second was Eric Surkamp on Tuesday’s first game of a doubleheader.

In fact, in four starts this season, starting pitchers called up from Fresno have given up 23 earned run 13 innings. That’s a 15.92 ERA.

If Kickham and Surkamp were the best two options at Fresno, and another — Chris Heston — was released by the club last weekend, we thought it might be time to take a look at the top-rated starting pitchers in the Giants’ system and see how they are doing this season. These ratings are set by MLB.com.

NO.1, RHP KYLE CRICK

Crick, 20, was rated as the Giants’ No. 1 prospect by MLB.com. He lost two months of this season to an oblique strain. But since returning from the DL, he’s been awesome, allowing 3 ER in 25 innings over five starts (1.08 ERA). He was selected to the Futures Game and Baseball America had him at No. 49 in their midseason rankings of prospects. For the season, he has 50 strikeouts in 34.2 innings, but walks are a concern (24 on the season). Don’t look for him contributing to the big club until 2015.

NO. 2 RHP CHRIS STRATTON

It was thought that Stratton may be able to contribute soon for the Giants after being the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Stratton, 22, is 7-3 with 3.66 ERA in low-A Augusta. He has 92 strikeouts and 32 walks in 91 innings for the Green Jackets. He’s been hot and cold. Twice in his last six starts he’s given up 11 hits in a start. But also in his last seven starts, he has twice throw seven shutout innings and two other times gone six innings with one earned run. So consistency appears to be the key.

NO. 3 RHP MARTIN AGOSTA

Agosta, the Giants’ second-round pick in 2012 out of St. Mary’s, is pitching very well at Augusta. He is 8-3 with a 2.03 ERA in 15 starts. He has 97 strikeouts against 34 walks in 79.2 innings. Over his last seven starts, he’s been even better — 5 ER in 39 innings (1.15 ERA). Perhaps a promotion could be in order.

NO. 4 LHP ERIC SURKAMP

Surkamp, a former top prospect for the Giants, had Tommy John surgery last July. He pitched well for Class A San Jose but he had a 4.79 ERA in four starts at Triple-A Fresno when he got the call to start Tuesday. Expect Surkamp to go back to Fresno to keep working. He might see him against in September and he could battle for a starting job next spring.

NO. 5 LHP EDWIN ESCOBAR

Acquired in a trade with the Rangers as an 17-year-old in April 2010, Escobar, now 21, has improved with age. He was an organization All-Star in 2012 after going 7-8 with 2.96 ERA for Augusta. He was promoted to high-A San Jose this season and went 3-4 with 2.89 ERA with 92 strikeouts and 17 walks over 74.2 IP. After being named California League pitcher of the week on July 8, he was promoted to Double-A Richmond. In three starts for the Squirrels, he is 1-2 with 4.32 ERA, but still throwing strikes — 17 Ks against 3 BB in 16.2 innings.

NO. 6 RHP CLAYTON BLACKBURN

Blackburn is a big kid at 6-3, 220. He was drafted in the 16th round out of high school in 2011. He went 8-4 with 2.54 ERA at Augusta in 2012 and is 5-4 with 4.26 ERA in 17 starts at San Jose. But the 20-year-old has a 1.147 WHIP with 107 strikeouts against 26 walks in 95 innings.

NO. 7 LHP MIKE KICKHAM

It’s been a bumpy 2013 for Kickham. After a slow start in April for Fresno, he put together a nice string of starts (1.72 ERA over six starts) that earned him a promotion when Ryan Vogelsong went on the DL. But a poor start against Oakland got him a trip back to Fresno where he had some very mixed results. When Chad Gaudin went on the DL, Kickham was called on again. He had an so-so start against the Dodgers before getting lit up by the Reds. The Giants kept him as a long reliever before sending him back to Fresno in the middle of July. He is 3-6 with 5.12 ERA in 15 starts in Fresno this season.

NO. 8 RHP JOAN GREGORIO

Gregorio is tall — 6-foot-7 — but not a lot of beef (180 pounds). He was signed as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican. He had a bumpy season in 2012 at shortseason Salem-Keizer (7-7, 5.54 ERA). Now 21, he is 6-2 with 3.12 ERA in 11 starts for Augusta with 73 strikeouts against 13 walks in 60.2 innings.

NO. 9 LHP ADALBERTO MEJIA

Signed out of the Dominican in 2010, Mejia, 20, is on a faster track than Gregorio. He was 10-7 with 3.97 ERA for Augusta in 2012 and now he’s 3-3 with 3.51 ERA in 10 starts for San Jose. He has 50 strikeouts against 15 walks in 51.1 innings.

NO. 10 LHP TY BLACH

Drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Creighton, Blach, 22, has been impressive in his pro debut in 2013 for San Jose. He’s 10-3 with 2.59 ERA with 95 strikeouts and 11 walks in 100.2 innings. He has pitched at least five innings and not given up more than two runs in any of his last seven starts.

Silver lining: Tim Lincecum’s outing was not the worst no-hitter follow-up in baseball history

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum walks at the end of the second inning where he gave up two home runs to the Cincinnati Reds during a baseball game on Monday, July 22, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum walks at the end of the second inning where he gave up two home runs to the Cincinnati Reds during a baseball game on Monday, July 22, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Johnny Vander Meer didn’t have to wait long to pop that champagne bottle in heaven.

There would be no repeat of Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters when Tim Lincecum took the mound on Monday against the Reds.

It took six pitches before Shin-Soo Choo lined a double to left on a 3-2 pitch to open the game to record the game’s first hit against Lincecum.

And unfortunately for the Freak, there would be eight more hits by the Reds before Lincecum was lifted from the game in the fourth inning.

In the end, Lincecum got tagged for eight runs (all earned) on nine hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings. He also gave up three homers, a far cry from the no-hitter he tossed in San Diego nine days before.

So he went from one of the best starts of his career to one of his worsts. It was the first time in his career that he got tagged for eight earned runs.

It was not his worst start, statistically speaking. That honor would go to his April 11 start of last season, when he got tagged for six earned runs in 2.1 innings in Colorado (a 23.48 ERA for that start). But Monday’s start (19.62 ERA) would rank as second-worst if you used ERA as the measuring stick.

And before you start thinking it, Monday’s outing was also not the worsrt ever pitched by a pitcher coming off a no-hitter.

I started research the 273 starts the followed no-hitters in baseball history (I excluded no-hitters thrown by combined pitching efforts), and I only had to go back to 2008 to find a start worse than Lincecum’s follow-up effort.

That belonged to Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs, who on Sept. 19, 2008 — five days after he no-hit the Astros — got tagged for eight runs on six hits and three walks over 1.2 innings against the Cardinals.

Philip Humber of the White Sox got tagged for nine runs in his starter after no-hitting the Mariners last season, but he did that over five innings.

I don’t know if Zambrano’s start is the worst following a no-hitter, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one worse than eight earned in 1.2 innings.

So now, naturally, come the questions of whether than 148 pitches Lincecum threw in his no-hit effort against the Padres played a role in Monday’s start.

Lincecum said no, and I tend to believe him.

“I mean, I felt just as normal as I have in recent starts,” Lincecum said. “So there’s no toll.”

If you’re looking for another culprit, you might look at the eight days off between the two starts.

Lincecum is a prisoner to his unusual mechanics. And we’ve seen him get out of whack repeatedly over the years. And that’s what happened Monday.

“I think just repeating, you know?” Lincecum said. “I wasn’t consistently hitting spots with my fastball so that meant I had to go to my secondary pitches. I think I just used them up a little too much early and let them see them a little too much.”

Also circumstance had a hand in the debacle as well.

Choo’s lead-off double looked like the kind of ball Giants fans had gotten used to see Gregor Blanco catch in left field. But he didn’t and it went for a double.

The Giants then didn’t pounce quickly enough on Derrick Robinson’s clear sacrifice attempt and the speedy Robinson beat it out for a single.

After Lincecum struck out Joey Votto, he got Brandon Phillips to tap back to the mound for the second out.

Then he got up 0-2 on Jay Bruce before, in a very Lincecum fashion, couldn’t put him away and walked him.

That was followed by a hit-me fastball to Todd Frazier, who hammered it over Andres Torres’ head for a bases-clearing double.

The 31-pitch first inning likely led to more trouble later in the game for Lincecum.

Lincecum gets the Cubs at home this weekend, and Giants fans can only hope to finds his mechanics again and gets a little help along the way.

San Francisco Giants’ win over Arizona brings memories of 2012 playoff game

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 20, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, July 20, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The San Francisco Giants are 2-0 after the All-Star break.

We knew the series against the Diamondbacks was going to be big. And these two games had the feel of October baseball.

In fact, Saturday’s 4-3 win by the Giants over Arizona felt a lot like Game 5 of last October’s NL Division Series against the Reds.

Think about it.

Matt Cain gets the start, pitches well early, is given the lead, but can’t get through the sixth inning.

Jeremy Affeldt gets injured.

Buster Posey hits a big home run in the fifth inning to extend the Giants’ lead, and the homer represents the last of the Giants’ scoring.

The bullpen runs the gauntlet in the late innings, escaping jam after jam and hanging onto the lead.

Sergio Romo gives up a one run in the ninth, but locks down the victory.

CAIN’S START: After an ugly outing in St. Louis on June 1, Cain posted a 1.84 ERA over his next five starts, lowering his ERA from 5.45 to 4.29. Then he had two ugly starts vs. the Dodgers (2.1 IP, 8 ER) and Mets (0.2 IP, 3 ER) and his ERA was back at 5.06. Cain came out Saturday and threw up four zeros before getting charged for single earned runs in the fifth and sixth. He should have escaped with another zero in the fifth when he got Eric Chavez to hit a double-play ball to second. But shortstop Tony Abreu, playing in place of the mildly hurt Brandon Crawford, threw the throw to first away, allowing a run to score. At the time, the run was unearned, as it scored on an error. But when Cain followed with back-to-back walks, it turned the run into an earned run. But if Abreu makes the play he should have, no runs score. He opened the sixth by giving up back-to-back singles and exited with 102 pitches in five-plus innings. Again, the Abreu error in the fifth led to Cain throwing an extra 15-18 pitches in the fifth.

AFFELDT HURT: Last October in Cincinnati, Affeldt suffered a minor injury when he tried to avoid a foul ball in the dugout. Saturday’s injury was a bit more severe. Affeldt suffered a strain groin and is likely headed to the DL. It’s quite possible Affeldt may be out a month. Jean Machi likely will get recalled to fill Affeldt’s spot, but when does Dan Runzler get another shot in the bigs? He’s a lefty, even though the Giants have lefties Javier Lopez and Jose Mijares in the pen.

BUSTER’S BLAST: After Andres Torres singled with one out in the fifth, Buster Posey blasted a shot over the center-field wall for his 14th homer of the year. It gave the Giants a 4-1 lead.

BULLPEN STARTS, THEN PUTS OUT FIRES: After Cain got the hook with two on and no outs in the sixth, George Kontos gave up an RBI single to Martin Prado to make it 4-2, then got Cody Ross to line out to second for the first out. Affeldt was brought in for Kontos and got Cliff Pennington to fly out to Pence in Triple’s Alley. But then strained his groin on a 2-2 pitch to A.J. Pollock and Jose Mijares was called in. Mijares walked Pollock to load the bases, but struck out Adam Eaton to end the threat.

In the seventh, and Santiago Casilla pitching, Aaron Hill got a two-out walk followed by a single by Miguel Montero. So again, go-ahead run came to the plate. But Castilla got Martin Prado to ground out.

In the eight, Sandy Rosario came into pitch and gave up a lead-off single to Cody Ross that glanced off Rosario’s ring finger on his pitching hand (X-rays after the game were negative). After Rosario got Pennington to fly to center, Javier Lopez came in. Wil Nieves reached on an error by Crawford, again bringing the go-ahead run to the plate. But Eaton made the second out on a comebacker to Lopez and Gerardo Parra grounded to second to end the inning.

In the ninth, Sergio Romo came in and gave up an infield single to Paul Goldschmidt off Romo’s glove. Hill flied to center, and Montero grounded to first with Goldschmidt taking second. Prado hit a bloop single to right to score Goldschmidt, but Romo struck out Cody Ross to end the game.

Whew.

Now, the Giants clinched the series win they needed to get. They are 4.5 game out of first place, four games behind the second-place Dodgers. A win tomorrow will get them at least within four games of the lead, maybe 3.5.

This is an opportunity with All-Star Madison Bumgarner on the mound. The Giants need to seize on these opportunities. And it would be nice if they could do without going too deep into the bullpen that used seven of eight pitchers in the pen on Saturday.

Who is Giants’ odd man out when Ryan Vogelsong return: Chad Gaudin or Barry Zito?

San Francisco Giants starter Chad Gaudin throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 19, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants starter Chad Gaudin throws to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the fourth inning of a baseball game Friday, July 19, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Chad Gaudin did it again on Friday.

Gaudin, the journeyman pitcher who joined his Xth team this spring when he signed with the Giants, turned in his best performance of the season when he limited the Diamondbacks to three hits and no walks or runs over seven innings in the Giants’ 2-0 win on Friday. He struck out eight, improved his record to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to 2.15.

He is 4-0 with 2.23 in seven starts since moving to the rotation in place of the injured Ryan Vogelsong.

Since coming off the DL after being hit in the arm with a line drive, Gaudin is 2-0 with 0.95 ERA over three starts.

Manager Bruce Bochy admitted that it would be hard to remove Gaudin from the rotation when Vogelsong returns from his stint on the DL next month.

So it left many Giants fans to wonder: Who goes to the pen when Vogey returns? Vogey? Gaudin? Tim Lincecum? Barry Zito?

Well, the answer may have come Saturday afternoon.

Ryan Vogelsong threw 40 pitches in the bullpen, then 35 more from the main mound at AT&T Park to coaches Shawon Dunston and Roberto Kelly as well as outfielder Gregor Blanco.

“I came out of it healthy,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “I took out of it what I needed to. The hand feels good, the arm feels good.”

Barring any setback, Vogelsong’s next step to pitch in an Arizona Rookie League game next week, then a start with Class A San Jose and another with Double-A Richmond. The “soft” return date to the Giants is Aug. 9.

August 9, eh? Hmmm. That could be very telling. Take a look at how the Giants’ rotation sets up between now and then.

  • July 20 vs. Diamondbacks (Cain)
  • July 21 vs. Diamondbacks (Bumgarner)
  • July 22 vs. Reds (Lincecum)
  • Jul 23 DH vs. Reds (Zito and TBD – either Yusmeiro Pettit, Mike Kickham or Eric Surkamp; Pettit seems longshot as it would require opening a spot on the 40-man roster).
  • July 24 vs. Reds (Gaudin)
  • July 26 vs. Cubs (Cain)
  • July 27 vs. Cubs (Bumgarner)
  • July 28 vs. Cubs (Lincecum)

Now, the Giants have two upcoming days off — July 25 and July 29. If they stay on turn, Zito would pitch on July 30 in Philadelphia to open a six-game road trip. It would also mean Zito would pitch twice on that road trip.

Considering Zito has been so dreadful on the road — he is 0-6 with 9.89 ERA on the road compared to 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA at home — it would wise to use those off days to skip Zito’s turn in the rotation, limiting him to one start on the road trip. Then the rotation would look like this:

  • July 30 at Philadelphia (Gaudin)
  • July 31 at Philadelphia (Cain)
  • Aug. 1 at Philadelphia (Bumgarner)
  • Aug. 2 at Tampa Bay (Lincecum)
  • Aug. 3 at Tampa Bay (Zito)
  • Aug. 4 at Tampa Bay (Gaudin)
  • Aug. 5 vs. Milwaukee (Cain)
  • Aug. 6 vs. Milwaukee (Bumgarner)
  • Aug. 7 vs. Milwaukee (Lincecum)

That would mean that Zito’s next turn in the rotation would fall on August 8, at home vs. the Brewers. Vogelsong’s soft return date is Aug. 9. That means Vogelsong’s soft return date would plot him right between Zito and Gaudin in the rotation, meaning either could easily be bumped.

Or the Giants could even tinker with a six-man rotation, in which Zito gets skipped on the road.

Some cold, hard numbers regarding San Francisco Giants’ second-half prospects

San Francisco Giants' Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants' 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence singles against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning of the Giants’ 5-2 victory in a baseball game in Denver on Sunday, June 30, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The San Francisco Giants went into the All-Star break with a 43-51 record, their worst mark at the break in five years.

On Friday, the second half of the season begins with a key series against the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks went into the break with a 50-45 mark. If all of the NL West teams duplicate their first half performances, the Diamondbacks would win the division title with an 85-77 record.

But MoreSplashHits believes it will take at least 88 wins to take the division crown this year. That means the Giants would have to finish the season 45-23 over the final 68 games to reach that 88-win mark.

It’s a daunting task for a team eight games under .500. But not impossible.

It’s only four games better than how the Giants finished over their final 68 games in 2012, when they posted a 41-27 record.

But if the Giants hope to win 22 more games than they will lose over the last 2.5 months of the season, they need to start winning now.

Taking 3 of 4 from the Padres prior to the break is a start. It needs to keep going this weekend at home against the Diamondbacks. The Giants have won 6 of 9 vs. Arizona this year.

If the Giants take 2 of 3 from Arizona, they will be 5.5 games out of first place and still in the mix. If they lose 2 of 3, they will fall 7.5 games back and on the verge of being out of the mix.

If the Giants get swept by Arizona, they will fall 9.5 games and it might be time to start thinking about 2014.

However, if the Giants were to sweep Arizona, they’d be 3.5 games behind Arizona, and the race is on.

The Giants come out of the break with 10 consecutive games at AT&T Park (although they’ll be the “road” team in one of those games against the Reds as part of a makeup from a rained-out game in Cincinnati earlier this month).

Realistically, the Giants need to go at least 6-4 over those 10 games to stay viable in the NL West race. The goal should really be more like 7-3.

August’s schedule is brutal, with series against the Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, Nationals and Pirates. So the winning needs to start in July.

San Francisco Giants’ Sergio Romo added to All-Star team; Is Hunter Pence next?

Sergio Romo was added to the NL All-Star roster on Sunday.

Sergio Romo was added to the NL All-Star roster on Sunday.

Following through on a pledge he made Friday, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy selected closer Sergio Romo as an injury replacement to the National League All-Star roster on Sunday.

Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke and Nationals pitcher Jordan Zimmermann announced that they would not participate in Tuesday’s game in New York because of minor injuries.

Bochy replaced Locke and Zimmermann with Romo and Pirates reliever Mark Melancon.

That give the Giants four players on the All-Star roster with Romo joining reserves Buster Posey, Marco Scutaro and Madison Bumgarner.

Bochy will need to make at least two more replacement selections. Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright is scheduled to start Sunday night’s game against the Cubs, making him ineligible to play in the All-Star game. However, Bochy cannot announce a replacement for Wainwright until he actually throw a pitch in the game, which doesn’t start until 5 p.m. Pacific Time. I would expect Bochy to turn another Cardinal to replace Wainwright. That’s what he did with Locke.

Two possible Redbird options are starting pitcher Shelby Miller or reliever Edward Mujica.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who on Thursday won the All-Star Final Vote as the final addition to the roster, suffered a jammed thumb on Saturday and will not play Tuesday.

Freeman beat out the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, Giants’ Hunter Pence, Nationals’ Ian Desmond and Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez in fan voting, in that order.

Considering Puig, the runner-up in fan voting, has been sidelined this weekend by a sore shoulder, Bochy may select Pence as a replacement for Freeman. Pence finished third in Final Vote voting.

However, San Jose Mercury’s Alex Pavlovic reported that Bochy is leaning to a third catcher to replace Freeman. If that’s the case, the Rockies’ Wilin Rosario would be at the top of the list.

Tim Lincecum accomplishes the unexpected with first career no-hitter

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum pitches in the ninth inning of his no hitter over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game in San Diego, Saturday, July 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum pitches in the ninth inning of his no hitter over the San Diego Padres in a baseball game in San Diego, Saturday, July 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Tim Lincecum has accomplished a lot in his seven-year career with the San Francisco Giants.

He’s a two-time Cy Young Award winner, a four-time All-Star. He was the NL All-Star starter in 2009. He was the Giants’ opening day starter 2009-2012. He started Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, NLCS and World Series. He pitched the Giants to victory in the clinching game of the 2010 World Series. He’s a two-time World Champion.

But one thing he hadn’t accomplished was pitch a no-hitter.

So I understand how many Giants fans watching the last few innings of Saturday’s win over the Padres with nervous trepidation.

However, I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t nervous because I just didn’t think he could throw a no-hitter.

Prior to Saturday, Lincecum had just five shutouts in his career and only eight complete games. None since 2011.

So as Lincecum piled up the strikeouts Saturday, his pitch count continue to rise to more than 100 by the end of the sixth inning. At the pace he was on, it would take 153 pitches to complete nine innings of work. And as he had never thrown more than 142 pitches in a game in his career, it seemed as if time was not on his side.

But he found a way. There’s something about July nights, the San Diego Padres, an unlikely pitcher that lead to no-hitters.

You’ll remember when Jonathan Sanchez threw his no-hitter in July of 2009, he had just returned from being demoted to the bullpen when he no-hit the Padres.

Lincecum got 13 of his 27 outs on Saturday by strikeout, most on swing-and-misses. Here are his blemishes on the night

  • A two-out walk to Chase Headley in the first innning
  • He hit Jed Gyroko with a pitch with one out in the second
  • A one-out walk to Everth Cabrera in the sixth
  • A two-out walk of Headley in the sixth
  • A two-out walk to Cabrera in the eighth

Of balls put in play, there were three scary plays

With Cabrera and Headley on base with two out in the sixth, Carlos Quentin hit a hard liner right at shortstop Brandon Crawford

Jesus Guzman hit a bouncer behind the bag at third that Pablo Sandoval gloved and make a strong throw to first for the out to end the seventh.

Alexi Amarista hit a sinking liner to right that Hunter Pence made a diving, rolling grab to end the eighth.

The left the ninth, during which Lincecum struck out Headley and got Quentin and Yonder Alonso to fly out to Gregor Blanco to set off the celebration.

It was a stirring, 148-pitch gem from Lincecum during a time when the Giants needed a spark the most.

What other surprises does Lincecum have in store for Giants fans during the second half of 2013

In surprise move, San Francisco Giants designate Chris Heston for assignment

Chris Heston

Chris Heston

The Giants were busy making moves on Saturday, activated reliever Santiago Casilla from the disabled list and promoting outfielder Jeff Franceour from Triple-A Fresno.

The Giants sent infielder Nick Noonan and reliever Jean Machi to Fresno to make room for Casilla and Francoeur.

But in order to activate Francoeur, the Giants needed to create room on their 40-man roster. They did that by designating pitcher Chris Heston for assignment.

The move was surprising because Heston came into spring training as the No. 1 option in the farm system should one of the Giants’ five starting pitchers get injured.

Heston was drafted in the 12th round by the Giants in the 2009 draft out of East Carolina University. This season was his fifth in the Giants’ organization, and he seemed to be getting better as he moved through the system.

  • 2009, he was 1-5 with 4.11 and 1.143 WHIP for the Giants Arizona Rookie League team
  • 2010, he was 5-13 with 3.75 ERA and 1.305 WHIP for Class A Augusta
  • 2011, he was 12-4 with 3.16 ERA and 1.219 WHIP for Class A San Jose
  • 2012, he was 7-6 with 2.24 ERA and 1.103 WHIP for Double-A Richmond.

He was a  Giants organization All-Star in 2011 and 2012. He was the Eastern League pitcher of the year in 2012, beating out, among others, former Giants prospect Zach Wheeler.

Last November, he was added to the Giants’ 40-man roster to protected from the Rule 5 draft, along with Noonan, outfielder Juan Perez and pitchers Edwin Escobar and Jake Dunning.

But then things went poorly for Heston. He went 0-1 with 9.28 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in four outings during spring training. For Triple-A Fresno, he was 7-6 with 5.80 ERA and 1.610 WHIP.

Even though PCL hitters were hitting .301 against Heston, the decision to DFA him seemed odd for a team so lean on starting pitching in the system. Both CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly and The Chronicle Henry Schulman speculated the Giants may be looking to trade Heston. They have 10 days to trade, release or put Heston on waivers.

Here’s a breakdown on the other players on the Giants’ 40-man roster who have not appeared in a game with the Giants in 2013.

P Edwin Escobar – Signed as an international free agent from Venezuela at age 17, Escobar, 21, is in his fifth year in the organization. A reliever, Escobar is 3-4 with 2.89 ERA, 92 strikeouts, 17 walks, 1.138 WHIP in 74.2 innings for Class A San Jose.

P Dan Runzler – Runzler, 28, was a ninth-round draft pick in 2007 by the Giants. He made his big-league debut in 2009 and he’s believed to be the only player in Giants’ history to pitch for the big club after pitching for four different levels of the minor leagues. After going 3-0 with 3.03 ERA for the Giants in 2010, his career got derailed a bit by injuries. He worked himself by into shape and was thought to be a leading contender to make the club out of spring training this season, but was optioned instead to Triple-A Fresno, where his has gone 3-3 with 5.08 ERA in 39 innings. But he is left-handed.

P Hunter Strickland – A career minor leaguer, Strickland, 24, was claimed off waivers from the Pirates prior to the start of the 2013 season, added to the 40-man roster, and optioned to Class A San Jose. Strickland has never pitched above Double-A in six minor-league seasons. He’s been very good at San Jose this season, going 1-0 with nine saves, a 0.86 ERA and 0.714 WHIP in 21 innings.

P Eric Surkamp – The former sixth-round pick in 2008, Surkamp was the Giants’ top-rated pitcher in the system in 2011 after they dealt Zach Wheeler to the Mets. Surkamp was promoted from Double-A Richmond and went 2-2 with 5.74 ERA in six starts for the Giants at the tail end of the 2011 season. But he developed elbow problems and required Tommy John surgery last season. During his rehab this year, he made five starts for Class A San Jose, going 0-0 with a 2.93 ERA. After being optioned to Triple-A Fresno, he is 2-0 with 2.81 ERA in three starts. He could be an option to start for the Giants in August.

IF Ehire Adrianza – Adrianza has the reputation as having a great glove, but lacks offense. His best offensive season was 2011 when he hit .273 with .352 OBP between low-A Augusta and high-A San Jose. He hit .220 for Double-A Richmond in 2012 and was hitting .242 with .334 OBP for Richmond in 2013 before getting promoted to Triple-A Fresno last week.

OF Roger Kieschnick – The left-handed hitting Kieschnick looked to be headed to the big leagues last season when he hit .306 with 15 HRs and 40 RBI in 55 games for Triple-A Fresno. But he injured his shoulder running into the outfield wall, which effectively ended his season. In 2013, he hasn’t been the same, hitting .265 with 11 HR and 51 RBI in 90 games.

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