It’s been a long time, but Barry Bonds is back in San Francisco Giants camp

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, listens as former player Barry Bonds speaks at a news conference before a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 10, 2014. Bonds starts a seven day coaching stint today. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, listens as former player Barry Bonds speaks at a news conference before a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Monday, March 10, 2014. Bonds starts a seven day coaching stint today. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

It’s been seven years since Barry Bonds wore a San Francisco Giants uniform as a player.

It’s been so long, it took me a while to remember if Bonds ever played for manager Bruce Bochy. He did for one season in 2007.

There are only three players on the current roster who were teammates of Bonds — Tim Lincecum (2007), Ryan Vogelsong (who played in four games with Giants in 2000) and Matt Cain (2005-07).

For Cain, the arrival of Bonds to camp, and the accompanying media throng, brought a familiar feel.

“It just became a zoo like normal,” Cain said. “Same as before. If you want to get some TV time, go near him.”

It’s a scene that was long overdue in Giants camp. The team has a long history of bringing back veteran stars to share knowledge with their current players in the spring.

Bochy said the timing was just right for this. And Bonds is just one of several former players to make appearances in Scottsdale this spring.

“Jeff Kent just left (coincidence?),” Bochy said. “J.T. Snow is here, Rich Aurilia is here, Randy Winn is here. Will Clark is coming in later.”

Bonds is in Giants camp for seven days. He intimated that he’d like it be longer, that perhaps this visit could grow into something more.

“But I’m just here for seven days,” Bonds then cautioned. “I don’t even know if I’m good at this.”

Bonds has had some experience with tutoring hitters like Ryan Howard, and this past offseason, Dexter Fowler.

With his legal issues behind him, Bonds has his focus on the future, deflecting most of the media’s queries about his playing days and PED connections.

“I’m not the focal point anymore,” he said. “I’m here for the team.”

Bonds said he recently moved back to the Bay Area from Southern California “because it’s my home, and I love it and I belong (there).”

When asked if he thinks he’s worthy for election in the the Hall of Fame, Bonds answered: “Without a doubt.”

But he wouldn’t offer reasons to the media on why they should elect him to the Hall. “You guys are all adults. I have no advice for you.”

Bonds was a more warm and fuzzy version on Monday than the grumpy, cocky person he was in his playing days. The constant questions and criticism he faced late in his career amplified that personality in him.

“I was a different character when I playing,” Bonds said. “I needed to be that guy to play. But it’s not who I am now. … I’m the same person, just a different character. I can still be crazy, but I’ve toned it down.”

Then he directed a comment to the media.

“The only regret I have is that I wish we all had a better relationship,” he added.

As far as how he can help the Giants, he said these next seven days will reveal that.

“The one thing I know I can do is I can help you do a little better than you are doing now,” he said. “But I don’t know how much I can help. That’s what I’m here to find out.”

Transformation of Giants’ Tim Lincecum into finesse pitcher takes another good turn

San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum pitches to the Kansas City Royals in the second inning of a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 7, 2014, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum pitches to the Kansas City Royals in the second inning of a spring training baseball game, Friday, March 7, 2014, in Surprise, Ariz. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Tim Lincecum kept the impressive spring going by the Giants starting rotation.

Lincecum tossed three scoreless in a 5-0 win Friday against the Royals. Combined with Tim Hudson’s three scoreless innings on Thursday in a 3-2 win over the Angels, it gives the Giants’ rotation a 0.39 ERA for the spring (23 IP, 1 ER, 13 hits).

Lincecum gave up two hits with no walks or strikeouts (he did hit one batter). He fastball clocked at 89-91 mph.

“I’m not really too worried about trying to get it up or where it is at,” Lincecum said. “It’s all about placement. I know if I set my sights low in the zone I’ll be better off.”

It’s all part of Lincecum learning to become more of a finesse pitcher. He was efficient on Friday, throwing 35 pitches, 26 for strikes.

As Lincecum put it, he’s pitching for more “crappy contact” and worrying less about strikeouts.

“I just wanted to pound the zone a little bit more than I did,” Lincecum said. “My last game I had a batter where I threw four straight balls and I was really trying not to let that happen and attack the zone. Even if I was behind to hitters, come back and make really good pitches. That’s where my mindset was at.”

Here’s how Lincecum’s outing went Friday:

FIRST INNING

  • Norichika Aoki doubles down left-field line
  • Lorenzo Cain pops to first
  • With Alex Gordon batting, Aoki caught stealing third
  • Gordon singles to center
  • Billy Butler flies to right

SECOND INNING

  • Danny Valencia flies to right
  • Justin Maxwell flies to center
  • Brett Hayes hit by pitch
  • Alcides Escobar grounds to third

THIRD INNING

  • Christian Colon grounds to short
  • Aoki groundsto short
  • Cain pops to second

Looks like lots of crappy contact there.

Lincecum has now allowed three hits and one walk in five scoreless innings this spring. For a guy with a career spring ERA of 5.51 (10.57 last spring), that’s worth noting.

To ready more on the Freak’s approach this spring, read Andrew Baggarly’s post here.

 

New home plate collision rule: We’re predicting you won’t miss them

Florida Marlins' Scott Cousins, top, collides with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) on a fly ball from Emilio Bonifacio during the 12th inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Cousins was safe for the go ahead run and Florida won 7-6.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Florida Marlins’ Scott Cousins, top, collides with San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) on a fly ball from Emilio Bonifacio during the 12th inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Cousins was safe for the go ahead run and Florida won 7-6. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Major League Baseball and the players association agreed to implement a provisional rule that would limit home plate collisions.

It can’t be called a home plate collision ban, thanks to a compromised made by both sides.

MLB wanted to make the rule simple: Runners would be required to slide into home plate; catchers would not be allowed to impede the runner in any way.

But the players association contended that years of conditioning of big-league catchers could not be undone in one spring training (which MoreSplashHits believes is silly, but OK).

So MLB added the following provision to the rule:

“The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.”

This provision would seem to indicate that catchers can still block the plate if they have the ball in hand. This has led some players to deduce that a rule intended on protecting the catcher is now putting the runner in danger.

And they have a point. Also, it created some gray area that is confusing to some.

“Yesterday, we were thoroughly confused, trying to figure out ways to do it,” the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy said. “There were so many issues as far as, ‘Will this be legal? Would that be legal?'”

Now if catchers are spending this spring trying to figure ways that they can still be allowed to block the plate, then there will be issues.

But if teams spend this spring instructing their catchers to position themselves in a way that will avoid most contact, then there will be few issues.

That’s what Giants fans have learned over the past couple of years.

Ever since Buster Posey had his 2011 season ended by a collision with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins — and even before that, Posey says — Giants catchers have been taught to position themselves to receive the ball out in front of home plate (i.e. between home plate and the mound). Then catch the ball and turn to tag out the runner with a sweep tag.

This technique is nothing new. Carlton Fisk decided early in his career that he would rather have a long and prosperous career than turn himself into a human baracade at the plate. So he used the sweep tag, which allowed him to make the Hall of Fame.

So Giants fans haven’t seen many home plate collisions in the past few years. And they haven’t missed them.

As someone who has covered high school baseball for a quarter century — home plate collisions are not allowed in prep baseball, or the college game for that matter — I can tell you that you don’t really miss them.

What you will notice is that any runner to can get to the plate before the ball arrives will be safe. Those that don’t will be out.

Just like every other base.

Will there still be collisions from time to time? Sure. Just like there are when pitchers and runners sometimes collide when a pitcher is covering first. Or when a wide throw carries first basemen into the path of oncoming runners.

But these plays will be left to the judgment of umpires to decide if the contact was incidental or intentional, and rule accordingly.

MoreSplashHits believes after the 2014 season, this experimental rule will become permanent, with the potential elimination of the aformentioned provision which allows catchers to block the plate if they have the ball.

And there will still be exciting plays at the plate, like this one from the 2012 World Series.

Spring training: Giants 3, Angels 2 — Cain keeps strong pitching going

San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game last season. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

San Francisco Giants’ Matt Cain throws before an exhibition spring training baseball game last season. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Matt Cain continued the stellar start to the spring by the quintet of pitchers who will make up the Giants’ starting rotation this season.

Cain gave up just one hit in three scoreless innings, walking none and striking out two in a 3-2 win over the Angels. It was Cain’s first spring training start as his previous start last Saturday was rained out, forcing him to throw a bullpen session indoors.

None of the Giants’ starting rotation pitchers have allowed a run this spring when starting spring training games. The only run allowed by a Giants rotation pitcher was by Ryan Vogelsong pitching in relief of Madison Bumgarner.

Yusmeiro Petit, who is fighting for a job as a long relief man, has made the other start this spring for the Giants.

Here are how the pitchers in the Giants starting rotation have fared this spring:

  • Madison Bumgarner — 2 games, 1-0, 5 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 3 K 0.00 ERA
  • Tim Lincecum — 1 G, 0-0, 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
  • Tim Hudson — 1 G, 0-0, 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
  • Ryan Vogelsong 2 G, 1-0, 5 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 1.80 ERA

Put that all together, and the Giants projected starting rotation has allowed one run on 11 hits, one walk and nine strikeouts in 17 innings of work (0.53 ERA).

As we always say in the spring “It’s just spring training.” But it’s a good sign to see the starters getting good results, especially Tim Lincecum who has a track record of ugly numbers in the spring.

Now, the Giants’ hitters haven’t been nearly as impressive this spring.

Wednesday’s win pushed the Giants’ spring record to 4-3. But the Giants have scored more than three runs in a game in their last three outings.

Other highlights

  • Pablo Sandoval had a pair of RBI singles in three at-bats.
  • Mike Morse drove in the other Giant run with a double, and he had a walk.
  • Minor league 1B Mark Minicozzi went 2 for 4.
  • Heath Hembree pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with one strikeout to earn the save.

Thursday

Tim Hudson takes the mound as the Giants host the Reds at 12:05 p.m.

Spring training: Giants 3, Rockies 2

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitches to a Colorado Rockies batter during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner pitches to a Colorado Rockies batter during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

OK, it’s March 4. So it’s time we start blogging about the Giants.

MoreSplashHits has emerged from its winter hibernation to check in on what’s going on with the Giants down in Scottsdale

On Tuesday, Giants starting pitching continued its strong spring with solid outings against the Rockies by Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.

Bumgarner, slated to be the Giants’ opening day starter, gave up just two hits in three shutout innings of work. He struck out. This was MadBum’s second spring start and he has yet to allow a run.

“My command was better,” Bumgarner said. “The pitches I made from the stretch felt better than they did last time. There still were balls that I left up, but nothing on a regular basis.”

Ryan Vogelsong, the No. 5 starter, gave up one run on three hits in three innings of work. He has a spring ERA of 1.80.

Another point of interest for both starters and relievers is throwing strikes. Bases on balls were a big problem for Giants pitchers in 2013.

On Tuesday, five Giants pitchers allowed just one walk, that coming from Edwin Escobar. George Kontos and Jake Dunning also pitched Tuesday.

Other highlights

  • Brandon Belt, who has been battling a stiff neck, returned to the lineup and went 2 for 3 with a double.
  • Tyler Colvin, looking to make the team as a utility reserve, went 1 for 2 with an RBI double.
  • Former top prospect Gary Brown had an RBI single.

Wednesday

Matt Cain takes the hill for the first time in exhibition play when the Giants face the Angels at 12:05 p.m. Cain’s previous start was rained out, so he threw a bullpen session indoors.

Giants open spring training without a lot a drama

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) looks on as a group of mostly catchers return during spring training baseball practice on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) looks on as a group of mostly catchers return during spring training baseball practice on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The offseason wasn’t as exciting as many Giants fans would have liked.

The Giants spent most of the offseason locking up their own free agents: Hunter Pence, 5 years (done before end of regular season), Tim Lincecum, 2 years; Javier Lopez, 2 years; Ryan Vogelsong, 1 year.

So the 2014 Giants are going to look a lot like the 2013 Giants.

The two significant changes will be Tim Hudson (2-year deal) in place of Barry Zito, and Michael Morse (1-year deal) getting the bulk of the LF starts instead of Gregor Blanco.

The former addition will be a marked improvement. The latter remains to be scene. If nothing else, it gives them better depth.

So the two basic questions heading into spring training is the final bench spot and the final two bullpen spots.

Here is what the 25-man roster likely will look like.

STARTING LINEUP

  • C-Buster Posey
  • 1B-Brandon Belt
  • 2B-Marcus Scutaro
  • SS-Brandon Crawford
  • 3B-Pablo Sandoval
  • LF-Michael Morse
  • CF-Angel Pagan
  • RF-Hunter Pence

BENCH

  • C-Hector Sanchez
  • IF-Tony Abreu
  • IF-Joaquin Arias
  • OF-Gregor Blanco
  • OF-TBD

STARTING ROTATION

  • RH-Matt Cain
  • LH-Madison Bumgarner
  • RH-Tim Lincecum
  • RH-Tim Hudson
  • RH-Ryan Vogelsong

BULLPEN

  • RH-Sergio Romo
  • RH-Santiago Casilla
  • LH-Jeremy Affeldt
  • LH-Javier Lopez
  • RH-Yusmeiro Petit
  • TBD
  • TBD

The final bench spot appears to be between Juan Perez and Roger Kieschnick. I was surprised the Giants didn’t bring in another veteran outfielder as a non-roster invitee. Infielder Ehire Adrianza, a former top prospect, is out of options, so he could also figure in this mix.

Petit appears a lock for the long-man role in the bullpen, and the emergency starter should someone in the rotation get hurt.

Pitchers in the mix for the remaining two bullpen spots are RH Jake Dunning, RH Heath Hembree, LH David Huff (acquired recently in a trade with the Yankees), RH George Kontos and RH Jean Machi.

Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants agree to new five-year deal for … wow, just wow!

San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, right, gestures while speaking after being announced as the 2013 winner of the Wille Mac Award, named after former Giant Willie McCovey, seated left, before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, right, gestures while speaking after being announced as the 2013 winner of the Wille Mac Award, named after former Giant Willie McCovey, seated left, before a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Francisco, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

One of the biggest questions for the Giants heading into the postseason was answered Saturday: Hunter Pence will remain a Giant.

There were two schools of thought regarding Pence’s future in San Francisco.

The first says it would be great to re-sign Pence … if the price was right.

The other school of thought was that the Giants had to re-sign Pence. They HAD to. They could not go into the offseason trying to replace their left fielder AND their right fielder.

The money really didn’t matter. The market would determine the money. Considering the options, the Giants had to re-sign Pence.

Ray Woodson on KNBR Friday night, I thought, correctly stated when he said the discussion would need to start at four years, $60 million.

So when the first reports said the deal the Giants and Pence agreed to was five years, I thought “OK, I guess it took five years to get the deal done now.”

Then the number came in: $90 million. Five years, $90 million. $18 million a year.

Wow. Just wow.

If you had asked me to project where Pence’s number would come in, I would not have come anywhere near five years, $90 million.

During his press conference Friday, Giants general manager Brian Sabaen must have used the word “budget” a dozen times.

He must have been talking about the budget AFTER giving Pence $90 million.

So the good news is Pence will return in 2014. That leaves one question mark in the starting lineup: left field.

But how much money is in the coffers to spend on a quality improvement for a left-fielder?

One possible solution is recent Cuba defector Jose Abreu. Abreu, 26, is a power-hitting, right-handed first baseman who will soon hit the international free-agent market.

The Giants are reportedly to be most interested in Abreu, among teams that include the Red Sox, Pirates, Orioles and maybe even the Mets.

Of course signing a first basemen means Brandon Belt would have to move to left field. It’s a move that Belt says his willing to make and he’s shown ability in brief stints in the outfield.

Another question the Pence deal brings is how does it impact the efforts to re-sign Tim Lincecum.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Giants reported the Giants, having secured Pence, have moved their efforts to agreeing to a new deal with Lincecum.

If a deal can’t be reached before the start of the offseason, the Giants are expected to make a qualifying offer to Lincecum for one year, around $14 million, putting them in position for a compensatory first-round pick if he signs elsewhere.

It also decreases the chances of the Giants signing a free agent who has been offered a qualifying offer, which would cost the Giants’ first-round pick next June. The Giants likely will pick anywhere from No. 11 to 14.

If true, you can scratch Shin-Soo Choo, Jacob Ellsbury, Nelson Cruz and maybe even Ervin Santana from your wish list.

A look at potential September call-ups for San Francisco Giants

Kensuke Tanaka was sent down to minor league camp on Thursday.

Kensuke Tanaka was sent down to minor league camp on Thursday.

It’s September, so it’s time to look at prospects.

From Sept. 1 through the end of the regular seaso, any player on the 40-man roster is eligible to play in an official regular season game. Many young players make their Major League debuts in this way, as “September call-ups.”

The Giants in the past few seasons have not called up a ton of minor leaguers in September. But in the past few seasons, they’ve been in contention for the postseason.

Not this season, so it’s time to take a look at the youngsters. So we’ll start with players who are on the 40-man roster, but not on the current 25-man roster or on the DL

RHP Jake Dunning

Pitched well in his first stint in the majors, posting a 2.84 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 19 innings before being sent down in late July. He’s gone 1-2 with 1.37 ERA in 46 innings at Fresno. He’ll surely get a call-up.

LHP Edwin Escobar

Escobar started the year at High-A San Jose, going 3-4 with 2.89 ERA and 1.138 WHIP in 16 games (14 starts). His numbers got better since his promotion to Double-A Richmond — 5-3, 2.59 ERA, 1.068 WHIP in nine starts. But at 21, and a starting pitching prospect, he’s likely not to get call this September.

RHP George Kontos

A key contributor in the bullpen in 2012, Kontos struggled with the big club in 2013, posting a 5.05 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 46.1 innings. He’s pitched well at Fresno (3-1, 3.74 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 21.2 innings), so he’ll get a call.

LHP Dan Runzler

After losing most of the 2012 season to injury, Runzler was visibly upset when he was sent to minor-league in spring training. But things have not gone well at Triple-A for the lefty (5.79 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in 51.1 innings). But at 28 years old, it’s time for the Giants to see what they’ve got in Runzler as they make offseason roster decisions.

LHP Eric Surkamp

After losing the 2012 season to Tommy John surgery, necessity forced the Giants to call on Surkamp a little earlier than they should have. The result was an ugly start in July vs. the Reds. But he’s been very good in Triple-A (7-1, 2.54 ERA, 0.90 WHIP in 10 starts), and he’s been especially good since being sent back after his one ugly start in the bigs (5-1, 1.47 ERA in six starts). So he deserves another look with the Giants and could be asked to contend for starting spot in 2014.

SS Ehire Adrianza

A former top prospect, Adrianza built a reputation as a guy with big-league glove, minor-league bat. After hitting .240 for Double-A Richmond to start 2013, he was promoted midseason to Fresno more out of necessity. But since arriving for his first stint at Triple-A, he’s hit .311 with a .418 OBP in 39 games. He walks about as much as he strikes out. It might be a surprise, but maybe he’s worth a look.

IF Nick Noonan

Noonan earned a job with the big club out of spring training and opened the season well. But a lack of consistent playing time led to a drop-off (he’s hitting .209 for the season). A demotion to Fresno didn’t help the numbers (.245 in 42 games). But he’s shown some ability when given the chance to play, so the Giants may give him more ABs in September.

1B Angel Villalona

Villalona emerged from nearly three years out of the game because of legal problems. He hit .229 with 14 HR and 42 RBI in 73 games to High-A San Jose before getting moved up to Double-A Richmond, where he’s hit .236 with 7 HR, and 27 RBI in 46 games. He still needs to find his hitting stroke, so don’t expect him in San Francisco this September.

OF Francisco Peguero

Peguero was just up with the big club before being sent down to make room on the roster for Angel Pagan, who was activated from the DL on Friday. So we can expect to see Peguero back up when rosters expand.

OF Juan Perez

Perez was another player who showed brief flashes early in his call-up to majors. He’s continued to hit at Triple-A (.301 in 94 games) but his lack of patience at the plate (.333 OBP) nullifies one of his assests — his speed. His shown a good glove, and with Andres Torres done for the year, the Giants could use outfielders.

IF-OF Kensuke Tanaka

The Japanese League veteran held his own in his brief stint with the Giants (8 for 30, .267, in 15 games). He’s shown he can handle Triple-A pitching (.331 avg, .403 OBP) and he actually walks more than he strikes out (like the Giants could use that?). He’ll get another look in September.

PLAYERS NOT ON THE 40-MAN ROSTER

The Giants might not restrict a September call-up to players currently on the 40-man roster. They may want to take a look at others.

Right now, all 40 spots on the 40-man roster are spoken for. But the Giants could create a spot if they wanted to.

One easy to do that is to put infielder Tony Abreu on the 60-day disabled list. Abreu has been bothered with knee issues dating all the way back to spring training. He worked his way back into playing shape and earned a promotion to the big club in July. But knee issues resumed and he returned to the DL in late July. If the Giants determine that Abreu won’t be 100-percent healthy in September, they could put in him on the 60-day and open a roster spot.

With pitchers Matt Cain, Jeremy Affeldt and Chad Gaudin expected to return soon from the DL, the only other way to create a spot on the 40-man roster is to designated someone for assignment.

The prime candidate for MoreSplashHits is Barry Zito. We’ve seen enough of Zito over the past seven years, and we don’t need to see any more. If Cain is able to come off the DL next week, as expected, the Giants have plenty of starting pitching candidates with Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong, Yusmeiro Petit, as well as youngsters Mike Kickham and Eric Surkamp.

I would rather see what Surkamp has to offer instead of Zito. Surkamp is a candidate to contend for a rotation spot in 2014. Zito is not.

BUT, Zito is slated to start Monday against the Padres at home. Let’s hope this is final send-off.

Here are candidates to get a call-up who are not on the 40-man roster.

RHP Heath Hembree

Hembree wowed the Giants during spring training 2012 as he became the “closer of the future.” But arm troubled sidelined him a bit in 2012, and he struggled early in 2013 for Triple-A Fresno. But he’s been pitching better of late, posting a 2.70 ERA with seven saves, eight strikeouts, one walk in 10 innings in August. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, so the Giants might as well take a look now.

C Johnny Monell

Teams often like to call up a third catcher in September. And the idea of giving Buster Posey more time off in September seems like a good one. Monell, a 27-year-old, impressed the Giants with his power in spring training, but he needed to improve his defense. He’s worked on that at Fresno while he has continued to hit. He has 20 HRs, 63 RBI and batting .279 in 118 games for the Grizzlies.

OF Gary Brown

We throw this name in for the heck of it. Brown, a first-round pick in 2010, has been one of the Giants’ top rated prospects the past few years, but he has had a poor year at Triple-A this season. He’s hit .233 this season in a hitter-friendly league and has a team-high 132 strikeouts for Fresno. Not what you want to see from a guy you had hoped could be a leadoff candidate. Brown’s not ready. Another year in Triple-A would be good. No need to call up Brown now.

 

San Francisco Giants on historic pace for defending World Series champion

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy adjusts his cap after his team was retired in order  during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Denver on Saturday, June 29, 2013. The Rockies won 2-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy adjusts his cap after his team was retired in order during the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies of a baseball game in Denver on Saturday, June 29, 2013. The Rockies won 2-1. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Another loss — a 4-2 setback to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday — has put the San Francisco Giants on an historic path.

A historic path of the worst kind.

The loss dropped the Giants to a .441 winning percentage on the season. That prorates to a record of 71-91 on the season. It would match the Giants’ worst season since going 71-91 in 2007, Barry Bonds’ final season with the Giants.

If the Giants lose 92 games this season, it would be their worst season since going 68-94 in 1996.

But when put into context of defending World Series champions, it gets really bad.

When it comes to follow-up seasons for World Series champions, the 1998 Florida Marlins set the gold standard with their 54-108 season. The Giants only need to win three more games to surpass that season.

After winning the 1997 championship, the Marlins traded away players like Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Moises Alou, Devon White, Jeff Conine, Robb Nen, Ed Vosberg and Dennis Cook in the offseason. They would trade away Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich and Felix Heredia during the 1998 season.

In the Nen trade with the Giants, the Marlins received in return Mike Villano, Joe Fontenot, Mick Pageler. So it’s no wonder they lost 100-plus games in 1998.

By contrast, the Giants kept the bulk of their 2012 championship trophy together for 2013. So they won’t challenge the 1998 Marlins. But they are right on course for the second-worst record by a defending World Series champion.

Presently, that honor goes to the 1991 Cincinnati Reds, who went 74-88 (.457). To finish ahead of the Reds, the Giants only would have to go 23-21 the rest of the way. If the Giants finish 75-87, they would also surpass the third-worst mark by a defending champ, the .460 mark of the 1918 Chicago White Sox (57-67).

On more win would put them ahead of the 1932 St. Louis Cardinals. Another win and they slide past the 1986 Kansas City Royals and 1967 Baltimore Orioles.

In all, 15 defending World Series champions have failed to post a winning record in their encore season. For the Giants to avoid becoming the 16th team, they would have to finish the season 30-14.

The most likely scenario is somewhere in between. So here is the list of the worst records of defending World Series champions, along with (in parenthesis) the record the Giants would require in their final 44 games to surpass that mark.

  1. 1998 Florida Marlins 54-108 .333 (3-41)
  2. 1991 Cincinnati Reds 74-88 .457 (23-21)
  3. 1918 Chicago White Sox 57-67 .460 (23-21)
  4. 1932 St. Louis Cardinals 72-82 .468 (24-20)
  5. 1986 Kansas City Royals 76-86 .469 (25-19)
  6. 1967 Baltimore Orioles 76-85 .472 (25-19)
  7. 2003 Anaheim Angels 77-85 .475 (26-18)
  8. 1994 Toronto Blue Jays 55-60 .478 (26-18)
  9. 1989 Los Angeles Dodgers 77-83 .481 (27-17)
  10. 2007 St. Louis Cardinals 78-84 .481 (27-17)
  11. 1919 Boston Red Sox 66-71 .482 (27-17)
  12. 1961 Pittsburgh Pirates 75-79 .487 (27-17)
  13. 1983 St. Louis Cardinals 79-83 .488 (28-16)
  14. 1964 Los Angeles Dodgers 80-82 .494 (29-15)
  15. 1965 St. Louis Cardinals 80-81 .497 (29-15)

Sunday’s starter goes from “Zito” to “TBA” — What are San Francisco Giants’ options at this point?

San Francisco Giants' Barry Zito works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

San Francisco Giants’ Barry Zito works against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game, Sunday, April 21, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

The San Francisco Giants officially listed their starter for Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay as “TBA.”

Sunday is Barry Zito’s turn in the rotation.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted: “Not a good sign for Zito. … Chances of Zito pitching that game … not good.”

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea chimed in with: “We might have (seen) Barry Zito’s last start as a Giant.”

MoreSplashHits remains completely baffled as to why the Giants didn’t use Monday’s off-day (not to mention last Thursday’s) to skip Zito’s turn in the rotation.

Then they could have given Zito some time in the bullpen to work on his delivery, while Chad Gaudin, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner pitched in Philly and Tim Lincecum, Zito and Gaudin pitched in Tampa.

Instead, they said the ONE GUY who has been terrible on the road and make him the only pitcher to be slated for two starts on the six-game road trip.

Now, they find themselves looking for a replacement starter possibly on Sunday.

So what are the options?

Ryan Vogelsong: Vogey made his second rehab start after his long DL stint with a broken finger Tuesday in Richmond. That would put him on pace to pitch Sunday. But manager Bruce Bochy said Vogey will remain on his original rehab schedule, which is to pitch Sunday for Double-A Richmond. If all goes well, he will return to pitch for the Giants on Aug. 9 at home against the Orioles … in Zito’s spot in the rotation.

Guillermo Moscoso: The Giants acquired Moscoso from the Cubs a week ago just for this situation. Moscoso, 29, was 7-5 with 3.93 ERA in 17 starts for the Cubs’ Triple-A team in Iowa. He had a shaky debut for the Giants in relief of Zito on Tuesday. He gave up a single, intentional walk and hit batsmen before escaping without giving up a run in the fourth vs. the Phillies, set down the side in order in the fifth, then gave up another walk and a two-run homer in the sixth.

Eric Surkamp: Zito could develop some mysterious ailment that would prompt a trip to the DL — or he could be DFA’d — creating a roster spot for Surkamp. Surkamp struggled in his first big-league start since Tommy John surgery, giving up seven runs in 2.2 innings vs. the Reds on July 23. Surkamp was optioned to Fresno on July 24, meaning he needs to stay at Triple-A for 10 days. That period would expire Saturday, allowing the Giants to recall him to start on Sunday. In his first start back at Fresno, Surkamp gave up one run on three hits over seven innings on Tuesday, putting him right on pace for a Sunday start.

Pray for rain: Rain is the forecast Thursday in Philadelphia. The two teams will wait out for a window to play for as long as possible as Thursday’s game is the last scheduled in 2013 between the two teams. But if the game is postponed, then Cain starts Friday in Tampa, followed by Bumgarner and Lincecum. That would give the Giants the option of pitching Zito on Monday in San Francisco against the Brewers, where he’s had more success.

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