Giants Insider notebook: DeRosa's road back


Giants Insider notebook: DeRosa's road back

Feb. 26, 2011

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Most veterans couldn't care less about their results in early spring training games, but this spring is a little different for Mark DeRosa.Signed to a two-year, 12 million contract before the 2010 season, he was limited to 26 games before submitting to the second major surgery on his left wrist in about 10 months. He rejoined the team for rehab and was along for the ride through the World Series, earning high praise from teammates for providing leadership that few non-participants can pull off, but being a well-paid cheerleader never sat quite right with the ultra-competitive side of DeRosa."I did what I could in terms of sharing what I knew about certain guys and situations, and it's great if some of our guys found that helpful; that's what being a teammate is all about," DeRosa said shortly after he reported for camp. "But they brought me here to contribute on the field, and not being able to do that was definitely frustrating."Now that he's back on the field, his wrist no longer an issue, DeRosa is contributing plenty. He celebrated his 37th birthday Saturday by going 3-for-3 in the Giants' Cactus League blowout of a split squad of Dodgers at Scottsdale Stadium. He's 4-for-5 in two games, and nobody's pretending the positive results don't mean anything."I think it does," Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "It's been a long road for him, and I know it's spring training, but you do want to get some hits and get going on a positive note."DeRosa, who has started both games at second base while Freddy Sanchez continues to strengthen his surgically repaired left shoulder, likely will serve as San Francisco's super-utilityman during the regular season, seeing time in several games a week while bouncing all over the diamond to spell various starters.HUFF'S FIRST AT FIRST
Aubrey Huff, who dropped a throw for an error on his first play at first base last spring, made his Cactus League debut Saturday and turned in one of the best defensive plays of the game on the first ground ball that came his way.With runners at second and third with one out in the third inning, Huff smothered a ball hit by Xavier Paul and fired a strike to catcher Chris Stewart to nail James Loney at the plate."I had a feeling he was going to hit it to me," Huff said. "I don't know why. Just a feeling. You'd like your first play of the year to be a little easier, but at least I got it out of the way."Huff and the rest of the Giants were expected to be average at best on defense last season, but their solid glove work ended up as one of the more pleasant surprises of the year."We don't have a lot of guys who are going to make the spectacular play," Huff said, "but everyone has good fundamentals and makes all the routine plays, and with our pitching that's all you need."SPEAKING OF PITCHING
Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, recently named the team's No. 2 starter, gave up four hits and needed about 40 pitches to get through 1 23 scoreless innings. His ERA was protected by lefty Shane Loux, who took over with two out and the bases loaded in the second inning and struck out Jamey Carroll.Sanchez said it felt good to be back on the mound and noted that one of his goals this spring is to refine his splitter. So far, so good; he threw a nasty one to strike out Paul to open the second inning.Not one to thrust and parry with the press, Sanchez, when asked how his debut outing compared with his first outing of last spring, said he couldn't remember his 2010 Cactus League debut. Smiling throughout, he then playfully challenged the reporter who asked the question if he remembered that game.He did not.PANDA POWER
Though Pablo Sandoval made his second fielding error in two days, he atoned for it with an RBI single and a mammoth two-run homer onto the walkway far above and beyond the wall in the deepest part of right-center field.Both hits came on the first pitch of the at-bat, calling to mind Bochy's praise of Sandoval's patience in taking a walk and laying off some tough pitches on Friday.Bochy insisted that he didn't want his trimmed-down third baseman to lose his aggressiveness at the plate, saying, "He just needs to tone it down a bit."Now 3-for-6 for the spring, Sandoval skipped winter ball for the first time this past offseason, focusing on getting his weight and fitness under control."I put a lot of work in, and I'm doing well," Sandoval said. "It's nice. I do want to see more pitches because I didn't play this winter, but I know what pitches I can hit, and when they come I'm going to hit it."URIBE REUNION ON HOLD
The game didn't sell out, and the excitement in the air that marked Friday's opener was gone, as were the sunny skies. And the one story line that would have given the game a little extra juice -- even the GiantsDodgers rivalry is a fairly laid-back affair during the spring -- never materialized.Juan Uribe, one of the most popular Giants over the past two years but now with L.A. after signing a three-year, 21 million deal as a free agent, did not make the trip to Scottsdale with the Dodgers, staying in Glendale.One member of the Dodgers' media contingent said Uribe seems happy in his new home and has already won over his new teammates, but he added, "It's not the best look to decide to skip the first game against the Giants. I'm sure he just doesn't want to deal with it yet.""It" might be a chorus of boos. In a highly unscientific poll conducted via Twitter, more than 75 percent of respondents said they were more inclined to yell, "Booo-Reebay" than, "Oooh-Reebay."GAMERS
Lefty Clayton Tanner has the best outing among Giants pitchers, ripping through two scoreless innings. Bochy was impressed with Tanner's tempo and said Tanner, a third-round pick in the 2006 draft who went 9-9 with a 3.68 ERA over 27 games at Double-A Richmond last year, likely will start the season at Triple-A Fresno. "He does give us some coverage there, some depth," Bochy said. Middle-infield prospects Brandon Crawford and Charlie Culberson were among the defensive standouts Saturday. Crawford, a slick-fielding shortstop, showed off quite the cannon in throwing a runner out at second after chasing down a ball near the left-field line, and Culberson deftly handled a few tougher-than-they-looked plays at second base. Andres Torres went 2-for-3 with an RBI double. Mike Fontenot started at shortstop and went 0-for-3. Nate Schierholtz, battling for a roster spot and perhaps auditioning for teams that might be looking to trade for an outfielder, ripped a two-run triple before the game got sloppy. Huff just missed a home run down the right-field line and had to settle for a single because he hit it so hard that the carom off the wall made legging out a double impossible.

Rewind: 'Beautiful' night for Kings, Sacramento despite loss to Spurs

Rewind: 'Beautiful' night for Kings, Sacramento despite loss to Spurs

SACRAMENTO -- Basketball was supposed to take a back seat Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center. After countless failed attempts to build a new arena in Sacramento, the Kings were almost allowed to leave twice. But a new building comes another 30-plus year lease, cementing NBA hoops in the capital of California until at least the midway point of the century.

The evening was supposed to be a celebration of an accomplishment that many believed would never happen. And then a basketball game broke out.

No one expected the Kings to compete with the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich’s club won 67 games last season and were fresh off a smackdown of the Golden State Warriors in the season opener on Tuesday.

But this isn’t the 2015-16 Sacramento Kings that would routinely yield 110 points to their opponents. This is Dave Joerger’s club and they are grinders.

The end result was a loss, but one that you can live with. 102-94 doesn’t tell the whole story. For much of the night, the Kings were the best team on the floor.

“I consider this a good loss,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “I’m ready for the next one.”

There are moral victories when you are two games into an 82 game schedule and you go toe-to-toe with one of the best in the league. The mood in past seasons would have been somber in the Kings locker room, but that is not what it felt like on Thursday evening.

“The scary apart about it is we’ve still got so much more room to improve,” Cousins said. “In the past, you usually walk in here and guys are sulking and pissed off. (Tonight) it’s like okay, let’s get onto the next one. We know we made some mistakes. We know we broke down, but we’re on the right path right now.”

That path is built on a defensive identity and the Kings are building chemistry at a shocking rate. With five new rotational players and three new starters, Sacramento’s roster is still learning how to play together.

“As a group, we were pretty good defensively, we communicate with each other, so we’re always going to have a chance every night,” veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo said.

When you play the Spurs, your margin for error is almost nill. The game turned on a turnover here and a mistake there and that’s something you can’t have when you’re playing a group that has been together for years in the same system.

“Defensively, I think we took a step in the right direction,” Rudy Gay said. “They’re a great team, I think we played great defense. Had a couple of letdowns, but it’s a basketball game. They’re a veteran team playing together. They have a system and they stuck to their system.”

It will go down as the first loss in the history of the Golden 1 Center, but the Kings are showing signs that they might be better than expected.

As for the opening of the building, it went off without a hitch. Both David Stern and Adam Silver were in attendance to see the event. As was Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett, former Sacramento Kings All-Star Chris Webber, mayor Kevin Johnson and a bevy of local celebrities.

It was an emotional night all around, even for Cousins who has spent the first six-plus seasons of his career in a Kings uniform.

“It was beautiful, man,” the Kings’ big man said from his locker stall. “As much as this city has been through, as much as they fought, they were more than deserving of this night. I wish we could have sealed the deal with a win, but we got 80 more so we can make it up later.”

The Kings face a young and athletic Minnesota Timberwolves team on Saturday that has given them fits in the past. It’s a new challenge that this team looks better prepared to face this season.

Rewind: Power play paces Sharks in strange night at the Tank

Rewind: Power play paces Sharks in strange night at the Tank

SAN JOSE – First, there was a delay in the Sharks-Blue Jackets game when the lights suddenly went out late in the second period. Another interruption occurred in the third, when the referees decided to spend more time on an offside challenge that overturned a Brenden Dillon goal than the Warren Commission did on the Zapruder film.

In a few months, those occurrences may end up being more notable to many in the SAP Center crowd than the actual game result, a 3-1 Sharks win on Thursday night. Inside the home dressing room, though, it was a pair of goals by the second power play unit and a strong performance by goalie Martin Jones that will be how they remember this one.

Joonas Donskoi’s first period goal with Markus Nutivaara in the box staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead, while Tomas Hertl’s marker in the third period with Jack Johnson serving a tripping minor increased it to 2-0. Hertl added a late empty netter to seal it, after Scott Hartnell brought the Blue Jackets to within one with less then three minutes to go.

It was the second straight game the Sharks didn’t get an even strength goal in regulation (other than the empty-netter), yet found a way. They beat Anaheim in three-on-three overtime on Tuesday, 2-1.

“Right now the five-on-five goals are hard to come by,” Pete DeBoer said. “We're creating chances, but the power play won us the game tonight." 

Hertl said: “Exciting night for us, the second [power play unit], because we scored two goals.”

The newest addition to that unit, defenseman David Schlemko, assisted on each of the first two goals. He spotted Donskoi wide open in the circle on the first, and got a secondary helper on Hertl’s first goal.

Although they were his first two points of the season, Schlemko is quickly proving to be the second-most talented offensive defenseman on the team. He’s managed 20 shots on goal through eight games – exactly half of Burns’ 40, but nearly double Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s 11.

“It's nice to get [the points] of the way,” he said. “I feel like I've been getting lots of pucks to the net, so it's nice to see a couple go in finally."

Donskoi figured Schlemko would spot him all alone standing on the faceoff dot.

“He's pretty good with the puck, so I think he just saw me,” Donskoi said. “It's good to have a guy like that."

It’s also good to have a guy like Jones, who made some key saves early on the penalty kill and preserved the lead while Sergei Bobrovsky was making some potentially game-changing stops on the other end. Jones’ 24 saves lowered his goals-against average to 2.32, and upped his save percentage to .908.

“We had quite a few grade-A chances, [Bobrovsky] kept them in it pretty good,” said Joel Ward, who was stopped on an early second period breakaway. “Obviously Jonesy has been there for us since day one. It’s good that he’s feeling the groove, we’ve just got to put some pucks in.”

Neither Jones nor his teammates let the odd circumstances, including Dillon’s apparent goal that was nullified after a seven-minute delay in the third period of a 1-0 game, get to them. 

“There was a couple things there out of our control, but I thought considering that, we stuck with it and found a way,” DeBoer said.

Ward said: “We’ve got a good group and a mature group, and we know how to handle situations.”

The Sharks are also gaining momentum at home with their third win in as many tries, even if their own building doesn’t want to cooperate all the time with pesky details like keeping the ice surface brightened.

“With [the lights going off] and the disallowed goal it felt like a triple overtime type of game,” Ward said. “Haven’t seen that before, but hopefully since we won, maybe it happens again and we can capitalize.”

Schlemko wasn’t here last season, but he heard all about the team’s struggles at SAP Center when it was the only playoff team that didn’t win at least half of its home games (18-20-3).

“I think we wanted to clean up the home record and have teams know it's going to be a tough night coming in here,” he said. “It's been a pretty good start."