Kickham: 'I can take some good away from this'
LOS ANGELES – The Giants have all but dredged the waters of Shaver Lake while calling up help from Triple-A Fresno. But two of their top prospects, outfielder Gary Brown and right-hander Heath Hembree, remain with the Grizzlies.
And they’ll continue to stay there while they learn on the job, Giants GM Brian Sabean said.
“It’s up to their performance, and they’re not there yet,” Sabean said. “The consistency is not there for either one of them. Brown really needs to pick it up against right-handed pitching and Hembree has been inconsistent in the strike zone, and he doesn’t have a secondary pitch.”
Sabean said he was encouraged by Brown’s progress over the past two weeks. He hit seven home runs over a 14-game hitting streak that ended Tuesday night. It’s a similar pattern to last season, when he got off to a miserable start at Double-A Richmond before getting insanely hot in the middle of the summer.
Brown knows that the organization wants him to overhaul his hitting approach and get his hands away from his chest so he doesn’t get bullied inside by right-handers. Last year, he made some changes. He appears to be meeting the club halfway again, Sabean said. For now, it’s working.
Overall, though, it would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall when some of these trade discussions begin to take shape over the next few weeks. Will Brown be a name that interests other clubs? Would the Giants toss him in any old deal? And what about Hembree? Would he have enough perceived value to be a centerpiece of a trade for one of the starting pitchers on the market?
[RELATED: Sabean assesses trade landscape]
How do the Giants evaluate a Hembree or a Brown in relation to the less experienced in the system such as Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Martin Agosta and Chris Stratton?
Seems to me the Giants have more to offer in terms of volume than they do in a one-for-one swap, such as the deal that sent Zack Wheeler to the Mets for Carlos Beltran in 2011. And they can take on money. That might mean more to a team like Marlins, who want to cut payroll, than to a team like the Astros, who want a lot of players to restock their system.
At any rate, be prepared to hear a lot of rumors involving the Giants over the coming weeks, and most of them will have some truth to them. Sabean and his lieutenants make a lot of calls and formulate a long list. So they’ll be linked to a lot of players that they might not be so serious about.
For now, they view all the starters out there – Nolasco, Bud Norris, Matt Garza, Scott Feldman – as a No.4 guy at best or a serious injury risk. They won’t exhaust their entire bank of available prospects or money now when there are likely to be more teams in selling mode in a few weeks.
Until then, it’s up to the Giants to play better, win with what they have and prove that they can remain seaworthy with a patch or two from the outside world.
Mike Kickham might be 0-2 with a 10.57 ERA after two starts, but things are looking up for the left-hander.
He stood on the mound in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game before giving up a home run to Hanley Ramirez that hit the pole (illustrating once again that it should be called a fair pole, not a foul pole). So he gave the Giants a decent shot to win.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Kemp robs Scutaro of potential game-winning hit]
And he did very well to contain Yasiel Puig, which is something nobody else in the big leagues seems to understand how to do these days. Kickham struck out Puig on a series of sliders to start the sixth. He also appeared to pitch with a solid plan while getting him to fly out in their first two confrontations.
Hard stuff in and then breaking stuff away. That was the plan. It required a certain amount of steely nerves for Kickham to execute, but he did a good job of it.
And at times, his curve and slider were wipeout pitches. He didn’t walk a batter, either.
“I feel better about this one than the first one,” Kickham said. “I can take some good away from this.”
Said Giants manager Bruce Bochy: “A much improved outing. He should feel pretty good about the outing.”
There’s nothing to indicate that Kickham wouldn’t get the ball when his turn comes up July 1, when the Giants open a four-game series at Cincinnati. The last time they played a game there, Buster Posey hit a grand slam off Mat Latos and Sergio Romo threw the most fearless pitches of his life to Jay Bruce.
Kickham is learning on the job. But he seems fearless enough.
Don’t look now, but Brandon Belt’s eighth home run surpassed his total from 2012. He’s one away from his career high. His double in the ninth was darn loud, too.
If Belt could get on one of his liquid magma streaks at the plate, it would come at a really, really good time for this team.
Brandon Crawford did “a little golf clap” into his glove while taking the field in the seventh inning as the video board showed highlights of UCLA’s first ever College World Series championship victory.
Crawford didn’t get his news from the jumbo board. A bit earlier, he had gone back into the clubhouse to review video of an at-bat and he heard Vin Scully talking about the Bruins’ victory.
I asked Crawford if there was anyone who leapt to mind, or if he was particularly happy for someone associated with the program. He immediately mentioned coach John Savage.
“I was part of his first recruiting class,” Crawford said. “He came in and really turned the program around. I was really happy for him to finally win one for the program.”
Crawford said he didn’t know much about Nick Vander Tuig, the right-hander who pitched eight shutout innings for the Bruins in the championship victory over Mississippi State. Vander Tuig (pronounced TYGH) is from Oakdale, near Modesto, and was the Giants’ sixth-round pick earlier this month.
In an interview with his hometown paper, the Oakdale Leader, Vander Tuig said he was elated because he grew up a Giants fan.
Be the winning pitcher in the College World Series clincher. Then sign a pro contract with your favorite major league team. Sounds like it’s cheers all around in the Vander Tuig household.
Last game of this series Wednesday night and it's Clayton Kershaw vs. Tim Lincecum for the first time since 2011. If you've forgotten, Lincecum posted a 1.24 ERA in four starts against Kershaw that year and was winless in all of them. Thus was spawned the "headlock noogie" cover of ESPN The Magazine.
Lincecum has been better in June. But can match an ace again? He must, if the Giants are to avoid getting swept in their archrival's den.