SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – For 28 years, John Yandle lived by a simple baseball credo: “Throw till it blows.”
Standing in the Giants dugout on Friday, after a failed bid to get medical clearance to throw, Yandle held out his left arm.
“Well, it didn’t blow,” said the Giants’ longtime left-handed batting practice pitcher. “But I was definitely riding the rim.”
Every spring camp includes a few players still rehabbing from offseason surgeries. For the Giants this spring, the list includes a 58-year-old commercial real estate executive from Menlo Park.
“Cutter John” managed to gut through last season with a sore shoulder while throwing pitch after pitch in front of the screen. He knew it was time for a procedure. By the time the Giants clinched the World Series and Dr. Ken Akizuki had an opening on his surgery calendar, it was Nov. 19.
And it wasn’t an opening, actually.
“He came in on a Sunday,” said Yandle, who must wait a little while to heal after getting his biceps tendon snipped and his rotator cuff cleaned out.
Yandle,a former 11th-round pick of the San Diego Padres out of Stanford, and made it as far as Triple-A before retiring as a 26-year-old. He counted Giants third base coach Tim Flannery among his minor league teammates.
He played with a pitcher named Rich Adams in the California Angels system, and when Adams got a cup of coffee with the Giants in 1985 , Yandle paid him a visit at Candlestick Park. As it happened, the coaches all had sore arms. So Yandle volunteered to throw some BP.
He’s been a fixture ever since, and the team jets him into road cities when they’ll face a left-handed pitcher.
Yandle was a personal favorite of Barry Bonds, who preferred to take BP against a lefty. Yandle garnered a bit of media attention because he threw to Bonds every day as the seven-time NL MVP was hunting the all-time home run record.
The roster has turned itself over countless times and dozens of pitchers have blown out. Yandle, with a youthful face that belies his full head of white hair, just kept pumping BP fastballs. Last year, he was throwing 80 mph -- harder in pregame practice than Colorado’s Jamie Moyer did during the game.
Until he heals up and is cleared to throw, the Giants will have to look around for another lefty chucker. But Yandle doesn’t plan to be out of action for long.
It hasn’t blown yet.
“It’s hard to be here in uniform and it’s 85 degrees and for the first time in 28 years, I’m not throwing,” Yandle said. “I hate to feel like I’m on vacation, but I guess I am.”
If they'd only let him start throwing...
“They look at me like a 58 year old," said Yandle, "and not the finely tuned athlete that I am."
Madison Bumgarner held the Reds to a run on two hits in five innings of Saturday’s 7-6 loss at Scottsdale Stadium and said his rhythm was much better than his previous outing. Then again, he looked pretty darn sharp the last time out, too.
His ERA is 1.84 this spring, for what it’s worth.
But it’s interesting that Bumgarner wasn’t throwing any two-seam fastballs. That’s a big pitch to suppress your home run rate, which is one of the things the Giants have done incredibly well as a staff over the past few years. I’m not sure if Bumgarner is working to get a feel for his two-seamer or if he doesn’t plan to use it much at all this season. Something to watch, of course.
Bumgarner gave up his only run in the first inning when Billy Hamilton, who set an all-time minor league record with 155 stolen bases last season, tripled to lead off the game. (It was a line drive down the right field line that would’ve been a single for Bengie Molina.)
“I was thinking of backing up home,” Bumgarner said.
Hamilton later reached on a fielder’s choice and got perhaps the best jump I’ve ever seen on a Bumgarner pitch that Manny Burriss fouled off. Bumgarner did try a pickoff throw as well; I got the sense that if Hamilton broke for second base, he might’ve been safe anyway.
There are faster guys from the batter’s box to third base, but it’s astounding how Hamilton gets up to full speed within three steps.
The Reds brought every form of speed on the bus from Goodyear. The starting pitcher was left-hander Aroldis Chapman, he of the undisputed hardest fastball in the majors.
Brandon Crawford got another hit off him, managing to sneak a breaking ball to right field. And tellingly, Francisco Peguero didn’t look overmatched, either, while grounding out and hitting a fly out to right.
Bumgarner, asked if Burriss smiled at him.
“No,” he said. “I might have hit him if he did that.”
“…That was a joke.”
Andres Torres made an out on the bases for his third consecutive game. This time, he got picked off first base. A day earlier, he made a bad decision to try to tag up from second base on a ball to medium right-center and was out by 20 feet. And he was thrown out trying to stretch a double Wednesday in Goodyear.
Torres did draw two walks Saturday and he homered against Japan on Friday. So perhaps he just needs a little more time to get up to speed.
The Giants blew a 2-1 lead when the Reds scored four runs in an eighth inning that dragged on forever, thanks to some very checkered defense from catcher Johnny Monell and second baseman Kensuke Tanaka.
Let’s just hope Javier Lopez had something well padded to punch in the dugout, because he looked good and steamed out there. Monell, who gets in the bad habit of drifting when he receives pitches, allowed a passed ball and also dropped the ball on a double steal.
Although Monell’s bat has made noise this spring, his faint, faint hope of winning the backup catcher job hinges on his showing proficiency behind the plate. A game like this probably takes him out of consideration.
“That’s what he’s got to get better at,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “You can’t let that ball get by you. He’s got the bat. He’s got to get better with the catching.”
Meanwhile, Bumgarner praised catcher Guillermo Quiroz’s skills behind the plate, calling him “smart” and saying, “All we’ve got to do is throw to each other and get on the same page. I like throwing to him.”
It’s starting to move from likely to fait accompli that Quiroz will make the team if Hector Sanchez (shoulder) must begin the year on the disabled list.
I’m not sure what the Cajun derivation of fait accompli might be, but Chad Gaudin might. The Louisiana native pitched another scoreless inning and has a 2.19 ERA this spring.
Bochy said Gaudin has made “a strong case. He’s had a good spring.”
And if they broke camp today, he’d be on the roster.
I really don’t want to pick on Kensuke Tanaka, who seems like an affable person and made a $3 million sacrifice to try to win a job with the Giants. But he has been a massive disappointment this spring.
He had all the time in the world to throw out a baserunner who tried to take second base after a ball squirted away from Brandon Belt. But Tanaka got very little on the throw and the Giants couldn’t get an out. Tanaka also made a bad decision to throw home on a fielder’s choice and was off line in that instance, too.
Tanaka is willing to go to Fresno, but the way it’s gone, the Giants might just say thanks but no thanks.
I didn’t wedge this into my feature on Gary Brown that posted to the site earlier today, but I asked him how he planned to be a more efficient base stealer. (He stole 33 bases at Double-A Richmond last year but led the league by getting caught 18 times.)
Brown had a counterintuitive thought.
“Just slow down and do it,” he said.
Huh? Slowing down helps you steal bases?
“For me it does,” said Brown, who was referring to being relaxed and not literally being slower on the bases. “When my muscles get tight, that’s when I’m a step slower, when my jumps aren’t as good. It’s being relaxed and focused at the same time.”
With two out in the ninth, Brown drew his first walk of the spring to load the bases and bring the winning run to the plate. Adam Duvall, who homered earlier in the game, kept it going with a two-run single. But Jarrett Parker, up from minor league camp for the day, struck out to end it.
It was a good sign that Brown was able to work the count and draw a walk when the situation called for it. He doesn’t walk much, but he does show the ability to compete up there on a consistent basis. Coaches have remarked on that to me.
Ryan Vogelsong is due back in camp in time for Sunday’s workout, and he’ll likely pitch in one of the Giants’ split-squad games on Wednesday. He neared 80 pitches for Team USA while taking the loss in their elimination game Friday against Puerto Rico. It was a hard-luck decision, to a degree, since only one run scored on his watch in five-plus innings. (Of course, it was Angel Pagan who scored that run after hitting the first of three singles in the first inning.)
Bochy said there wouldn’t be anything different planned for Vogelsong the remainder of the spring to get him ready for the season. He’s stretched out to the same degree he otherwise would be.
Oh yeah. Jeremy Affeldt will be back, too.
“Peace and quiet is gone,” Bochy lamented.
World Series rings? Who needs World Series rings?
Belt arrived at his locker to find a few awards waiting for him – specifically, his Giants minor league hitter of the month plaques for April, June and August, 2010. I posted a picture on Twitter @CSNBaggs.
If it took that long to get the World Series rings to the players, we’d have a clubhouse riot on our hands.