EXTRA BAGGS: Picking the Giants' ideal roster vs. Reds, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Picking the Giants' ideal roster vs. Reds, etc.

LOS ANGELES The regular season is over, the CincinnatiReds are the Giants first-round opponent and there are no more games remainingto audition for the postseason roster.

All precincts have reported. Now its time for Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy and his staff to draft their names.

The composition has changed over this past week. Earlier onthis trip, Bochy said he was leaning toward 11 pitchers. Now all indicationsare that the Giants are more likely to keep 12. That would allow them to carrythe impressive George Kontos in addition to the experienced Guillermo Mota,along with all five starters, plus Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt,Santiago Casilla and Jose Mijares.

Im a believer that you go with the guys who are throwingthe best, Bochy said.

You can lock in most of those 13 position players, too.Theres Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, RyanTheriot, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, AngelPagan and Hunter Pence.

Two spots remain, and Xavier Nadys right-handed bat makeshim a fit especially given the Reds lefty-laden bullpen. Its less likelythat Nady will start, though, as the Reds have an entirely right-handedrotation. The hints thrown on Wednesday point to Blanco starting in left fieldas the Giants prioritize defense and speed, especially when they play the firsttwo games at AT&T Park.

That leaves one more roster spot. Aubrey Huffs success offthe bench in September made him a near lock just a week ago, but his lefty bat might not beas useful against the aforementioned Reds bullpen. Plus Huff's general lack of mobility would make it evenmore important that the Giants carry another speed guy. (Justin Christian wouldbe my guess to lead that derby over Emmanuel Burriss and Francisco Peguero.)

Maybe in a series when you're facing a lefty starter or two, you couldstart Nady in left field and use Blanco as your speedy reserve. But against theReds, that wont be the case.

Here is one other idea thats being kicked around the staffmeetings: Have Eli Whiteside fill that final roster spot, freeing up the Giantsto use Sanchezs switch-hitting bat off the bench.

However they decide to line em up, the first decision willbe whether to carry that 12th pitcher. Even when Bochy said hed gowith 11 a week ago, I didnt buy it. Always, always, always bet on Bochy totake a pitcher over a spare position player. This is a manager whos won a lotof games because of bullpen management, after all, and he wants as many options aspossible.

The sixth and seventh innings might be the Giants greatestconcerns as they enter the postseason. As I mentioned yesterday, this currentbullpen did not post a 0.90 ERA in September or enter the postseason with 24consecutive scoreless innings, as the relievers did in 2010.

The Reds do not have a book on Pence this season.That's because, strangely enough, he hasnt faced them since 2011, due to the trade in Julythat sent him from the Phillies to the Giants. (Philadelphia hadnt begun itsseason series with the Reds, and the Giants were already done with Dustys gangby the time Pence arrived.)

They dont know whats coming, Pence said, smiling.

Game 2 starter Bronson Arroyo does. Pence is a .343 hitter(12-for-35) with two homers and four doubles against him. Hes fared OK againstGame 1 starter Johnny Cueto, too, hitting .276 (8-for-29) but with no home runsand 11 strikeouts.

Want to know who has the most experience against Cueto? Its Theriot, who owns a .302 average in 48 plate appearances. In fact, Theriotis tied with Milwaukees Aramis Ramirez for the most career plate appearancesof any active player against Cueto.

Not that Theriot would start over Scutaro. I dontthink Rogers Hornsby would start over Scutaro right now.

As mentioned in my story on Buster Posey and the battingtitle, Pence led a team effort to present Posey with a token of esteem.For all my journalistic efforts, I wasnt able to find out what they got him.It might have been a Rolex. Or a hamster. Or a Subaru Outback. Ive got mymoney on cowboy boots. I saw clubhouse man Mike Murphy lugging around a couple of huge boot boxesWednesday afternoon. Pence was sporting new crocodile boots, after the game, too.

Whatever the gift was, I hope Pence dropped some dimes on it.Poseys NL-best .408 on-base percentage had a little bit to do, after all, withPences ability to collect 45 RBIs despite a .221 average in 58 games as a Giant. Pence reached 100RBIs in a season for the first time. And thats gonna look mighty sparkly when he files forhis final year of arbitration.

Speaking of Pence and a lot of bread, you'll want to watch this.

Everyone is amazed by the As, and that includes their BayBridge rivals. In the hours before Wednesdays game at Dodger Stadium, when theGiants first-round still hadnt been set, the TVs in the visiting clubhousewerent tuned to the Washington Nationals game. They had the As on, and nearlyeveryone watched with great interest as they clinched the AL West aftertrailing by five with nine to play.

Its one of most amazing stories ever in baseball, Bochysaid.

Ryan Vogelsong finished with a 3.3690 ERA barely nudging outMadison Bumgarner for the second lowest among Giants starters. Bumgarner was at3.3696.

But Bumgarner crushed Vogelsong, 11 hits to 5. (Matt Cain led thestaff with 13 hits.)

And when it comes to clubhouse bragging rights, the startersspend far more time and energy on that.

Bochy made Thursday afternoons workout optional andspecifically told a couple regulars to skip it. Fridays workout will be moreof a formal affair.

Time for me to fill out my BBWAA ballots. Ive got MVP andRookie of the Year. After the Nationals let Teddy Roosevelt win the PresidentsRace for the first time, I might just give both awards to him. (Not really.)

Cant reveal my ballots until after the awards are announcedin November. But if you have any last-minute suggestions, any at all, please leave them in thecomments section.

Obama celebrates World Series champion Chicago Cubs at White House


Obama celebrates World Series champion Chicago Cubs at White House

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama celebrated the World Series champion Chicago Cubs on Monday and spoke about the power sports has to unite people.

"Throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together even when the country is divided,"Obama said at a White House ceremony for his hometown team. "Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but that ultimately made us think differently about ourselves."

"It is a game and celebration," he said, and noted that "there's a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here." Robinson, a second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers, broke Major League Baseball's color line to become its first black player.

The White House event came four days before Obama hands the presidency over to Donald Trump following one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

It also follows a weekend in which civil rights icon John Lewis said he didn't consider Trump a legitimate president because of Russian meddling in the election. Trump responded on Twitter by criticizing Lewis as "all talk" and suggesting the Democratic congressman take better care of his Georgia district.

Obama has a home in Chicago, but is a longtime White Sox fan. He rooted for the Cubs after the Sox failed to reach the playoffs.

His wife, first lady Michelle Obama, however, is a lifelong Cubs fan. She greeted Cubs players before the ceremony, which Obama noted was her first appearance at some of the roughly 50 events he has hosted for championship college and professional sports teams.

The Cubs gave Obama two baseball jerseys — home and away — with the number 44, among other gifts. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo also wears the number, and Obama referred to Rizzo as "my fellow 44."Obama is the nation's 44th president.

Obama said it will be hard for him to wear the jersey, but told the Cubs: "Do know that among Sox fans I am the Cubs' No. 1 fan."

Hours after the Cubs won the series in November, Obama asked the team on Twitter if it wanted to visit the White House before his term ends Friday.

The World Series title was the first for the Cubs since 1908, and they won it by defeating the Cleveland Indians in seven games.

Giants avoid arbitration with Nunez, Smith, Kontos

Giants avoid arbitration with Nunez, Smith, Kontos

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants avoided arbitration with three more veterans on Friday, agreeing to one-year deals with third baseman Eduardo Nuñez, left-hander Will Smith and right-hander George Kontos.

Financial details were not immediately available. MLB Trade Rumors' projections put Nuñez at about $4.4 million, Smith at about $2.3 million, and Kontos at about $1.7 million. The Giants reached deals with all six arbitration eligible players this offseason. 

Nunez, acquired last summer, will enter camp as the starter at third base. He posted a .269/.327/.418 slash line and 12 stolen bases after coming over from the Twins.

Smith was also acquired before the trade deadline, and he had a 2.95 ERA in 26 appearances for the Giants. He is expected to play a pivotal role in setting up for new closer Mark Melancon. 

Kontos has long been Bruce Bochy's most reliable reliever in the middle innings and he could move to a higher-leverage role in a revamped bullpen. He had a 2.53 ERA in 2016, his fifth season with the Giants.

The Giants had previously reached one-year deals with Cory Gearrin, Ehire Adrianza and Conor Gillaspie. They have not gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when a deal could not be reached with A.J. Pierzynski.