DENVER Brian Wilson got a new tattoo over the winter.
You know that famous photo of Johnny Cash? The one takenduring a sound check at Folsom Prison? The one where hes sending a special,one-fingered message to the photographer?
Yep. Its on Wilsons calf. In remarkable detail, too.
So Wilson wont need a knee-jerk response whenever hesasked if hes healthy. He can just point to his calf. Message received.
Wilson insisted during the spring that hes fine. Heinsisted his back and hip are fine. His elbow, too. But he knows there will bedoubts among fans and the media. He is adamant that he will answer all thequestions through his performance.
But rough save conversions like his ninth-inning escapadeThursday wont make the questions go away. Wilson only cracked 90 mph a fewtimes and looked totally out of sorts on a few pitches after what the Giantsdescribed as a tweaked left ankle on a delivery to Tyler Colvin.
Some of that velocity drop can be explained by the fact thatWilson was pitching on a second consecutive day something he did just once inthe spring. Wilson is known to throw all sliders or all cutters in an outing,just for kicks. He did hit 94 mph when he needed to hump up and blow a pitchpast Wilin Rosario, which he did while striking him out.
Can Wilson be the elite force the Giants have relied upon inthe ninth inning? Well, Im not sure hell be as durable. He wont be availablein the home opener Friday because Bruce Bochy doesnt want to use him on athird consecutive day. Everyones durability is questioned over a long season.Wilson will be tested, too.
But there is something about him, however he might be compromised,that keeps him successful in that role. And he does tend to get lucky when hemost needs it. When second baseman Emmanuel Burriss snared Todd Heltonsbases-loaded line drive, it reminded me of the Carlos Ruiz liner from theclinching, Game 6 victory in the 2010 NLCS.
Given what weve seen, Id say sure. Theres every reason tobe a bit skittish about Brian Wilson. But dont be surprised if he finds a wayto get the job done. Or if he points to his new tattoo when you ask him aquestion.
Bochy liked the way Buster Posey came through his firststart since he was diagnosed with shingles. It likely will take a few days(maybe weeks) before Poseys energy level is back to 100 percent. But hesplayable, and hell start behind the plate for Fridays home opener.
I had no concerns, Bochy said. He caught very well. Hellbe back in there tomorrow.
Javier Lopez has stranded five runners in his threeappearances, including two when he got Carlos Gonzalez to hit a broken-batground out in the eighth. Lopez is such a weapon in that bullpen, Bochy said,and nobody knows it better than him.
Madison Bumgarners 117 pitches were the fourth most hesthrown in a start in his career. Im not sure thats a good idea for a22-year-old making his second start of the season. But dont put all the blameon Bochy. He couldnt have foreseen Colvin working Bumgarner for a13-pitch at-bat to end the leftys day.
For a pitcher, Bumgarner is pretty darn good at turning arounda quality fastball. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Jamie Moyer, butwhen he batted against hard-throwing lefty Rex Brothers in the eighth,Bumgarner took him deep. Almost deep enough. His fly ball was caught on thetrack in dead center.
Brothers might be one of the nastiest relievers in the NL.Bumgarner might have preferred facing him to Moyer.
That was pretty cool getting to throw against him, saidBumgarner, of the man who had over 100 big league starts before he was born. Ican see why hes successful. Thats tough to hit.
The Giants averaged 5.5 runs on the road trip, but the signs are more encouraging than that. It seems hitters are working deeper counts and drawing walks, and yes, that includes Aubrey Huff. Brandon Crawford is showing he can hit lefties. Nate Schierholtz gets a start and pops two home runs. And Melky Cabrera looks like he'll make an everyday impact. He hit safely in all six games on the trip, getting multiple hits in four of them. (No, the Giants do not miss Jonathan Sanchez.)
Now they just need to get their leadoff man on base. If Angel Pagan can't do it, Gregor Blanco will get a chance.
As I await my flight out of Denver, I see that snow is inthe forecast for this weekend. Thank you, baseball and weather gods!