EXTRA BAGGS: Wilson's new ink -- Johnny Cash

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EXTRA BAGGS: Wilson's new ink -- Johnny Cash

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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As I await my flight out of Denver, I see that snow is inthe forecast for this weekend. Thank you, baseball and weather gods!

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

Three more Giants likely to join Posey in World Baseball Classic

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Four years ago, Giants coaches made no secret of the fact that they felt some veterans were affected by playing in the World Baseball Classic. The Giants were coming off a long postseason run, but eight of their big leaguers chose to participate in the 2013 event. 

Four years later, the list is down to just four, and the Giants won’t stand in their way. Buster Posey has already been announced as a catcher for Team USA and Brandon Crawford is expected to play as well. Johnny Cueto has told the Giants that he intends on pitching for the Dominican Republic and Albert Suarez plans to pitch for his native Venezuela. 

In past years, clubs have primarily been concerned about pitchers. In an odd way, hitters are almost better off playing in the WBC instead of facing amped up prospects in Cactus League games. The Giants learned that lesson the hard way in 2015 when Hunter Pence was drilled by a prospect with a lack of command, causing him to miss the start of the season. For pitchers, the run-up to Opening Day is a tedious one, but Giants officials said they’re not concerned about their co-ace, Cueto, participating. 

“Major League Baseball is doing everything it can to help us protect them in terms of the quantity of players on the roster and pitch counts and innings,” general manager Bobby Evans said. “We feel MLB is working carefully to help all of us manage guys while they’re away from camp. We feel as confident as ever that they’ll be protected. Lessons have been learned, and everyone involved will try to find ways to avoid issues.”

If Crawford commits to playing, he could find himself in a fun spot. Nolan Arenado has already said he will play for the United States and the two National League West stars could form one hell of a defensive duo on the left side of the infield. Posey will start for a team that already has Max Scherzer and Chris Archer as part of the starting staff. Evans said the teams will carry three catchers, and Posey isn’t expected to be overworked. His manager said he’s not worried about the decision. Posey will simply have to start his preparation process a bit sooner.

“I’m fine with it,” Bruce Bochy said of Posey playing. “Buster wants to do it and I’m good with it.”

This will be the fourth edition of the WBC. In 2013, the Giants were represented by Ryan Vogelsong, Jeremy Affeldt, Sergio Romo, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval and Jose Mijares. 

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

Bochy: Game 4 loss to Cubs toughest I've ever had to bounce back from

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Bruce Bochy had grown accustomed to being in the October spotlight during even years, so he had a hard time getting on board as a spectator during one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory. 

Bochy’s Giants blew a three-run lead in their final game of the season, a loss so devastating that several players headed home the next day without even packing up their lockers. Two months later, Bochy is all smiles. He likes his team, and on Monday he got the closer he needed back in Game 4 of the NLDS. 

Bochy sat down with CSN Bay Area on Tuesday for a one-on-one interview about Mark Melancon, left field, that postseason loss, his new coaches and much more. It will air tonight on SportsTalk Live at 5 p.m. and we’ll run the whole thing back as a podcast. But for now, here are Bochy’s thoughts on the loss that ended his even-year run: 

“I had a hard time, I’m not going to lie. In all my years, that’s the toughest game I’ve ever had to bounce back off of,” he said. “It took a while. It was hard to watch that first postseason game but gradually it got a little better. Just the way we went out, that’s a tough way to go. Our bullpen has been such a big reason for our success so to go out that way, it really wasn’t just that game — it was the second half — we just had a hard time trying to get it figured out. 

“You know, you’ve got to put it behind you, but I’m not going to lie, that was a pretty big blow to the chin. It took a while to get over it.” 

The Giants led the Cubs 5-2 when Bochy made the decision to pull Matt Moore after eight brilliant innings and 120 pitches. That night, Moore and Bochy and everyone else involved said that there was a consensus that Moore had reached the end of the line. Two months later, Bochy doesn’t regret the move. Moore’s 120 pitches went down as the postseason high. 

“I think you can always look back, but these cards have backs on them,” Bochy said. “I felt good about protecting Moore. If he goes back out there he’s probably looking at 135 or maybe more pitches or you’ve got to bring a reliever in with men on base. I felt with the three-run lead that the guys I had could get three outs.” 

Derek Law was the first man out of the bullpen and he gave up a single that was inches from Brandon Crawford’s glove. Javier Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. Sergio Romo entered and gave up a double to Ben Zobrist. Will Smith gave up a single to pinch-hitter Willson Contreras. After an error, Hunter Strickland gave up a single to Javier Baez. The Cubs won 6-5 and went on to win the World Series. 

“We knew we could get the matchups that we wanted,” Bochy said on Tuesday. “It started out with Law and he got the ground ball right in the shift. The walk hurt. We got behind Rizzo and ended up walking him and Romo ended up getting behind Zobrist and that hurt, the double. And then we had Smitty. I was comfortable and sure they put in the right-handed bat, but the tying run was on second and I didn’t want a left-handed bat up there to pull the ball. He hits a ball that Smitty doesn’t quite get to, a seeing-eye base hit, and unlike us, we made a costly error. There was another, I felt, like a cheap hit there.

“But these are moments you relive. The good ones, but the bad ones stay with you too sometimes.”