Giants note: Nady tests hamstring; Hensley nears return


Giants note: Nady tests hamstring; Hensley nears return

DENVER -- The Giants have so many players on their active roster that traveling secretary Bret Alexander had trouble getting enough rooms to cover the entire traveling party.

(Getting a cot for Yusmeiro Petit is not allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, apparently.)

The Giants will add their 37th active player Tuesday when right-hander Clay Hensley comes off the disabled list. Hensley threw in the bullpen and his strained groin passed the tests.

The addition of Hensley will give the Giants a 14-man bullpen, and don't laugh. You can never have too many pitchers on a six-game trip to Colorado and Arizona. In fact, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he expects to need quite a few innings from the less frequently used relievers on staff such as Brad Penny, Dan Runzler, etc.

Even in a game like Sunday, when the Giants held a four-run lead and the starting pitcher lasted into the seventh, Bochy ended up using five relievers. This is the matchup-based world we're living in, and it involves plenty more warmup tosses than the past when the bullpen had more neatly defined roles.

So it'll be important that Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and the other late-game options get full days off from time to time.

In other news, Xavier Nady jogged and did some agility work in the outfield to test his strained hamstring. Trainers put him at just 60 percent, Bochy said. Nady might be available to pinch hit, but the Giants are really hoping he'll be OK for this weekend's series at Arizona. That's because the Diamondbacks are scheduled to throw three left-handers (Tyler Skaggs, Wade Miley and Patrick Corbin) at Chase Field.

Actually, it'll be four consecutive lefties because the Rockies have Jeff Francis down to pitch on Wednesday. But Coors Field is the last place to start a left fielder with a balky hamstring.

Bochy acknowledged that Nady would resume his role as the left fielder against left-handed pitchers once he's healthy. Until then, Gregor Blanco is being relied upon.

I spoke with Giants vice president Bobby Evans for a Baseball America season wrap that will be published in another week or two.

A couple tidbits: Brett Bochy threw a couple of bullpen sessions that convinced club officials that his shoulder issue was nothing more than fatigue, and he should be ready to go this spring.

Also, Clayton Blackburn is a name you should know. If he's unfamiliar to you, Blackburn is a 19-year-old whom the Giants drafted in the 16th round out of an Oklahoma high school last year. He immediately signed and did very well in the Arizona League, then went 8-4 with a 2.54 ERA in 22 starts for Low-A Augusta this year (plus an ungodly 143-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 131.1 innings).

He has a really advanced feel for pitching given his young age, and while he doesn't throw nearly as hard as Kyle Crick, his stuff should play quite well at higher levels. It certainly did when he was called up as a ringer to pitch for Single-A San Jose in the Cal League playoffs.

If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return


If Cubs get to World Series, injured slugger could make surprise return

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn’t create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.
Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major surgery on his left knee in April. The Cubs haven’t ruled anything in or out – and still need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers one more time this weekend – but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and ultimately decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.
Schwarber gained clearance on Monday from Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL after a devastating outfield collision during the first week of the regular season. Schwarber immediately phoned president of baseball operations Theo Epstein after the six-month checkup.   
“I wasn’t expecting the call,” Epstein said. “We got news that was beyond better than we could have expected by any reasonable standard. 
“He asked for a chance to do this. And with as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him – and potentially to us – we wanted to give him that opportunity.”


Kershaw stands between Cubs and first World Series since 1945

Kershaw stands between Cubs and first World Series since 1945

Clayton Kershaw stands between the Cubs and the World Series, a possibility that left veteran catcher David Ross thinking about Ric Flair inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse late Thursday night: To be The Man, you got to beat The Man. 

“Woo!” That’s how the Cubs like to punctuate their postgame celebration routine, channeling the professional wrestling legend in a ritual with so much sensory overload that the fog machine set off fire alarms throughout the underground Wrigley Field lair…after a win in the middle of August. “Woo!” 
The Cubs left Los Angeles one win away from their first National League pennant since 1945, and with two chances to pull it off this weekend at Wrigley Field, beginning on Saturday night in Game 6. So imagine how this crew would trash the Party Room if they beat Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. 

“The guy competes,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s pretty much like mechanics be damned, it’s just about me beating you somehow. 

“He’s got a good fastball that he locates. He doesn’t walk people. He’s got a dynamic curve and slider. And he’s got deception. He’s a little bit funky, and that’s got to be hard to pick up. The ball gets on you pretty quickly, and then he commands it. 

“So there’s nothing you could possibly ask for that he doesn’t already have.”

Now we’ll see if something clicked while the Cubs turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 NLCS lead – handling rookie starters Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda and the softer parts of the Los Angeles bullpen – or if those 18 runs combined in Games 4 and 5 were a mirage.

In 16-plus innings so far, the Cubs still haven’t scored a run off Kershaw, if-necessary Game 7 lefty starter Rich Hill or dominating closer Kenley Jansen, who got this review from Maddon: “He’s like a 100-pound heavier version of Mariano Rivera. He’s the bigger man with the same kind of stuff.”