Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4

Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4
October 17, 2012, 7:32 pm
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Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest, today at noon leading up to the first pitch of Game 3, and tune in again following the final out for highlights and interviews from St. Louis, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

ST. LOUIS -- The first pitch of Game 3 remains an iffy proposition to be lobbed on time, even if the horizontal rain hasn't arrived by the 1:07 (PDT) scheduled start.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny were in agreement: They don't want to start a game only to take cover after an inning or two, knocking out both Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse and turning this NLCS into a long-relief baton handoff. In fact, Bochy said he'd be surprised if the game started on time.

As the skies darkened over Busch Stadium, this much was clear: Bochy would not use the Merkin Valdez maneuver.

When the game starts, Cain will be on the mound. Bochy wouldn't try to outsmart the weather and start a relief pitcher, as he did a few years ago when a storm was approaching Dodger Stadium and Valdez started in place of Tim Lincecum.

(The Giants did win that day, but Bochy outsmarted himself. Valdez absolutely dealt in two quick innings, so Lincecum took the mound in the third -- and then the heavy rain arrived. The Giants brought back Lincecum after a long delay; then-Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who used the same gambit only to end up putting Chad Billingsley in the game, did not choose to heat up his starter again.)

There is a sense of urgency to get this game in, though. If the series is delayed and Saturday's travel day is wiped out, then the Giants wouldn't have the option to bring back a fully rested Cain to pitch a potential Game 7. The same would be true for the Cardinals and Kyle Lohse, who has been their best starting pitcher this season.

Bochy is not a fan of using pitchers on short rest -- and he confirmed he wouldn't ask that of Ryan Vogelsong for a possible Game 5 assignment. (Vogelsong is lined up for Game 6.)

Even though the Giants remain officially TBA for games 4 and 5, the pencil plan is for Tim Lincecum to take the ball Thursday as long as he isn't needed for emergency relief in Game 3.

Game 5 is a choice between Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, and as Bochy said about Bumgarner, "I don't think I'm concerned to the point where we don't play on using him. I'm not as concerned as you may think, because he's healthy. There's nothing going on with the arm. He's a big, strong guy. He's pressing more than anything and we've got to get his confidence back."

You can bank on this: There's no way the Giants would start both Bumgarner AND Zito in the remaining four games. The Cardinals posted the best batting average against left-handed pitching among NL teams. The Giants want to limit the Cards' exposure to lefties as much as possible.

Bumgarner and Zito both threw side session on Tuesday, so both are almost certainly unavailable to be used in relief in Game 3, Bochy said.

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Marco Scutaro didn't look like Brandon Phillips at second base while taking grounders, but his lack of mobility wasn't concerning enough for Bochy to scratch him from the lineup.

Scutaro said he hadn't spoken Wednesday with Matt Holliday, whose controversial takeout slide sent the veteran infielder to the MRI chamber Monday night.

Scutaro told me his hip felt much better with another day of rest, but his left knee soreness was about the same.

Bochy was 80 percent sure Scutaro would start when the team boarded their flight Tuesday morning; he upgraded the Chance of Scutaro to 100 percent after watching Tuesday's workout.

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Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly said he still had a couple of last-minute tests to pass before he'd be cleared to return to the coaches' box, but it hadn't been ruled out for Game 3. Hitting assistant Joe Lefebvre coached first base the previous two games after Kelly was struck on the head by a line drive in batting practice Saturday.

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A shirtless Brian Wilson ducked his bearded head into Bochy's office during his session with the beat reporters and made a declaration.

"Activate me," Wilson said. "First toss Friday, big league game. Write it."

Friday marks the six-month mark from Wilson's reconstructive elbow surgery. He'll be cleared to start tossing on that day. He offered advice on how reporters should cover it.

"Make me a left-hander," he said. "Spice it up."

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The Toronto Blue Jays claimed Scott Cousins off waivers. Wonder if the Maple Leafs will add him to their goon squad, too.

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