Giants Insider notebook: Runzler's role change


Giants Insider notebook: Runzler's role change

March 12, 2011

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez was scratched from his scheduled start against the rival Dodgers, but there's no cause for concern.The key word here is "rival." Add "division" in front of it, and you've got your answer as to why Sanchez didn't take the hill in front of the biggest crowd in the history of Scottsdale Stadium (12,081).Most big-league teams simply aren't into giving a team they'll be facing over and over during the regular season much of a sneak peek at what they'll be facing if there are other alternatives, and the Giants had a perfectly passable alternative Saturday.Sanchez, in line to face the Dodgers in the second game of the regular season, April 1 in Los Angeles, was sent to the Giants' minor-league camp to pitch in a simulated game with Eli Whiteside as his catcher.Battling fits of wildness with his fastball, Sanchez walked four batters during a four-inning outing and gave up two hits and two earned runs while striking out four.A minor-league coach who watched the outing said Sanchez frequently missed high with his heater, particularly early in the outing, but the Giants were pleased to see him make the proper adjustment with his arm angle to get the ball down thereafter.RUNZLER ON THE SPOT
The decision to "hide" Sanchez from the split-squad of Dodgers created an opportunity for lefty Dan Runzler to make his first Cactus League start.After his club sent the raucous, capacity crowd home thrilled with a two-run rally in the bottom of the ninth inning, Giants manager Bruce Bochy noted that he didn't see Runzler's three-inning outing as a start, per se. The Giants are auditioning for a sixth, or emergency, starter this spring, and the team has toyed with the idea of converting Runzler, who has worked exclusively out of the bullpen during his brief big-league career, but Bochy said Runzler is being stretched out because he's a candidate for a long-relief role at this point.Runzler, who brought a 1.50 ERA in three relief appearances (one run, six innings) this spring into Saturday's game, was touched for one earned run (two total) on five hits while striking out three over three innings. He also made a fielding error that led to the unearned run. NEAL SPARKS COMEBACK
Lefty Javier Lopez gave up four runs (three earned) on three hits and a walk during a seventh-inning outburst that gave the Dodgers a 7-6 lead, but outfield prospect Thomas Neal led a parade of youngsters who starred during the comeback by singling to start the bottom of the ninth and coming around to score on a wild pitch.RECAP: Giants mount ninth inning rally to beat Dodgers
Neal has become a popular player with Giants fans who follow him on Twitter (@tdaddyneal), in part because he offers up a "Question of the Day" every night. A recent query asked fans to weight in on whom they'd most like to be stuck with in a broken-down elevator.Neal rarely answers his own questions, however. Asked why before Saturday's game, he smiled and said, "I don't know. They're just so random. Thinking out loud."One of the responses to Neal's elevator question, by the way, was fairly predictable: "I would wanna be stuck with you!PLENTY OF TIME
Right-hander Matt Cain remains scheduled to return to Cactus League action Monday, having come out of his 47-pitch simulated game Thursday with none of the elbow discomfort that sidelined him in the first place. Now the question is whether he'll have time to build up his pitch count before his first scheduled start of the regular season, April 2 vs. the Dodgers.The Giants don't think it'll be a problem. The natural progression from a 45-pitch outing is to throw 60 the next time out, then 75, 90, etc.If Cain doesn't suffer any setbacks, he'll make four exhibition starts, ostensibly taking him to 90 in his final spring turn. That turn, as of now, would come March 29 -- three days before his scheduled start in L.A.The Giants obviously aren't going to let him work on three days rest after a 90-pitch effort that early in the season, but most teams dial their starters back a bit in their final exhibition outing, anyway, so they'll probably do a little juggling in the next week or two so they don't have to follow Sanchez's first regular-season start with another lefty in No. 4 starter Barry Zito.

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

A's spring training update Day 6: Davis savors winter in Oakland

MESA, Ariz. — Khris Davis enjoyed quite an offseason travel itinerary, checking out Toronto, taking in the beaches of Hawaii and dining on lobster in Belize.

However, it was the time spent in his adopted hometown of Oakland that most struck a chord with the A’s left fielder. After finishing his first season with the A’s, Davis followed through on his plan to make his offseason home in Oakland, and he was glad he did.

“I got to just feel the heart of the city,” he said upon arriving at camp Sunday. “That was basically the purpose of why I was there. … I wanted to feel Oakland. I love it, honestly. I love the city.”

He trained at Dogtown Athletic, a gym in West Oakland. He took part in the A’s holiday party for kids at the Oakland Zoo, joined by A’s Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who grew up in the city.

“Just to feel these kids’ happiness,” Davis said. “They didn’t look at me as a baseball player. They just looked at me as a role model kind of.”

It should be music to the ears of A’s fans that the team’s most dangerous hitter has a love affair with the city he plays in. If the A’s ever entertained the idea of trying to sign Davis to a multi-year extension, and that’s purely hypothetical here, it would help that Davis feels comfortable in his surroundings.

Even when he described Oakland in edgy terms, such as when he said it “has its dark side,” he seemed to find it endearing.

In return, Davis felt the love from the fan base in 2016, hitting a career-high 42 homers with a team-best 102 RBI. That was despite the awful start he got off to, hitting .143 and mustering just one RBI over his first 12 games.

Obviously, any chances the A’s have of improving last year’s American League-worst offense rely on the 29-year-old Davis having another big year. But over-analysis is one thing he tries to avoid.

“I don’t want to get caught up in last year — the slow start and the strong finish, whatever,” he said. “However it was, I’m just ready to do this year.”

Davis decided to back out of his plan to play for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, saying his main priority was preparing for his A’s season.

“My main focus is to perform for the organization,” he said. “I feel like I want to get off on the right foot this year.”

NOTEWORTHY: Heavy showers continued to pelt Mesa on Sunday, spoiling the A’s first full-squad workout. The hitters were relegated to swinging in the cages and playing catch, while pitchers were scheduled for a day off from throwing on the mound anyway.

“If ever there was a day, at least for the pitchers, that you don’t need to (work out), it’s today,” manager Bob Melvin said. “But when you have everybody there on the first day, you wanna get out on the field and do everything. Hopefully we can incorporate everything tomorrow.”

The A’s have a whopping 70 players in camp, more than in any other spring Melvin can remember as a big league manager. He addressed the full team in a meeting Sunday morning.

His message?

“We’re gonna have to outwork, out-hustle everybody like we have in the past,” he said, “and get back to playing the game with the same tenacity that we did a couple years ago.”

FAMILIAR FACE: Longtime A’s second baseman Mark Ellis is back for the second year in a row as a spring infield instructor. The plan is for Ellis to spend a week with the team now, then another week later in camp.

“I’ll take Mark Ellis as many days as I can have him,” Melvin said.

LIGHTER SIDE: Nursing his broken right foot, starting pitcher Daniel Mengden has been making his way through the clubhouse on a knee scooter in order to keep pressure off his foot.

Apparently, it looks more fun than it really is.

“I contribute to society Friday, when I can start walking again,” Mengden quipped.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days.