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.

Pau Gasol's lofty praise for Warriors: 'In all my years in the league...'

Pau Gasol's lofty praise for Warriors: 'In all my years in the league...'

The Warriors are NBA Finals bound for the third straight year.

Following their Game 4 victory over the Spurs on Monday night, Pau Gasol opened up about the Western Conference champions.

“They’re in a groove,” Gasol told Courtney Cronin of the Bay Area News Group. “They know what it takes to win and obviously they’ve been champions, they’ve established records that have never been set before and they’re on a path to get another championship.

"In all my years in the league, they’re playing at the highest level right now.”

Gasol entered the NBA as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2001 draft.

He won championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.

The Warriors are the first team in NBA history to enter the Finals with a record of 12-0.

Their average margin of victory in the playoffs is 16.3 points.

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

Giants notes: Blach shows resiliency; another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.