Giants Insider notes: Sparkplug Torres is back


Giants Insider notes: Sparkplug Torres is back

May 10, 2011

Our MLB Insider takes a look at the Giants' 4-3 win over the visiting Diamondbacks on Wednesday in the second game of a three-game series at AT&T Park in San Francisco.Torrid Torres: Activated from the disabled list Tuesday after being out since April 10 with a strained Achilles tendon, center fielder and leadoff man Andres Torres has been every bit the sparkplug since his return as he was in 2010. On the heels of going 1-for-3 with a walk and a fine defensive play in his first game back, Torres on Wednesday went 2-for-3 with a walk and drove in the winning run with a two-out double that bounced into the stands beyond the wall in center in the bottom of the seventh inning to extend San Francisco's winning streak to a season-high five games. The Giants, who moved into first place in the National League West by 12 game in front of their 14th consecutive sellout crowd (out of 14 home games), have won seven of their past eight games and improved to 11-3 in one-run games; no team in the bigs has played as many such games or posted a higher winning percentage (.786) in them.
RECAP: Torres lifts Giants past D'backs to fifth straight win
Tejada breaks through: Having gone since April 15 without a multi-hit game, Miguel Tejada ended that drought by playing a key role in two of the Giants' three run-scoring rallies. His two-out single in the fourth put the hosts on the scoreboard for the first time, and he doubled and scored in front of Torres' tie-breaking double in the seventh. Moved to third base when Pablo Sandoval went down with a broken bone in his right hand last month, also turned in a pair of stellar defensive plays at the hot corner, and he capped his big night with a single up the middle in the eighth. Johnny be bad: Having walked 15 batters in his previous 15 innings in addition to making at least three mental errors in his past two starts, Giants left-hander Jonathan Sanchez was called for a heart-to-heart talk with manager Bruce Bochy last Friday. Anyone hoping for a storybook turnaround in the wake of the skull session had to be sorely disappointed when Sanchez gave up a double to the first batter he faced Wednesday and walked the next, leading to an early 1-0 lead for Arizona. Sanchez gave up two hits, a stolen base and another run in the second, and Henry Blanco's fourth-inning home run made it 3-0.Johnny be good: As frustrating as it can be to watch Sanchez struggle, the Giants will give him second, third, fourth and probably 12th chances to right himself because his stuff is that good. Few pitchers in the game can "underperform" -- relative to their talent level -- and give their team a shot at winning that day's game, but Sanchez does it all the time. On April 30 in Washington, D.C., for instance, he walked six, gave up two hits and hit two batters over five innings but didn't allow an earned run and the Giants went on to a 2-1 victory. On Wednesday, Sanchez wasn't nearly as erratic as he was against the Nationals, but he wasn't great by any stretch, either. Still, he managed to cobble -- wobble? -- together a quality start and gave the Giants time to mount their comeback. When it really counts: Aubrey Huff, whose fourth homer of the year pulled the Giants into a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, is starting to climb out of the deep statistical hole he dug for himself in April, but a closer look at the numbers show that he's been at his best in the team's most important games -- against NL West foes. Batting .138 (8-for-58) with two doubles, one home run and three RBIs in 16 games thus far against the NL East and Central, Huff has touched up intradivision opponents to the tune of a .271 batting average with six doubles, three homers and 14 RBIs in 18 games.Mound presence: Lefty Barry Zito threw off a mound for the first time since spraining a ligament in his right foot at Arizona on April 16, and afterward he said there was no pain at all in his injured "landing foot" during the 35-pitch session. Zito said he's scheduled to throw off a mound again Friday and likely will have to get through that and another such session or two before starting a rehab assignment in the minors leagues. All-Star surprises: The ballots for this year's Midsummer Classic in Phoenix aren't exactly reflective of what's actually happened with the Giants thus far this season. In fact, it appears as though the folks who put it together simply based their selection of candidates on the Opening Day lineup. Aubrey Huff is listed as an outfielder, Miguel Tejada is among the shortstops, Brandon Belt is there to be voted in as a first baseman and Cody Ross, who opened the season on the disabled list, isn't on the ballot at all. At least pretend you put some thought into it, MLB. Make a call. Bag the beard: The Giants' in-game entertainment is so good -- the candid interviews in which players good-naturedly dog various teammates are classic -- that when they swing and miss, it stands out like well, like a really bad beard. The "Beard-Cam" has to go. It's unsteady and unfunny, unless you thrill to the sight of what appears to be a drunk, unkempt ravenrat hybrid flying from one face to another. There has to be a better way to pay homage to closer Brian Wilson, who improved to 3-0 with seven saves and a 0.00 ERA over his past 10 appearances when he shrugged off a two-on, nobody-out situation in the ninth to lock down his 12th save of the season.

Raiders fourth-round OL refutes pre-draft rumors: 'I'm not legally blind'


Raiders fourth-round OL refutes pre-draft rumors: 'I'm not legally blind'

ALAMEDA – Florida offensive tackle David Sharpe spent part of his pre-draft process dispelling rumors that he was legally blind in his right eye. The report came out this spring, and Sharpe denied it quickly.

The information reappeared Saturday morning, when NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock mentioned it shortly after the Raiders drafted Sharpe No. 129 overall. The draft analyst said Sharpe might be restricted to the offensive line’s left side.

Sharpe said that isn’t the case. He can play left or right tackle. And his vision is just fine, thank you very much.

“I’m not blind. I’m not legally blind,” Sharpe said. “The information is false, all of it is false. I just had a little cataract removal when I was younger and I’ve been battling that since I was young. But it doesn’t affect my play or vision or anything. I’m not blind.”

Sharpe said his right eye is a little blurrier than the left, but it doesn’t impact his play in any way.

The 6-foot-6, 343-pound blocker was projected to go in the first three rounds, but fell to the fourth. He wasn’t upset about an issue that was a non-issue.

“It doesn’t really make me mad,” Sharpe said. “I just brush it off. It was just false and I addressed it.”

The Raiders had some inside info on Sharpe’s play. Head coach Jack Del Rio’s son Luke is Florida’s quarterback, and vouched for Sharpe’s effectiveness before Oakland made the official selection.

“He actually texted me this morning and said his dad called him and asked about me,” Sharpe said. “There was a little hint there, so that was cool.”

Melifonwu might serve as solution to Raiders' problem covering tight ends

Melifonwu might serve as solution to Raiders' problem covering tight ends

ALAMEDA – The Raiders have struggled mightily covering tight ends. It hasn’t been a one-year thing. They’re notorious for letting that position run rampant over the past four years, allowing talent ranging from Travis Kelce to Gary Barnidge to tally huge totals against the Silver and Black.

The Raiders may have found a solution to that problem Friday in the second round. They selected massive combine freak and Connecticut safety Obi Melifonwu, a 6-foot-4 speedster who can match up well with most anyone.

“Look, this is no secret, we’ve struggled for the last couple of years covering the opponents’ tight ends,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “We think this is a guy that can help out with his length, matchup against some of the bigger tight ends, some of the better tight ends. We’ll put him right in the mix.”

Del Rio can get creative with this kid. Melifonwu is a safety by trade, but can play cornerback – he proved that during Senior Bowl practices – and functions well from the slot. He can also play well in the box against the run game or deep in the pattern, providing versatility to the secondary.

The Raiders have incumbent starters at safety, with free safety Reggie Nelson and strong safety Karl Joseph. Nelson is 33 and entering a contract year, so Melifonwu could develop into a long-term partnership with Joseph, last year’s first-round pick.

Expect Melifonwu to help right away, especially against the recently bothersome tight end position.

“I feel like I’m a solid cover guy, especially versus tight ends,” Melifonwu said. “I feel like the majority of tight ends that I go up against I’m going to be faster than and really be able to cover them.”

The London, England native put on a show at the NFL scouting combine. He ran 40 yards in 4.40 seconds there, and did most every drill well.

“I think it did a lot for me,” Melifonwu said. “I think it showed my character, my poise and the ability to perform under pressure. And really the fact that not only am I an explosive player, I’m a player that has great hips and great range for somebody my size.”

Del Rio supported Melifonwu's solid game tape, which improved as his college career progressed. He finished with a career-high 118 tackles and four interceptions. He also had 2.5 tackles for a loss and three passes defensed. He accounts the improvement to improved football knowledge.

“Just having a better sense of the game of football,” Melifonwu said. “My defensive back coach Anthony Poindexter was a great college safety and a great NFL safety. He really did a great job of helping me fine tune things like run fits, formations and really keyed every week to watch and how to watch the game of football, how to study the game of football which in result, helped me have the season I had.”