Giants look to right ship against Padres in S.D.

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Giants look to right ship against Padres in S.D.

April 4, 2011
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GIANTS (1-3) vs.
SAN DIEGO (2-1)

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Starting on opening day is nothing new for Aaron Harang, who drew the assignment the last five seasons with the Cincinnati Reds.

Starting the home opener for his hometown team? That's a little different.

Padres manager Bud Black and pitching coach Darren Balsley told the big right-hander during spring training that he'd be starting Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants.

"I kind of got that little tingle in my gut like, 'Wow, this is pretty cool,' " Harang said Monday. "I get to open up in front of my hometown, my family and friends. It's definitely an honor to get this opportunity."
NEWS: MLB scoreboard

Harang attended Patrick Henry High, just up the hill a bit from the Padres' one-time home, Qualcomm Stadium, and then pitched at San Diego State.

He joined the Padres in the offseason as a free agent.

"I'll tell you what. If any guy tells you that he never wanted to have the opportunity to pitch at home, they'd be lying to you," Harang said. "It just means a lot to do it that day and know that I'm going to have people there watching me that are supporting me no matter what."

Forget any kind of a routine before his first start with the Padres, though.

"I've got kids. I don't really have a routine anymore," he said.

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Harang is looking to bounce back after struggling the last three years, including going 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA in 2010, when he was bothered by back spasms.

Black recalls Harang smiling when told of Tuesday's assignment. "But then the smile sort of went away real quick because still, ultimately, you know what your job is, and that's to perform and pitch well. But I'm happy for him."

Black said it made sense for Harang to pitch Tuesday.

"I know that opening days are filled with a lot of emotion," Black said. "A lot of players can handle it differently. I know that Aaron has pitched opening days before when he was with Cincinnati, so it's new to him to pitch in a game that's filled with pageantry and fanfare and high emotion."

Seeing the Giants again surely will remind the Padres of how close they came to a playoff spot last year.

REWIND: Dodgers take series as Huff struggles in right

Although they overachieved by winning 90 games, the Padres faltered down the stretch and were eliminated from playoff contention with a loss at San Francisco on the season's last day.

"It was a great pennant race," Black said. "It was a great, exciting season. There's a part of me that thinks that them getting through us at the end set them up for that run in October. We don't know if it could have been us. But we can play with them. We proved it. We played with them all through the year. They beat us at the end and continued on that momentum into the playoffs and into the World Series. It just goes to show what can happen in a playoff situation."

The Padres went 12-6 against the Giants last year.

San Diego cruised to an NL-best 76-49 record on Aug. 25, good for a 6 12-game lead in the NL West. But the Padres lost their next 10 games to see their lead shrink to just one game, and then won only 14 more games the rest of the way.

"They're a very good team. They're world champions," Black said. "And like us, we're not going to sneak up on anybody this year either, from what we did last year. But the Giants aren't going to sneak up on anybody, either. They've got a good team."

The Padres won two of three in their opening series at St. Louis. The Giants, who counter Tuesday with lefty Madison Bumgarner, lost three of four against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
VIDEO: Bochy on Brian Wilson's return

"It's not the way we want to start," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said after a 7-5 loss on Sunday night. "The first couple of games we hurt ourselves and easily could have come away with a couple more wins if we played better ball. I knew this wasn't going to be an easy part of the schedule. Hopefully we'll get back on track."

RELATED: Giants drop series finale 7-5 to L.A.

NOTES: Black said ace Mat Latos, on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder, threw 70 pitches in five simulated innings in minor league camp in Peoria, Ariz., on Monday. Latos is due to rejoin the Padres on Tuesday and be re-evaluated. Although he's eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, he's not expected to rejoin the rotation until the weekend. ... This is just a two-game series. The probable starters Wednesday are Tim Lincecum against Tim Stauffer.

Report: Melancon rubbed Giants teammates wrong way early in season

Report: Melancon rubbed Giants teammates wrong way early in season

This past offseason, the Giants overhauled the back of their bullpen. Out went mainstays Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez. In came prized free agent Mark Melancon.

It was supposed to be a seamless transition for one of the most reliable closers in baseball.

But nearly three months in, Melancon is one of many Giants players struggling while the team flounders in last place in the NL West with a 27-51 record.

And it appears Melancon's relationship with his new teammates didn't get off to a great start.

Melancon "rubbed some teammates the wrong way early in the season" by canceling a longstanding pregame stretching session with the other relievers that was implemented long before he joined the team, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

That's not the only stretching-related issue to impact the Giants. Manager Bruce Bochy had to get involved when several veterans were reportedly late on multiple occasions for the team stretching session.

“I dropped the ball. I’ve been doing this so long, you take for granted that they know what I want. These guys were used to doing it how they’ve done it — ‘I have my own routine. I’m not going to stretch.’ But we do stretch as a team here. They all have to be out there,” Bochy said.

Closers are known to have unique routines and Bochy addressed that as well.

“Sometimes other relievers … maybe they get a little taken aback by it. I don’t know what (closer) doesn’t have a routine like that,” Bochy said.

General Manager Bobby Evans addressed the claim that Melancon is rubbing teammates the wrong way and defended his closer's role in the clubhouse.

“To whatever degree it hasn’t manifested itself or to the extent it’s manifested itself in the perception of some negatively, I can assure you that was not Mark’s intention. Mark is a team guy,” Evans said.

Melancon, who has a 4.58 ERA and 11 saves in 15 chances this season, has three years and $53 million left on his contract with the Giants.

Forecasting who should and will win 2017 NBA awards

Forecasting who should and will win 2017 NBA awards

The private jets have arrived, most of the swank parties are on and the red carpet has been laid. The NBA is set to announce from New York the winners of its individual awards Monday night at 6 p.m. on TNT.

Rapper Drake, a very public fan of the NBA, will serve as the host. Among the presenters are actors Nick Cannon, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Jesse Williams, as well as athletes Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce. In addition, Nicki Minaj is scheduled as the music guest.

The NBA clearly wants to make a splash in its inaugural show.

Here is our forecast for the six major awards to be presented:

MOST IMPROVED PLAYER:
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks: Rare combination of defensive skill, offensive tools and superior athleticism. Began the season as a Top-50 player, ended it in Top 15.

Rudy Gobert, Jazz: Still raw offensively, arguably the best rim protector in the NBA made appreciable improvement on defense. He’s what Dwight Howard used to be.

Nikola Jokic, Nuggets: Improved enough to be mentioned among best European centers ever to reach the NBA. He’s only 22 and bound to get even better.

Should win: Antetokounmpo.

Will win: Antetokounmpo.

SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR:
Eric Gordon, Rockets: Improved conditioning and revived his career after offseason trade from Pelicans. He finished No. 2 among NBA bench scorers.

Andre Iguodala, Warriors: WD-40 for whatever the league’s best team needs, whether it’s offense or defense or leadership. Not among the top 15 bench scorers.

Lou Williams, Rockets: Ace shooter split season between woeful Lakers and playoff-bound Rockets. Led all bench scorers in scoring. Plays no defense.

Should win: Iguodala.

Will win: Gordon.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Rudy Gobert, Jazz: See above.

Draymond Green, Warriors: Best team defender in the league, finished second in the balloting the past two seasons. Got better, making several game-saving defensive plays.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: Best on-ball defender in the league. Won the award in each of the past two seasons. Defensive numbers dropped a bit this season.

Should win: Green.

Will win: Green.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:
Malcolm Brogdon, Bucks: Second-round draft pick evolved to become starting PG on playoff team. Showed respectable two-way ability and the savvy of a veteran.

Joel Embiid, Sixers: Hands down, most impressive rookie in the league and future franchise player. Played only 31 of 82 games, though. Does that constitute a season?

Dario Saric, Sixers: Impressive, multi-skilled forward with a smooth touch and a nice feel for the game. Two-time Rookie of the month. Played 81 games.

Should win: Saric.

Will win: Saric.

COACH OF THE YEAR:
Mike D’Antoni, Rockets: Took over a dramatically revamped team, implemented his style and far exceeded reasonable expectations. Co-winner in a vote of coaches.

Gregg Popovich, Spurs: Still the league’s gold standard and once again got the most of his team while simultaneously phasing out the old and installing the new.

Erik Spoelstra, Heat: 30-11 second half among best recoveries in NBA history, pulling bottom-five team into the playoff race until final day. Co-winner in vote of coaches.

Should win: D’Antoni.

Will win: D’Antoni.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER:
James Harden, Rockets: Officially became PG for the first time and led league in assists while operating a new offense without sacrificing scoring. Improved on defense, from abysmal to almost satisfactory.

Kawhi Leonard, Spurs: Probably the best two-way player in the league moved into leadership role and hardly skipped a beat. Does it all without flash, practically undercover. A treasure.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder: Most scintillating player in the league, constantly in overdrive. Set record for most triple-double in a season, while averaging a triple-double for the season.

Should win: Harden.

Will win: Westbrook.