2012 Giants: Don't Stop Believin'

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2012 Giants: Don't Stop Believin'

As I type this, I'm currently somewhere over the Rocky Mountains, flying home after an incredible roller coaster of a ride through the playoffs. Over the past few weeks, I've logged thousands of miles, conducted dozens of interviews, and my head has been soaked with beer and champagne on four different occasions. (I hear it's good for the hair).And though I can barely keep my eyes open, I wouldn't trade a single second of it for anything.I started covering the Giants in 2010. Three years later I'm lucky to say I've now covered two World Series Championships.Both were special in their own unique way. The 2010 team was well documented as the Band of Misfits, an eclectic collection of characters that waved a red thong all the way to City Hall. And as much as they tortured their fans during the regular season, their trip through the post season was almost effortless.But there is something about the 2012 squad that will really stick with me. They embody the essence of "perseverance," "determination," and "selflessness." They are a team in every sense of the word. And they will forever be a constant reminder to me that no matter how impossible something seems, there's always a way to achieve it as long as you believe.I know that sounds a little cheesy and a little sappy, but I thought it was a good time to reflect back on this crazy ride that will culminate with another sea of orange and black at City Hall Wednesday. One of my favorite memories from the 2010 parade was when the entire crowd started singing "Don't Stop Believing." I captured some of it on my camera...and it seemed appropriate to share now.Congrats to the 2012 Giants and their faithful fans who never gave up hope!

Giants notes: Bumgarner to take next step in rehab; no skipping Moore

Giants notes: Bumgarner to take next step in rehab; no skipping Moore

SAN FRANCISCO — It wasn’t until a few days ago that Madison Bumgarner was cleared to swing a bat, but he certainly hasn’t appeared to miss a beat. In his second round of BP back at AT&T Park, Bumgarner started peppering the park with line drives. 

It was a pleasing sight for players and coaches who watched, and the next step will give them a bit more to be excited about. After throwing a bullpen session Tuesday, Bumgarner will take the next step in his rehab. He’ll start for the Sacramento River Cats on Friday, kicking off what could be a tour of the organization’s California affiliates. 

Bumgarner will throw every five days as he normally would, but the Giants aren’t sure it’s necessary to send him to Albuquerque for his second start. Manager Bruce Bochy said nothing is final, but Bumgarner’s next start could come July 5 in San Jose, where he hasn’t started since five dominant appearances in 2009. His next start after that could also be in San Jose, since Triple-A has an All-Star break when he’s scheduled to go July 10. 

After that? Well, how ‘bout the big leagues? 

Team officials haven’t shut the door on Bumgarner returning as early as July 15 in San Diego. That would be the second game out of the All-Star break, and would have Bumgarner back about two weeks earlier than first expected. The Giants do not want to rush him, but they’re proud of the way he has attacked the rehab process, and at some point they won’t hold him back if he's deemed 100 percent. 

First things first, Bumgarner needs to get through Friday’s start. The early returns have been positive. He threw three innings in an Arizona Rookie League game Sunday and was so dominant that he had to go down to the bullpen to get his pitch count up. Bumgarner threw 16 fastballs, 14 for strikes. Javier Lopez was on hand keeping an eye on Bumgarner and said the ball was coming out of his hand as it always has. 

--- The Giants have a couple of off days coming up, but Bochy said he is not considering skipping Matt Moore, who has a 6.04 ERA. 

“Right now, we’re better off pitching him,” Bochy said. “He was so good in Atlanta. It’s really important to keep him going. There’s no health issue. I think he needs to keep pitching. I think he's really close, I do. Some of these starts, he’s probably trying to establish his fastball too much and he didn’t have great command of it.”

--- Austin Slater (hip flexor) is expected back in the lineup Wednesday. He didn't play Monday, but he was cleared to pinch-hit if needed. 

--- Cody Hall, a former Giant, is back with the organization. The Giants traded Hall to the Diamondbacks last January and he was briefly a Marlin later in the year. Hall was playing independent league ball when the Giants signed him to a minor league deal. He’ll likely head to Double-A as depth. There have been some injuries and promotions at the higher levels of the organization. 

--- Steven Duggar was in camp for the first time and he might have been an outfield replacement had he stayed healthy. After dealing with a flexor strain and hamstring tightness, he returned to rehab games last night. He should be in San Jose soon, and then it’ll be back to Sacramento at some point. Duggar is the center fielder closest to the majors, so it would be nice to get a look at him in September. 

--- There was something new Monday night, and it wasn't just the victory. Sam Dyson pitched the eighth, striking out Nolan Arenado, Raimel Tapia and Ian Desmond around a single. Bochy said after the game that Dyson is his main eighth-inning guy right now. That's quite the ride for a guy who was DFA'd not long ago, and it's another feather in Dave Righetti's cap. Remember, the Giants basically got Dyson for free. 

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

Giants put it together in all phases, get back in win column

SAN FRANCISCO — In the bottom of the eighth inning Monday, with the Giants finally running away with one, Johnny Cueto started blowing into a giant wad of bubble gum. He held two hands out, ready to catch remnants of an explosion as Brandon Crawford and Kelby Tomlinson looked on and smiled. 

A few minutes later, players started migrating to the dugout rail as they have done in each of the three starts Ryder Jones has made. They are ready to cheer on a rookie’s first big league hit, even if the wait has been an excruciating one for the third baseman. 

Bruce Bochy likes to say that your personality is better when you’re winning, and his players certainly showed that Monday in snapshots here and there. They woke up to a report that there were fractured in the clubhouse, caused in large part by the new closer. They denied it, they met as a group, and then, finally, they won. 

Jeff Samardzija pitched as he has for two months, the top of the lineup came through over and over again, and Brandon Crawford paced a golden night with the gloves. A 9-2 win over the Rockies was just the second since June 11 and it snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Rockies. Any win is meaningful at this point, but this one seemed to mean just a little bit more given the drama of the day. 

“Despite what people might think, we still have a pretty good group here and we get along just fine,” Crawford said. “We’re all rooting for each other.”

It’s one thing to support teammates off the field, and there’s been no indication that the Giants aren’t doing that. It’s quite another to be hand-in-hand between the lines, and for much of this season, Samardzija has been on an island. 

The right-hander has been Bochy’s best pitcher since Madison Bumgarner went down in the hills outside Denver. But he entered Monday with a 2-9 record and 4.74 ERA inflated by faulty defense. He hasn’t grumbled, but he has grown accustomed to the worst, and when Nolan Arenado bounced a ball deep to the hole in shortstop with two on and two outs in the third, Samardzija figured the game was probably tied. 

“I’m thinking maybe they charge it in the outfield and maybe make a play at home,” Samardzija said. “But with a guy like that at shortstop, things change so fast.”

Crawford scooped the ball on the edge of the grass. He would have liked nothing more than to make an otherworldly throw to first to nail his World Baseball Classic teammate, but he knew the best chance was at third. A couple of days ago, Crawford and Jones discussed how the rookie should cover third on such a play. Jones played it perfectly, retreating in time to catch Crawford’s inning-ending throw. 

“The best thing (about Crawford) is he doesn’t even talk about it,” Samardzija said.

No, Crawford put the spotlight on Jones.

“That’s a pretty heads-up play,” he said. “We talked about it and he was there. It was a funny coincidence.”

The play held the lead, and the Giants kept pushing. The top four hitters in the lineup finished with 10 hits, six RBI and six runs. Brandon Belt had an RBI triple in the five-spot. Crawford drove in a run behind him. Gorkys Hernandez and Kelby Tomlinson added insurance from the bottom. Bochy watched it all from the top step and saw a group collectively relax.

“Just quit fighting it so much,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent in this offense. There’s no reason they can’t put consistent runs on the board. Tonight I just thought the at-bats were so much better and the focus was. Once it started rolling, guys felt better about themselves, and it just got contagious.”