Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 8, Rockies 3

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Baggs' Instant Replay: Giants 8, Rockies 3

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DENVER The question has come up so often this season, yet it still seems a shock to ask it:Can the Giants win behind Tim Lincecum again?They can and they must. And since the All-Star break, they have.Lincecum overcame a wobbly first inning and pitched backwards most of the afternoon, but he held the Colorado Rockies to a run in six innings. Hunter Pence hit a pair of RBI doubles as the Giants won 8-3 to complete a three-game sweep at Coors Field.The Giants were 4-14 in Lincecum starts prior to the All-Star break. Theyve won four of five Happy Lincecum Days since then.Their hitters certainly were happy to be at Coors Field, where the Rockies are holding together their pitching staff with catgut and Elmers. The Giants outscored the Rockies 35-12 in the three-game series.They also went 20 for 52 (.385) with runners in scoring position over the three games. Yep, thatll do it.Starting pitching reportLincecum threw 36 pitches in the first inning, he labored to command his fastball the entire game and resorted to pitching backwards. His 3-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio was plenty ugly, too just the sixth time in his career he issued more free passes than punched tickets.But when you looked up, Lincecum had held the Rockies to a run over six innings. He has a 2.48 ERA in four starts since the All-Star break.Lincecum (6-11) gave up his run in the first inning, which nearly turned disastrous after he got two quick outs. It was unfolding just like Barry Zitos last start, actually. But Lincecum got the result that Zito did not, as Wilin Rosario flied out with the bases loaded.The Rockies put Lincecum in the stretch in each of the next five innings, but he used his curveball to help set up his fastball.The defense made plays behind him, too. Center fielder Angel Pagan got a good jump to catch Tyler Colvins lineout in the third inning. Most notably, left fielder Melky Cabrera caught Dexter Fowlers fly ball and made a strong throw to cut down Rosario at the plate. Catcher Hector Sanchez held his ground and absorbed Rosarios slide while hanging onto the baseball, earning a hearty pat on the back from Lincecum as he walked gingerly off the field.Lincecum threw 104 pitches in his six innings. It was a much better result than the last time he pitched here April 11, when he retired just seven of 17 Rockies hitters in what amounted to the shortest start of his career.Bullpen reportWhat a badly needed outing for Sergio Romo.The right-hander found himself in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the seventh after George Kontos walked the only two batters he faced and Javier Lopez gave up an RBI single followed by a walk.But Romo stemmed the rally, throwing a backup slider that froze pinch hitter Matt McBride, then authoring one of his funhouse mirror-style slide pieces that Rosario swung through to end the inning.Romo had a 0.60 ERA in his first 38 appearances but hit a four-game skid in which he retired just nine of 19 batters faced. His ERA over that span went up from 0.60 to 2.20.He appeared to flush those bad vibes in the seventh, then went on to retire the Rockies in order in the eighth.Jeremy Affeldt got two quick outs in the ninth but couldnt finish, as he allowed an 0-2 single followed by a walk and an RBI single. Shane Loux entered and brought the series to a merciful conclusion for the locals.At the plateThe Giants acquired Pence to drive in runs, and thats exactly what he did. Pence hit an RBI groundout in the Giants two-run first inning and hit a double to each field while knocking in Cabrera in the fifth and seventh.Pence has five RBIs in five games as a Giant. This was his first game with multiple extra-base hits since June 24.Pences roller to second base and a passed ball allowed the Giants to take a 2-0 lead without the benefit of a hit. Rockies third baseman Jonathan Herrera bungled a potential double-play ball to set up the rally, and pitcher Tyler Chatwood had trouble throwing anywhere near the catchers glove.The Giants added a run in the fourth when Marco Scutaro and Sanchez drew walks, and after Scutaro tagged on Brandon Crawfords long fly out, Lincecum hit an RBI groundout.Pence took it from there, Scutaro added a two-run double in the seventh and Cabrera tripled in the ninth ahead of Poseys single to score his third run of the game.In fieldCabreras throw and Sanchezs block constituted the defensive play of the game in the fourth inning. As usual, Sanchez took his lumps while catching Lincecum. He got smacked on the right hand by a pitch in the first inning, and it must have numbed him up because he spiked one return throw to the mound and nearly sailed another one over Lincecums head.Sanchez singled on a curveball to lead off the second inning, though. So he mustve regained feeling in short order.AttendanceThe Rockies announced 28,804 paid. Two more months of baseball left in Denver. Jim Tracy is going to need that.Up nextThe Giants begin a four-game series Monday at Busch Stadium, with all the requisite heat and humidity of St. Louis in August. Matt Cain (10-4, 2.82) will have to tangle with NL RBI leader Carlos Beltran while opposing right-hander Jake Westbrook (10-8, 3.79). The Cardinals will send right-handers Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly and Adam Wainwright in the final three games of the series. Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner are lined up for the Giants.

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.

The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?

"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.

"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.

The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen. 

Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.

"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.

Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot. 

Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...

STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.

"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”

ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo

SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.

LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”

QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?

“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said. 

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Christian Arroyo’s fingers flew across the face of his iPhone in a scene that would not be out of place in any dorm room across the country. For a moment, he was simply a young man facing an online opponent on an app, but Arroyo is far from your average 21-year-old.

Arroyo was sitting in front of a locker where a No. 22 Giants jersey hangs as a sign of what the organization thinks of the infielder. A former MVP, Jimmy Rollins, dressed a few feet away. On a flatscreen TV hanging from the ceiling, a feed showed Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford practice bunting. That group is one Arroyo hopes to soon join.

“When you get drafted by a team, your goal is to be a guy that stays around for a while,” he said. “I love it here, and to be one of those guys down the road would be awesome. There’s a lot of work to be done to get to that point, and I understand it is a business and some things work out and some things don’t, but I would definitely love to be one of those guys.”

The Giants believe strongly that he will be. It’s why they ultimately felt they had coverage when Matt Duffy — once the fourth member of that group — was traded away in the seconds before the 2016 deadline. It’s why Arroyo is wearing Will Clark’s old number. It’s why Bruce Bochy broke into a wide smile when asked about Arroyo’s month in camp last spring, when he had 10 hits — including two homers — in 18 at-bats.

“Wow — I mean, he had an impressive spring, to the point where guys are going, ‘Maybe he can help us (now),’” Bochy said. “But he needed to go to (Double-A) Richmond and play. He’s not on our radar to make the club (this spring), but what he did last spring opened a lot of eyes.”

The Giants would like Arroyo to get a full season at Triple-A and general manager Bobby Evans said they don’t feel pressure to have their top hitting prospect in the opening day lineup in 2018. Eduardo Nuñez is in the final year of his contract, but Conor Gillaspie is under team control through next season. Still, Arroyo could be a fit as soon as this summer. 

“We’ll let his development dictate the pace of his rise to the big league level,” Evans said. 

The front office will continue to move Arroyo around the diamond in Triple-A, but his future is at third base and that’s where he’ll get most of his time this season. To make the transition, Arroyo — who was drafted as a shortstop — has at times turned to a player who was once blocking him. When bench coach Ron Wotus started working him in at third last spring, Arroyo started following the lead of the incumbent. 

“I was with Duffy on the back field and we were doing our infield work,” he said. “I started turning double plays and he said, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to slow it down over here. When you’re here, you have time. If you get a double-play ball just deliver a good throw to Joe. It’s not really the speed, it’s the area that you throw it, and let Joe turn two.’

“He’s a Gold Glove second baseman,” Arroyo continued. “He’s going to turn it every time. Once I started to realize that and started to slow everything down over there, my feet were under me and my angles on the throws were right.”

Arroyo continued to work on slowing the game down during his season in Richmond, where he played 48 games at third base, 48 at shortstop, and 19 at second. He is learning the nuances of positioning, and another spring in big league camp — where Wotus regularly helps veterans grow by leaps and bounds — will only help.

At the plate, the focus is on consistently having the right approach. Arroyo showed it last spring, when he fell behind 0-2 during a televised night game and then calmly worked a full count. When he got a cutter he could handle, Arroyo pulled a two-run homer over the bullpen. Several Giants compared the approach that night to Buster Posey’s, and during the season it was continually reinforced.

“When (team executives) would come into (Richmond) and you talk to them, they tell you very specifically the exact plan for the big league level,” Arroyo said. “'Hey, get on base, keep it moving, and make stuff happen.' I understand that when I’m making stuff happen I’m not hitting home runs, I’m hitting doubles and taking walks and taking the extra base. 

“Eventually, hopefully, when I grow into my body and get a little bit stronger down the road, doubles turn into home runs and I can make things happen that way. But for now I understand what kind of player I am at this age and I’m just going to try to stay consistent at what I do and let the other things fall into place.” 

That's the attitude the Giants want Arroyo to continue to take. It’s easy for a young player to get caught up in prospect rankings or homers and RBI, but the numbers that mean the most to the Giants are the ones on Arroyo’s driver’s license. Arroyo hit .274 with a .316 on-base percentage and .373 slugging last season, but he did so in a league where the average player was more than three years older.

“When you’re playing Double-A at the age of 21 and you have 36 doubles and good defense, it stands out,” Evans said. “We challenged him by moving him around, that’s a lot to take, and he had a good year. He has a good head on his shoulders and a good approach at the plate, and he’s only going to get stronger as he grows into a man’s body. Now he’s looking at Triple-A at the age of 22 — and he’ll still be the youngest player.”

Arroyo won’t mind that. The jump to Double-A last season was a challenge, and he was happy the Giants gave it to him. He’s ready for another jump, another season of trying to stay consistent against older and more experienced players. As Arroyo sat in the clubhouse Tuesday waiting for the on-field workout to start, one veteran infielder after another walked through the door. Nuñez, Gillaspie, Rollins, Aaron Hill and others will get most of the time at third base this spring. There are limited at-bats for the prospects, but Bochy doesn’t need to see much more from Arroyo — who is 14-for-26 in two springs — to know what’s on the way. 

“He showed he can handle the bat, third base, or wherever we put him,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of time with him.”