Baker equates 2012 Reds to 2002 Giants

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Baker equates 2012 Reds to 2002 Giants

SAN FRANCISCO -- Long ago, basketball Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell shared with Dusty Baker the secret to winning with consistency: The players have to genuinely love each other.

Baker returns to San Francisco -- the place he played for one season and managed for 10 -- with the sole focus of ending the Giants' 2012 campaign. Not a loving scenario, but a decade after leading the Orange and Black to the World Series, Baker is plenty familiar with what it looks like when a team has clubhouse magic.

"Every team is different," Baker said. "I like this team. I genuinely like this team. It reminds me of the (2002) team I had (in San Francisco), when you genuinely like the players and they genuinely like each other. They can take you a long way by liking each other."

RATTO: Dusty isn't San Francisco's story anymore

Also similar to the 2002 Giants team, the 2012 Reds boast an MVP bat in the middle of the lineup. But 2010's most valuable National League player Joey Votto is limping into the playoffs after a 1-for-9 October. His manager isn't showing concern.

"Joey's trying to get his stroke," Baker acknowledged. "But you don't know. Joey might be setting you guys up."

Votto has 81 career at-bats in AT&T Park and just two home runs. His .284 average in San Francisco is a ball and chain on his .316 career average. Unlike Votto, though, Reds' Game 1 starter Johnny Cueto has enjoyed success on the shores of McCovey Cove.

It's a small sample size with just two career starts, but Cueto's 1.38 ERA suggest he enjoys pitching in San Francisco quite well.

"This is a big ballpark," Cueto said through an interpreter. "It's a pitching ballpark. I like to pitch here."

Based on the three-hitter he threw their way in Cincinnati last July, Cueto just likes facing the Giants. But the team he silenced over a year ago was decidedly different than the lineup he'll face on Saturday, specifically for the lack of Buster Posey and Hunter Pence in the heart of the order.

"I don't think anything (of the Giants' current lineup)," Cueto said with a smile. "All I have to do is do my job. I don't see the lineup. I don't know who is going to be in the lineup (Saturday). I have to do my job and they have to do their job."

Just minutes before, his manager explained how he needed to conserve energy so he could do his job. Baker, whose irregular heartbeat landed him in a hospital just in time for the mini-stroke he suffered two weeks ago, expects to be his active and involved self when the games begin.

"Assuredly so," Baker insisted, and you knew he meant it.

REWIND: Baker suffers mini-stroke
Baker, 63, is admittedly seeing the world with more appreciation after his latest flirtation with the Reaper, and the man who survived prostate cancer in 2000 is happy to be back in the Bay Area.

"This is my home," Baker said. "People know that I'm from here. My wife's from here. I still live here, part time. I don't know, I just like the people here. I like the attitude, it's my crowd of people."

Don't think Baker is entertaining thoughts of retiring back to his Sacramento home, though. While his contract is up when the Reds' season ends, he plans on managing an MLB team for a 20th time next year. After postseason butterflies woke him -- against his preference -- at 6 a.m. Friday morning, Baker doesn't feel like his skills, or passion, are slipping. Just the opposite, in fact.

"I feel like I'm getting better," Baker stated confidently.

It's a scary thought for the man who is 20th all-time in wins and second only to Jim Leyland among active managers. Bruce Bochy is third on that list, trailing Baker by 131 victories.

The 2012 NLDS will pit two of baseball's elite managers against each other, managers who have fostered healthy clubhouse environments and winning attitudes in their respective cities.

The games in the best-of-five series will ultimately rule which clubhouse cultured more love, but it will be clear before the first pitch how much appreciation Baker receives from his home town crowd.

"We'll see if they still love me on Sunday," Baker said with a smile. "If we're 2-0, we'll see."

Giants place Melancon on DL, make series of roster moves

Giants place Melancon on DL, make series of roster moves

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mark Melancon's outing Tuesday night was one of his best of a rough year. The momentum didn't last long. 

Melancon was placed on the disabled list Wednesday morning with the same right pronator strain that cost him 12 games in May. To help out a pitching staff that covered 14 innings Tuesday, the Giants called starter Dan Slania up from Double-A. 

Melancon struck out two in Tuesday's win. After a shaky start to his season, he has three straight scoreless outings, with just one hit allowed and three strikeouts. 

"He threw great last night, had good stuff," manager Bruce Bochy said. "But he showed up and he could really feel it (today). We need to get this behind us."

Bochy said he hopes Melancon is back when his 10 days on the DL are up, but that seems very, very optimistic. Melancon is going for an MRI, and given the team's record, there's no reason for him to rush back. 

In the meantime, Sam Dyson, designated for assignment by the Rangers just a few weeks ago, is the team's closer. Dyson has been sharp since coming to San Francisco and he threw well the previous two games. He is not expected to be available Wednesday because of the heavy recent workload. Hunter Strickland could fill in for a day. 

Slania, is a hulking 25-year-old right-hander who was added to the 40-man roster in the offseason after a big 2016. Listed at 6-foot-5, 275 pounds, Slania was moved from the bullpen to rotation last season and promptly posted a 1.48 ERA in 10 starts. He was promoted to Triple-A this season but struggled and was sent back to Richmond. Slania has a 6.44 ERA in 15 starts this year but the Giants were short on options. 

Tyler Beede, the likely first choice, threw eight innings for Sacramento on Monday and would not have been available today. Joan Gregorio is on the disabled list with a back injury that will cost him at least a month. Slania is here to help a tired bullpen, and it's likely another move will come this weekend, when the Giants also have to activate Eduardo Nuñez. For now, Bochy said the staff is hoping to get a look at Slania and see if there's a tweak that can be made at the big league level.

Down on the Farm: Now healthy, Steven Duggar joining San Jose Giants

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USATSI

Down on the Farm: Now healthy, Steven Duggar joining San Jose Giants

Madison Bumgarner pitched in his first rehab game to a bunch of terrified teenagers in the Arizona Rookie League on Sunday, making one poor soul sweat tears through his batting gloves and toss his bat into Monday.

While Bumgarner being back on the hill in a game was the biggest news, there was another name to know on the Arizona Rookie League Giants that day. 

The plan is for one of the Giants’ top prospects, Steven Duggar, to join the San Jose Giants in Advanced Single-A on Wednesday, NBC Sports Bay Area has learned. He went hitless in three at-bats in the Arizona Rookie League while walking twice in his first two games of the season after dealing with a flexor strain in his forearm that kept him out for an extended period, plus hamstring tightness. 

Duggar, a 23-year-old center fielder, is ranked as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 10 by Baseball America. 

The Giants’ sixth-round pick in 2015 out of Clemson is the franchise’s closest center fielder to the major leagues. Ever since the draft he’s answered the call at every challenge handed to him. 

In 2016, Duggar excelled in San Jose and in Double-A Richmond after earning a promotion. 

Duggar batted .284 with a .386 on-base percentage and a .462 slugging percentage while hitting nine home runs in 70 games for San Jose. Though his power fell in Richmond’s pitcher’s park to only one more home run, Duggar kept on hitting at Double-A. He slashed .321/.391/.432 with 78 hits in 60 games.

Duggar joined the Giants for his first big-league camp this spring training and impressed at the plate. The switch-hitter went 4-for-12 with a double and two stolen bases in 11 games. He even showed a keen eye at the plate, walking four times to help his .500 on-base percentage. 

San Jose is now the home of the Giants’ top two center field prospects in Duggar and Bryan Reynolds. In his last four games, Reynolds has been on fire at the plate, hitting .500 (10-for-20) with eight RBI. It will be interesting to see how two key pieces to the Giants’ future fit in the same outfield. Duggar played primarily in right field with San Jose last season — 60 games to five in center — but then Richmond penciled him exclusively in center field. Reynolds has played 43 games in center, 11 in right and two in left field this year with San Jose.

If it weren’t for his injuries Duggar sustained in the spring, he most likely would have started off the season in Triple-A Sacramento and could have easily found his way to San Francisco’s revolving door of outfielders. Expect him to join Sacramento’s outfield after not too long in San Jose. With the front office taking a hard look at their young players, it would be nice to see Duggar earn a September call-up for the Giants as the team continues to evaluate their future options in the outfield. 

Around The Horn 

—  Jae-Gyun Hwang is officially with the Giants. The former star in Korea has an opt-out in his contract on July 1 and the Giants decided it was time to see how his bat transfers to the majors. Hwang hit .287/.333/.476 for Sacramento in 68 games and knocked his seventh and final Triple-A home run in his last game with the team. 

— Giants top pitching prospect Tyler Beede tossed his best game of the season on Monday night. After coming off a performance in which he allowed seven earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings pitched, Beede went a season-high eight innings where he only allowed two earned runs — off two solo shots — and struck out seven batter to two walks. 

— Giants top catching prospect Aramis Garcia has gone 3-for-7 in San Jose’s last two games. All three hits went over the fence, giving him 11 home runs on the season.