Bleary-eyed Giants, Cardinals ready for NLCS, etc.


Bleary-eyed Giants, Cardinals ready for NLCS, etc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- To his best recollection, Bruce Bochyshead hit the pillow around 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The Giants manager knowsfor sure he was awake by 9.

So youll forgive a bout of momentary confusion, such as whensomeone asked him about sharing the Sunday spotlight in the Bay Area with the49ers.

Yeah, Bochy said. Who are the Giants playing again?

He smiled as he realized his mistake.

Well, it is a bit confusing. the 49ers are playing thefootball Giants. The St. Louis Cardinals are playing the baseball Giants. Andwe probably shouldnt confound the situation, but the football Cardinals areplaying the Buffalo Bills.

Heres the important part: Bochys Giants and Mike MathenysCardinals both landed at San Francisco International Airport past 5 a.m. aftera crazy, hazy night for both clubs.

The Cardinals got on a plane after coming back from a 6-0deficit, refusing to bow out 13 times when down to their final strike, andscoring four in the ninth to stun the Washington Nationals Saturday night atNationals Park.

The Giants, stuck in Cincinnati following their clinchingcelebration Thursday night, watched the Nats rattle off a big lead from ahospitality suite in their hotel. They left around the sixth inning and by thetime they boarded their plane, the game was in the ninth.

The timing was perfect, Bochy said. Everything was goingwell.

Players watched the game on their iPads and phones. Severalwives and girlfriends were calling with updates, since the Internet broadcastwas delayed by a few seconds.

Oh, it was funny, Posey said. It was a sight to see. AndIll tell you what, whoever made the call to wait until the end of the game,that was a good idea. I was ready to take off to DC.

But the Cardinals worked a series of impossibly tough, grindingat-bats against Nationals closer Drew Storen. Posey watched carefully, knowinghe might have to game-plan to get these hitters out in two days.

I love watching games this time of year, Posey said. If Ican pick up even something subtle, it can lead to an advantage. Thats the funthing about baseball. Each game is so different. You have to be able to changeas the game progresses. I enjoy the chess match, you could say, of makingadjustments game to game, at-bat to at-bat and even within an at-bat.

RATTO: Posey, Molina: Different version of same guy

The Cardinals won and the Giants, while not necessarilyrooting for either team, were glad to be going home.

There was just one problem: The plane only had enough fuelto go to Washington. So they had to wait for a refueling truck to arrive. Thenthey had an even bigger problem: A hydraulic system didnt pass the pre-checkinspection, and it took almost three hours to repair it.

Bochys wife watched a whole movie before the plane tookoff. Were assuming it wasnt Gandhi.

Darn shame, Bochy said. We were going to get in before2.

Instead, they beat the Cardinals flight to the tarmac byjust a few minutes. Hey, at least theyre all in the same boat. (Yes, thats amixed metaphor. Im sleep-deprived too, OK?)

Jeremy Affeldt threw off a bullpen mound and said he feltfine, but his left thumb was wrapped and his entire hand was immobilized in asplint that ran up his forearm.

Bochy didnt expect to have to replace Affeldt on the NLCSroster, which is due at 10 a.m. But the manager wasnt ruling anything out withhis calamitous lefty, who is more injury prone than Scooby Doo surrounded byball bearings and banana peels.

He thinks hell be back to normal, Bochy said. But hestill has to go home and cook or something tonight.

The Cardinals will not change their roster from the NLDS,Matheny said.

Matheny said the dugout even before the Cardinals begantheir comeback was borderline high school football in its intensity andrelentless positive energy.

And to think, they dont even have a Hunter Pence.

STUHLBARG: Beltran shies from pence comparison, expects 'crazy' fans

Someone sent Brandon Belt a video file of his play inCincinnati, when he dived into the stands chasing a foul ball. As Belt wasstretched out over the railing, a young lady seized the opportunity to slapBelts uh posterior.

I never even felt it, said Belt, who found the cliphilarious.

Posey told an interesting story. He said when he waslearning to catch his sophomore year at Florida State, nothing helped him morethan watching major league games on TV.

Id try to study how guys set up with runners on base, howthey framed pitches, Posey said.

When Posey arrived in big league spring training, what tapes did bullpen catcher Bill Hayes send to him?

"Old video of Matheny," Posey said. "Billy raved about the way he blocked balls."

OK, I lied. Heres one more gem from Game 5 in Cincinnati,courtesy of our Drew Shiller:

Buster Poseys grand slam landed in the second deck at GreatAmerican Ball Park, 434 feet away.

Poseys first career home run came June 9, 2010. It landedin the second deck at Great American Ball Park, 439 feet away.

That last one traveled 5 feet shorter, but carried him so much higher.

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.”

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his season managing Barry Bonds, Bruce Bochy watched the slugger get intentionally walked 43 times. 

“There were (managers) who had the (signal) up before he even got to the batter’s box,” Bochy said Wednesday. 

That’s part of the reason Bochy is completely on board with a new rule stating that managers only have to signal for an intentional walk. The elimination of the four pitches has been approved by MLB and the MLBPA, with the caveat that a manager can change his mind in the middle of the plate appearance. 

“I’m fine with it,” Bochy said. “I know a few pitchers are happy because they kind of have a thing about throwing (those pitches), not on our team, but last year it happened to us and we didn’t go. I’m fine with it.”

It’s rare that an intentional ball would go to the backstop, but the Giants experienced it last year against the Yankees. Dellin Betances threw wide as he tried to put Brandon Crawford on and Angel Pagan didn’t react quickly enough to score from third. 

Bochy met with league officials last week to go over some of the new rules and ideas, and he said he wants MLB to keep pushing to cut the time of games. 

“We talk about it so much but we really haven’t done a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m all for (limiting mound visits). I’m all for it, I am. It’s gotten more and more popular in the game. It used to be the catcher, and now it’s the catcher and infielders, and they go to the mound and come back and then the pitching coach goes out there.”

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is currently slated to start Friday’s Cactus League opener, with Matt Cain also throwing an inning. Ty Blach will start Saturday, Matt Moore and Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and Jeff Samardzija will start Monday. It’s possible that 18 or 20 different pitchers will take the mound over the first two days since almost all of them will be scheduled for just three outs. With the exception of Will Smith, every projected Giant should see the field this weekend. Hunter Pence is the only guy who has been held back at all, but his intercostal issue has cleared up. Pence put several on the left-field berm during BP on Wednesday.

“Hunter wants to (play Friday). He's ready to go,” Bochy said. “I’ll make that call tomorrow once I talk to the staff, but Hunter assured me he’s a full go with no limitations, and he really wants to play.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Bochy took the van over to the minor league facility to watch some of the projected Triple-A players take part in live BP. Jae-gyun Hwang hit a homer off Jose Dominguez during his session. 

“He’s a guy that rotates (well) and he’s got good power,” Bochy said. “He can go the other way. He’s got some bat control. He’s got a nice swing.”

Over on the main field, Gorkys Hernandez hit an impressive homer to left-center. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Smith is being held out of workouts. Reporters spoke to him in the afternoon and he said there’s no concern. Also, here’s a podcast with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t … there’s a very popular Giant coming soon.

QUOTABLE: Smith missed time last season because he tore a knee ligament while taking his shoe off, so this spring’s speed bump is somewhat easier to take. He had a message for the trainers: “I said I’m going to sit down every day this spring,” when I take my shoes off.