Bochy makes passionate defense of Pence, etc.

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Bochy makes passionate defense of Pence, etc.

Programming note: Tune into Comcast SportsNet Bay Area after the final out of tonight's Game 4 for Giants October Quest, with highlights and reaction from St. Louis!

ST. LOUIS Everybody needs a motivational talk sometimes.Even motivational speakers.

So Giants manager Bruce Bochy took aside Hunter Pence, whohasnt driven in a run in eight postseason games and called himself the goatafter stranding five runners in the 3-1 loss in Game 3 Wednesday night.

Bochy dropped Pence in the order, from fifth to sixth. He said it never entered his mind to drop Pence entirely.

Instead, Bochy flip-flopped the middle of his order, moving Buster Posey up to third and entrusting Pablo Sandoval with Pence's former duty -- makingsure the NL batting champ would get pitches to hit.

Hector Sanchez is hitting fifth; Posey is playing first base,replacing Brandon Belt in the lineup.

Xavier Nady has a .391 career average against Cardinalsright-hander Adam Wainwright, but Bochy did not consider starting him. The manager iscasting his lot with Pence, who drove in over 100 runs in the regular seasonand fires up his teammates with passionate speeches amid a high school huddleprior to every playoff game.

And heres why:

Certain players, I believe, you need in the lineup, Bochysaid. I believe you need them for their energy and for how much theirteammates respect them and how they play the game. I dont believe, except on therare occasion, you sit a player like that unless hes absolutely lost.

If you have an everyday player who gives you everything hesgot and you know how much he means to a club, then I think he should be outthere.

You can debate whether Pence and absolutely lost belongin the same sentence. If that's your contention, youd have some evidence based on his at-bats and theway hes tapping out on one outside slider after another.

But Bochy said he likes the way Pence is staying aggressiveand not cheating himself with his swings.

Those guys are dangerous hitters because they may expandthe zone, but they also can hit a pitch out of the zone, Bochy said. I alsolook at the makeup of a player and how they carry themselves. To me, that meansa lot.

Hes taking his swings. Now, if you have a player whosfrozen up there, or caught in between, thats more of a concern. If youregoing to go down, go down swinging. Thats the typeof player he is.

Bochy did not mention Belts name, but you couldn't miss the inference. Belt struck out lookingand shook his head at the umpire after taking a borderline pitch in the seventhinning to strand two runners. Pence proceeded him by going down swinging.

Its possible likely, even that Sanchez will startbehind the plate in Game 5, too, when Barry Zito takes the mound. Both Zito hasthrown to Sanchez almost exclusively this season; Game 4 starter Lincecum and Posey have beenbatterymates only a few times since the All-Star break.

Well see how it goes tonight, Bochy said.

--
Madison Bumgarner is in Lincecum's former long relief role, beginning now. Bochy said Bumgarner is "in a good place" after a couple of bullpen sessions. It's hard to imagine we'll see the same pitcher until he gets an offseason to rest and recharge, though.

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have put a focus this spring on getting Brandon Crawford ready for the World Baseball Classic, which meant a slight surprise for the first lineup of the new year. Crawford is hitting leadoff in Friday's exhibition opener so he can potentially get extra at-bats. Crawford and Buster Posey will leave camp in early March to represent the United States in the WBC. 

Manager Bruce Bochy went heavy on the regulars in the exhibition opener. Crawford is one of six likely opening day starters to play right away:

Crawford SS
Panik 2B
Belt 1B
Pence RF
Morse DH
Parker LF
Gillaspie 3B
Hundley C
Hernandez CF

Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch an inning Friday against the visiting Reds, followed by Clayton Blackburn, Steven Okert, Derek Law, Cory Gearrin and others. The opener is meaningful to a couple of players fighting for spots. Michael Morse, the DH, is trying to make the team as a left fielder/first baseman. Jarrett Parker is trying to beat out Morse, Mac Williamson and others for the starting spot in left. 

The Giants are facing a Reds team full of prospects, including the starter, right-hander Rookie Davis, who was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Former Giant Adam Duvall is hitting fourth for Cincinnati. 

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.