Bochy maps out pitching thoughts for NLCS

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Bochy maps out pitching thoughts for NLCS

Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest, today at 4 p.m. leading up to first pitch of NLCS Game 2, and again following the final out, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum gave a thumbs-up to Bruce Bochy when he arrived Monday, telling his manager he'd be available to pitch in relief one day after delivering two innings out of the bullpen.

Bochy reserved the right to do whatever he deems necessary to win Game 2. But he said his strong preference is to hold back Lincecum for a Game 4 start at St. Louis.

"We'd like to have that option if we decide to go that way," Bochy said. "We'll do all we can to win this one. And we also have Barry Zito if we use Timmy."

If the Giants can hold off using Lincecum until a Game 4 start, then Bochy would have the luxury to choose a Game 5 starter from among Zito and Madison Bumgarner, whose stuff has been flat ever since mid-September.

Does Bochy already have his mind made up between Zito and Bumgarner, should he have that choice?

"No," Bochy said. "It's still a decision."

Bochy did not sound ready to throw in the towel with Bumgarner, who has delivered two poor starts while the Giants have lost all three home playoff games thus far. But he acknowledged he has discussed the innings workload on the 23-year-old left-hander with pitching coach Dave Righetti.

RELATED: Madison Bumgarner 2012 game logs

"Any time you're at this time of year, especially with a young pitcher like Madison, you'll have that conversation," Bochy said. "I remember having them about Timmy. So have we had those conversations? Yeah."

Shutting down Bumgarner hasn't been a part of those talks, though.

"If I thought the stuff had dropped that dramatically, I'd worry about it," Bochy said. "He still has good stuff. He's just making some mistakes. He still has stuff to execute his pitches. It's not like he's throwing 85-86 mph. His delivery gets out of sync at times. That does concern you a little bit."

Bumgarner's biggest foible wasn't the two-run home run he served up to Carlos Beltran in the fourth inning. It was the 0-2 fastball he threw over the plate to the previous batter, Jon Jay, who extended the inning with a single. Bumgarner had thrown two nasty pitches before the fat one.

Bumgarner mentioned after his start that he had to compete better with diminished stuff and reduce his workload between starts. That has been a key, Bochy said, since young players often try to throw more between starts to iron out issues.

RELATED: Andrew Baggarly's Couch-bound observations from Game 1

The Cardinals certainly didn't have any dragging arms out there in their 6-4 victory in Game 1. I asked Bochy if he was surprised that his hitters were thrown such an overwhelming number of fastballs.

"That's who they are," Bochy said. "We knew that. They're power arms. They're cranking it up there from 95 to 100. The one guy (Edward Mujica) who doesn't can throw 93 with a good split and slider. That's an impressive bullpen."

As for Chris Carpenter, he's not going to throw 95 mph after making just three regular-season starts. But the reports indicate he's got his previous movement.

"He'll run it, sink it, throw a cutter and changeup," Bochy said. "Still the good movement he's always had, just not with the previous velocity."

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One other pregame note: Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso were teammates on the same 5-year-old pee-wee soccer team. Crawford was asked what position he played.

"I think at 5 you kind of rotate positions," he said, to laughs.

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.