Bochy pens Game 1 lineup for Giants

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Bochy pens Game 1 lineup for Giants

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SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy faced just one tough decision in his starting lineup for Game 1 of the NL Division Series Saturday at AT&T Park against the Cincinnati Reds:

Does he take speed, defense and a left-handed matchup with Gregor Blanco? Or would he be swayed by Xavier Nady's career numbers (5 for 8, one home run) against Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto?

Despite a solid final road trip that included a couple surprising defensive plays, Nady will be on the bench. Bochy confirmed he'll go with Blanco as part of what will be a fairly standard lineup against a right-handed pitcher:

1) Angel Pagan (CF)
2) Marco Scutaro (2B)
3) Pablo Sandoval (3B)
4) Buster Posey (C)
5) Hunter Pence (RF)
6) Brandon Belt (1B)
7) Gregor Blanco (LF)
8) Brandon Crawford (SS)
9) Matt Cain (P)

"You do look at the numbers, but Blanco will be out there," Bochy said. "We'll have Nady on the bench. That's a tough call, it really is."

The Giants remain a pitching-and-defense team at its essence. Blanco is their best defender in left field, and despite a second-half nosedive, he had better at-bats while hitting .320 with a .393 on-base percentage over his final 14 games.

Putting Blanco in the lineup means the Giants will be tempted to carry another speed guy for the bench, especially if Aubrey Huff is on the team as a pinch hitter. Bochy hinted that he and his staff still needed to have a conversation or two before they set the roster; they might announce it after the workout, but they're not obligated to do so until three hours before the first pitch Saturday.

In other news, Bochy said he has spoken with all his starting pitchers and let them know the plan when the series shifts to Cincinnati for Game 3.

"We haven't announced it in case we want to tweak it," said Bochy, reiterating that Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong all could be used in relief in the first two games. "At least they have a good idea of ... if they don't pitch out of the bullpen, they know when they'll have a chance to pitch."

Finally, in case you hadn't heard, Game 2 on Sunday will start at 6:37 p.m. PDT. Same as Game 1.

Ex-Giants pitcher doesn't make Mariners rotation, optioned to Triple-A

Ex-Giants pitcher doesn't make Mariners rotation, optioned to Triple-A

Chris Heston's bid to make the Mariners' Opening Day rotation came up short.

The former Giants pitcher was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday morning, Seattle announced.

Traded by San Francisco to Seattle in December, Heston struggled in his first spring with the Mariners. The 28-year-old allowed 14 hits and nine earned runs in 11.2 innings over five appearances.

Heston, who was a major part of the Giants rotation in 2015, pitched in 38 games over three seasons in San Francisco. He compiled a 4.16 ERA and struck out 148 batters in 188 innings.

The highlight of Heston's time with the Giants came on June 9, 2015 when he no-hit the the Mets in New York. He struck out 11 and walked none, but hit three batters.

In addtion to Heston, the Mariners also re-assigned former Giants reliever Jean Machi and former A's pitcher Cody Martin.

 

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-Gyun Hwang’s day started with an ovation from teammates who had selected Hwang as the Barney Nugent Award winner. It ended in style, too. 

Hwang’s walk-off single in the ninth gave the Giants an 8-7 win and raised his spring average to .308. Barring an injury or sudden change, Hwang will not make the team out of camp, but he’ll travel to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series next week and the Giants expect him back at AT&T Park soon.

“He can keep the award now,” Bochy joked after Hwang’s walk-off. “Good for him. Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day.”

The Barney Nugent Award is given to the player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” It is meaningful in large part because the voters are teammates, trainers and coaches. Hwang was called to the middle of the clubhouse by trainer Dave Groeschner on Saturday morning to accept the award. 

“With this being my first time coming to spring training to play baseball, I wanted to work hard and show that I belong here,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I think my teammates have noticed how hard I’ve worked for the team.”

The rest of the Giants have also noticed how easy Hwang has made the transition look. He said that, outside of learning a new strike zone, the adjustment hasn’t been a difficult one. He has four homers this spring, but doesn’t necessarily view that as a shining positive. Hwang said he wants to show more of an all-around game, especially on defense, and a stint in Triple-A Sacramento should provide that opportunity. 

If the rosters play out as expected, Hwang should see most of the time at third base in Triple-A. He can also play first, and he’s eager to show that he’s viable in left field. 

“I want to show I’m a versatile player,” he said. 

GAME RECAP: Chris Stratton was having a good spring, but he got knocked around by the Padres early … Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford both hit deep homers in their second game back from the WBC … Mark Melancon still has not allowed a run this spring … Hunter Pence's March slump got a bit deeper with an 0-for-3 ... Bryan Reynolds, last year’s top pick, entered as a pinch-runner and flew home from first on a Gorkys Hernandez double off the wall. 

BULLPEN BATTLES: In the front office’s perfect world, Josh Osich would be the one to take over for Will Smith, giving the team a hard-throwing lefty capable of neutralizing lefties and righties. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Osich, but he was filthy Saturday, striking out a pair in his lone inning. 

George Kontos looked even better in his inning, striking out the side. Kontos has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this spring, with 15 strikeouts. He seems forever stuck in that sixth-seventh range, but given his splits have been just about even over the years, maybe it’s time the Giants see what he can do in a more high-profile role. 

Cory Gearrin followed the previous two with a perfect eighth. Neil Ramirez struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth. In 9 1/3 innings this spring, Ramirez has struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and two runs. He has a real shot to take someone’s job in the bullpen next week. 

ICYMI: The big news from this morning: Michael Morse will stick with the team and try to rehab/play his way back to the big leagues. And from the early afternoon, Johnny Cueto had a ton of fun with a 19-year-old he faced in a minor league game. 

NOTABLE: Bochy said that all of the players left in camp are slated to head home on the team flight Tuesday, but some guys have opt-outs on March 30, so moves are coming. This would seem a great sign for Aaron Hill, who is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Tuesday. Hill has slumped late in camp, but he’s still in position to make the team. Also noteworthy: Tyler Beede is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Oakland. The Giants surely want to knock some MLB-stadium-nerves off before Beede heads down to Triple-A to wait for a call-up.