Cabrera breaks out, homers from both sides

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Cabrera breaks out, homers from both sides

GLENDALE, Ariz. Melky Cabreras interviews are drier thana tumbleweed in a haboob. He won't quip his way to celebrity in the Bay Area.Hitting two home runs in his first game against thearchrival Los Angeles Dodgers? Now that might quicken a few hearts.Cabrera introduced himself to Giants fans in the best possible way Tuesday. He homeredfrom both sides of the plate at dust-blown Camelback Ranch, first smacking ano-doubter against left-hander Ted Lilly and later connecting off right-handerRamon Troncoso.He is 5-for-9 with two homers and two doubles in threeCactus League games. Its enough to make him smile.Barely.His postgame interview with a handful of reporters, with thehelp of translator Erwin Higueros, went something like this:Im here to work.But are you having fun?Yes. But Im here to work.Cabrera, 27, has played in the U.S. for parts of sevenseasons with the Yankees, Braves and Royals. So you might assume his English isfunctional. But Cabrera has only conducted a couple of group interviews, all bone-dryaffairs with the help of an interpreter.Its not an act to avoid the media, either.This was my first time playing the outfield with him, saidright fielder Nate Schierholtz, who clumped with Cabrera and left fielder EmmanuelBurriss during a pitching change. I asked him a few questions, and Im notsure he understood them. Hes just really, really quiet.Cabrera has good reason to be serious. Hell be a free agentafter the season. If he can compile anything close to the numbers he did lastyear in a breakout campaign with the Kansas City Royals (200-plus hits,100-plus runs, better than .300 from both sides of the plate), hell sethimself up to make a lot of money.All fine and good. But nothing wrong with winning a littlelove from the home fans, too. Right?Ive been told the fans are great but I show up to do mywork, Cabrera said in Spanish. I concentrate and thats what I do for everyteam I play. Thats what I appreciate, the manager giving me the opportunity toplay every day.He is seizing the opportunity thus far. He also owns perhapsthe best defensive play by a Giant in five exhibition games, when he unleashed astrike to the plate to throw out Arizonas Justin Upton by 15 feet on Friday.
He just looks very confident, Giants manager Bruce Bochysaid. Coming off a good year, he should. You dont have a year like thatwithout being a good player. He just does his thing. Hes very humble, doesntsay a lot. He gets his work in.As for his switch-hitting power display? Thats a rarity.Its been done in a regular-season game by a Giant just three times in the last19 years (Randy Winn twice, Ray Durham once).Cabrera has homered from both sides of the plate once in his big league career, on April22, 2009, for the Yankees. He never reached his potential in pinstripes. Hemight be doing it now.I dont care if its spring training. Thats impressive,Bochy said. Few guys have done that.His fast start aside, it's a bit dishonest to expect Cabrera to be an offensive savior. His breakout season is an outlier given his career context and his on-base percentage last year was almost entirely reliant on getting hits. (It was just .339 despite a .305 average; he walked 35 times in 706 plate appearances.)Much has been made of Cabrera's speed, but he was caught 10 times out of 30 stolen-base attempts. So his efficiency on the basepaths is nothing to crow about, either.Funny, but those things don't mean much to fans when you slug two home runs against the Dodgers. Especially if Cabrera is able to do it at sold-out AT&T Park.How much fun would that be?
I am having fun, he said, not changing his expression. Ilike the guys here. I like the team. I like to have fun.But I also like to concentrate to do the best job I can.

Down on the Farm: From College World Series hero to Giants Triple-A

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USATSI

Down on the Farm: From College World Series hero to Giants Triple-A

Some Twitter bios are better than others. 

Baseball is something I do, not who I am. 

"Our jobs can't define us as who we are," Michael Roth says from the Raley Field clubhouse before a Sacramento River Cats win. "For me, that's really just what it means. My identity is not my sport. 

"That doesn't mean that if I go out there and I get shelled, that I don't get upset, but it just means that I'm not going to take that home with me. That's the biggest thing and that's what it means to me. Baseball is not my identity, I'm not going to wrap my life in it. While I love it and enjoy it, I'm just not gonna hinge on every game as to whether I'm a failure or success." 

Every June, college baseball's elite come to Omaha, Neb. aiming to do what Roth accomplished at the College World Series. As a team, that would be winning the national championship — twice in Roth's case. As a player, that would be turning into a superstar. 

Long before he earned a single cent for playing the game, Roth was signing autographs for more than just fans of his South Carolina Gamecocks on his way into the record books. 

"You’re pretty much famous while you’re there," Roth said. "The College World Series is about as big league as it gets when you’re not in the big leagues. Playing in front of 25,000 people, the fans are really good fans, they’re really into the game no matter if it’s your fans traveling or just the people in Omaha." 

Roth's College World Series career ended with three straight trips from his sophomore season to his senior season (2010-12) and was crowned a champion twice with legendary numbers. They are as follows: 10 appearances (third most ever), eight starts (record), three starts in a championship game (record), four wins (second most ever), 60.1 innings pitched (record), and a 1.49 ERA (fourth best ever with minimum 30 innings pitched). 

Roth's collision course to domination was not an excepted one, especially on the mound. In fact, he wasn't even recruited to South Carolina as a pitcher. 

"I was recruited to South Carolina as a first baseman and didn’t really perform well enough in fall to even merit much contention so I really pitched out of necessity my freshman year," Roth said. 

The lefty still managed to hit in 13 games as a freshman, batting just .154. On the mound, he turned out a solid 4.22 ERA with a 1-1 record after pitching in 16 games and starting two.  

That next season in 2010, the legend began. 

When he came back to campus as a sophomore, Roth was still plenty focused on trying to be an everyday first baseman. One day while turning double plays at first, then pitching coach Mark Calvi saw a way to make Roth into a force on the hill.

"He saw me and said, ‘Have you ever thought about dropping down?’ I’m like ‘Hell no, what are you thinking?’ He made me do it right then and there, go throw sidearm in the bullpen," Roth said. 

That lefty sidearm slot saw Roth, who is far from a flamethrower, sling unhittable pitches to the tune of an ERA just above one. He was the ultimate lefty specialist until South Carolina needed him the most for much more than a quick outing out of the ‘pen.

With South Carolina facing elimination against rival Clemson in the College World Series, the starting rotation was out of arms. Before he knew it, coach Calvi came up to his All-American reliever and named Roth the day's starting pitcher for the first time that season with one simple message: "Hey, just go out there and pitch." 

The plan was for Roth to go a couple innings so South Carolina could use a bullpen by committee approach. Next thing you know, Roth is through three innings. The plan seems perfect. Then five innings. Okay, this is a lot better than any plan. He's dealing, keep him in. Roth not only perfected the plan, he was more than perfect, better than any expectations that were placed upon him. He saved the season with a complete game, allowing only three hits in a 5-1 win. 

South Carolina went on to beat UCLA in the championship, starting its run of three straight appearances in the finals, winning again in 2011 before losing in 2012.

Now at 27 years old and pitching with the Sacramento River Cats as part of the San Francisco Giants' Triple-A team, Roth knows the questions are coming around this time of year. His left arm earned its legend as an amateur and instead of run from the past, his eyes are set on the present while appreciating how he came to this point. 

"I guess in a sense my career did take off in the College World Series because if it weren’t for that, I’m not sure if I’d even be here as a starting pitcher or as a pitcher in general," Roth says. "It’s kind of interesting how life’s events take you with things like that in big moments.” 

Less than a year after being selected by the Angels in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, Roth made his MLB debut against the Astros, pitching two perfect innings while striking out four straight at one point. The dream was made, but he also learned the realities of pro baseball compared to college. 

"As far as from a career perspective, college baseball really teaches you how to go out there and compete and go out there and win," Roth explains. "Pro baseball is much more individualized. 

"It still sucks if you come to the park every day and get your ass kicked. But it’s just more individual in its nature, it’s more of a business." 

After the 2014 season, the Angels released Roth. He has made it to the bigs with two teams — the Angels and Rangers — but the Giants signing him in November 2016 made them Roth's fourth organization since 2012. 

The Giants were particularly intriguing to Roth in the offseason as they weren't set on him being a starter or reliever, creating flexibility and hopefully another path to the majors. Roth has pitched in 13 games this year for Sacramento, starting nine, and holds a 4-4 record with a 4.12 ERA in the highly hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. 

The journey has been stardom in college with peaks and valleys as a pro. For Roth though, it still comes down to that message coach Calvi said to him as he started his status among the College World Series greats — make pitches, throw strikes, get outs. 

"Whether you throw mid to upper 90s or 88 to 92 like I throw, I think it's really just attacking the zone," he says. "That's something I focus on every time out there. It's going right at them and not trying to be too fine and make a perfect pitch. A good pitch is good enough, I don't need to make a perfect pitch."

The stats will always be there. The memories too. Records are meant to be broken, but plenty of his might as well be etched in stone. The game, the numbers have been how others see him yet it's not all who Michael Roth is — just like he showed by spending three months in Spain after winning the 2011 national championship — no matter how many South Carolina fans sit around bars talking about what his left arm did in Omaha, no matter when he's back in the big leagues and no matter how long he toes the rubber.

Baseball is something I do, not who I am. 

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job.