Casilla available in emergency, Posey popular at ballot box

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Casilla available in emergency, Posey popular at ballot box

SAN DIEGO -- The Giants have lost the last six times with Tim Lincecum on the mound. They hope to save everyone's sanity and end that streak on what should be a pleasant night for baseball.

They'll have to continue to piece together the ninth inning in a save situation, though. Closer Santiago Casilla tested his bruised knee by throwing off a bullpen mound this afternoon, and although he was improved, he is available "only in an emergency," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Right-hander Sergio Romo is doing better with his own knee issues and is available, Bochy said.

In other news, Pablo Sandoval reported to Triple-A Fresno and is in the lineup as the cleanup hitter and third baseman for the Grizzlies. Sandoval met with the media and CSN Bay Area had representatives there. Check back for more coverage on that.

Finally, MLB released the first round of All-Star balloting totals. Melky Cabrera is fifth among NL outfielders and Sandoval is fourth among third basemen. The best showing, though, is Buster Posey. Not only is he second among catchers, but his 1,072,464 votes is right behind the Cardinals' Yadier Molina (1,100,048) for the lead. Atlanta's Brian McCann is third, with barely 700,000 votes.

Given how long Posey was out of everyone's consciousness last season, the voting is a good barometer of his popularity on a national level.

"It's always nice to be recognized by the fans," Posey told me. "It's early in the process, and as players you're always concentrating on doing the best you can to win ballgames. But it's definitely nice to be recognized."

Giants manager Bruce Bochy pointed out that a lot of NL catchers are having good seasons, including the Phillies' Carlos Ruiz (whose .368 average leads the league, just ahead of Cabrera at .364) and the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis. Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy was having a huge year before he broke his hand, too.

"So that's impressive that fans want to see Buster," Bochy said. "He should feel good about that."

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.