Clinch looking like a cinch as Giants roll over Padres


Clinch looking like a cinch as Giants roll over Padres


SAN FRANCISCO What the heck happened to these Giants?

Winning nine out of 10? Going 24-10 since Melky Cabrerassuspension? Putting themselves in position to celebrate a division title asearly as Saturday, with another 10 games remaining in the season?

This is no way at all to torture a fan base, is it?

Weve been playing the right kind of ball, said PabloSandoval, who has a contact zone the size of an industrial freezer once more.Everything is going our way.

Including Sandoval. Including Ryan Vogelsong. If anythingmore broke the Giants way, Brian Wilson would levitate to the mound onSaturday and start shredding bats with 96-mph heat.

OK, so that wont happen. But what is happening is theGiants most sustained run of solid baseball since 2003. They continued rightalong in a 5-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday.

And Vogelsong needed it. He held the Padres to a run in sixhigh-quality innings after posting a 10.31 ERA over his previous seven starts.

Im gonna sleep for the first time in about a month, Illtell you that, Vogelsong said.

He mixed a 94 mph fastball with a moving two-seamer and achangeup that mostly settled in the right corners.

Ive been trying to tweak some stuff for awhile, Vogelsongsaid. I finally found something that felt comfortable and was easy to repeat.I got kind of twisted around along the way.

The Giants postseason rotation is all bunched up, too.There seems little doubt that Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum wouldopen a division series likely in that order. But would Barry Zito orVogelsong be the No. 4 starter?

A case can be made for starting Zito and keeping Vogelsongready to piggyback him. Vogelsong has much more experience in relief, andalthough he is ultra-intense on the days he pitches, he is lessroutine-oriented than Zito is.

Carrying all five starters could allow the Giants to openwith an 11-man staff, if manager Bruce Bochy is so inclined, and still have aseven-man bullpen since one of the starters would pitch in relief. That couldallow Bochy to carry Aubrey Huff, which seems likely, and still have a pinchrunner to caddy for him.

Asked if he is thinking about his role in the postseason,Vogelsong did not hesitate in offering his response.

No because things work themselves out, he said. If Imnot in the rotation, hopefully Im in the bullpen and if thats the way it is,thats the way it is. I said it last year: My ultimate goal is to win a ring.

You start by winning a division. And with the magic numberat two, the Giants could be ready for a soaking if they win and the Dodgerslose their earlier game at Cincinnati.

Thatd be nice, said outfielder Gregor Blanco, asked aboutwalking into the ballpark with a chance to clinch. I think we deserve it.Weve been playing hard the whole year, through ups and downs. We just hopeits tomorrow.

The Giants are ready to spill bottles. They also want tofind a way to bottle up the way theyre playing.

Sandoval, benched barely more than a week ago because of hisstruggles at the plate and inconsistency in the field, is starting to become acontact-crazy force at the plate once more. He singled at a ball near his eyes,dug out another single on a low pitch and cranked a two-run home run in thesixth inning his fourth homer in three games.

Another pitch out of the zone?

No, no, it was right in the middle, he said, laughing. Ivebeen seeing the ball well. Ive been working hard every single day in the cage.I want to get my timing going and Im seeing the results of the work Ive beendoing. Im happy right now.

When youre swinging well, things are going right.

No torture required.

Giants spring training Day 39: Nuñez receives pair of cortisone shots

Giants spring training Day 39: Nuñez receives pair of cortisone shots

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford will return to camp Thursday, show off their WBC championship medals, and then head to nearby Salt River Fields to take on the Colorado Rockies. It'll be a few more days, however, before the Giants have their full infield on the field. 

Eduardo Nuñez said he actually got two cortisone shots in his right shoulder, since an MRI this week showed “something” in two separate spots. Nuñez asked for the MRI because, while he was able to play and make strong throws, he felt pain on a daily basis. He might DH this weekend, but it'll be a few more days before he's cleared to begin throwing. 

The Giants are hopeful that the shots calm all this down, and Nuñez anticipated being ready for Opening Day. Still, it certainly sounds like this will be a close call. Conor Gillaspie, who is having a huge spring, could get plenty of early time at third. Manager Bruce Bochy doesn't anticipate Nuñez missing Opening Day.

"He should be ready," Bochy said. 

The Giants need all the good injury news they can get. It is expected that Will Smith will announce Friday that he's having Tommy John surgery. 

ICYMI: From this morning, a feature on George Kontos and his rise over the last few years. 

Also, one of the bench candidates, Gordon Beckham, asked for his release. The Giants will soon have to make decisions on Hill and David Hernandez, who have similar retention bonuses due March 28.

GAME RECAP: The Giants played one of their uglier games of the spring, losing 9-2 to King Felix and the Mariners … Matt Moore lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits, two walks, a balk and a wild pitch. It was the same old thing: Moore just all of a sudden lost his command, and because he got up past the 30-pitch mark in the second inning alone, the Giants cut it off. Moore went down to the bullpen and got up to around 80 pitches. He'll make one more start down here, Tuesday against the Cubs ... Joe Panik had a hard double, one of just four hits for the Giants … Chris Marrero hasn’t played a whole lot of left field this spring, and he didn’t show much to the coaches on a couple of opportunities to throw home. The left field situation remains a mystery. 

POSITION BATTLES: Kelby Tomlinson played six innings of left field in a minor league game, and he had to wait until the sixth to get his first and only fly ball. There seemed to be a lot of interest from decision-makers about how Tomlinson fared, and his action today opens up an intriguing possibility. There’s a roster permutation that has the Giants keeping just one reserve outfielder (Gorkys Hernandez) and three backup infielders: Conor Gillaspie, Aaron Hill and Kelby Tomlinson, with the latter two being options in left field. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Angel Pagan made it through the WBC healthy, and he apparently is drawing interest from the Phillies and Blue Jays. Giants people are confident Pagan will get a big league job somewhere over the coming week. 

Giants reliever Will Smith leaning toward season-ending Tommy John surgery

Giants reliever Will Smith leaning toward season-ending Tommy John surgery

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Left-hander Will Smith, a key piece of a revamped bullpen, is leaning toward having Tommy John surgery, manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday night. 

Bochy said surgery was the recommendation of both doctors who examined Smith's elbow this week. Smith will talk to his agent before coming to a final decision on Friday. The procedure would keep Smith out the entire 2017 season and likely would cause him to miss the start of the 2018 season.

Smith, 27, missed the first month of camp because of pain in his throwing elbow. He returned March 17, but during a March 20 outing he again felt pain and called for a trainer. A second round of diagnostics revealed a strain and a sprain in the elbow. Smith saw team orthopedist Dr. Ken Akizuki in San Francisco and flew to Los Angeles this week to get a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlen-Jobe Clinic. 

"They had the same opinion," Bochy said. "There is a tear there. You can try to rehab it and if that doesn't work you're behind a couple of months ... It's not a definite he's going to have it done, but two doctors are in agreement on what this is."

Smith was expected to serve as the late lefty for the Giants, getting setup work in the seventh and eighth innings. With Smith out, the Giants will lean on young lefties Steven Okert, Josh Osich and Ty Blach. 

"We're going to have to have someone step up and help us in the seventh and eighth," Bochy said. "That was going to be will's role. He's a guy we were leaning on."

Smith was acquired from the Brewers at the deadline last season in exchange for right-hander Phil Bickford (who is currently serving a 50-game suspension) and catcher Andrew Susac (who is currently injured). After a shaky start, he finished the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances. 

The Giants have for the most part avoided Tommy John for 40-man roster pitchers. Hunter Strickland, Derek Law and Josh Osich have all had it during their time in the organization, along with outfielder Mac Williamson. Prospect Ian Gardeck is currently recovering from Tommy John. The last Giants pitcher who was likely headed for the roster before having Tommy John was left-hander Eric Surkamp. He had surgery in 2012.

The timetable is different for every pitcher, but the general consensus is that the procedure sidelines a pitcher for at least a year, and usually closer to 16 months. Matt Moore, Thursday night’s starter, had Tommy John on April 23, 2014. He did not return to a big league mound until July 2, 2015, and even then, he was under restrictions. 

Smith is under team control for two more seasons after this one.