SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Add another animal to the Giants menagerieof panda and giraffe hats. Except this one requires an aquarium.
Gregor Blanco, as it turns out, is the White Shark to histeammates.
Thats what they call me in Venezuela, he said.
Pablo Sandoval made sure the nickname came stateside. Blancomeans white in Spanish, of course. And his team in Venezuela, Tiburones,means the Sharks. So there you go.
Things have gone swimmingly for Blanco this spring and hesexpected to get a lot of time as the Giants fourth outfielder unless heforces himself into a larger role. Theres still time for that. Theres timefor the Giants Dugout Store to place an order for shark hats, too.
While they're at it ... if Aubrey Huff is going to play some left field this season, the water buffalo hats might serve a purpose, too.
Ive been watching Buster Posey carefully all spring,looking for any sign of hesitation because of his left ankle. Early on, hedefinitely took it easy while running bases.
But Im not seeing it now. Posey caught seven inningsMonday, seven more on Tuesday and doubled in three at-bats as the first basemanWednesday. Then he walked through the clubhouse without a hint of a limp.
The grind of a 162-game season is much, much different thanthe semi-controlled environment of spring training. But based on what I expected the day I arrived in Scottsdale,Posey looks terrific thus far. By extension, that means the Giants are having avery, very good spring.
If I told you in early February that Brandon Crawford washaving perhaps the best, most consistent at-bats of anyone in Giants camp,youd probably jump out of a second-story window in terror.
Well, Crawford is having perhaps the best, most consistentat-bats of anyone in Giants camp. And I mean that in a non-defenestrating kindof way. He hit a home run his second of the spring and also reached on abunt single Wednesday. Sure, the Giants just want him to catch the ball and be competitive as aNo.8 hitter. But I guarantee you there will be many teams who will do worse in theeighth spot.
Madison Bumgarner wont face the Dodgers until May. The boysin blue brought over just two regulars to Scottsdale Stadium on Wednesday. But the Giants coachingstaff still wanted to hide Bumgarner in the minor leagues.
That just wasnt a very considerate thing to do -- at least if yourean A-baller with the As. Bumgarner buzzsawed them in seven shutout innings,allowing two hits and striking out eight.
I felt like I got some really good work in, saidBumgarner, after throwing close to 90 pitches. I threw all my pitcheseverywhere. Ive got a good feel for everything.
It was rather stunning earlier this spring when the Giantsbegan to line up Bumgarner, all of 22 years old, as the No.2 starter in betweenTim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Thats where hell open the season. But hes beentheir best starting pitcher this spring, and he looks determined to avoid hisbumpy beginnings from last year.
Is he feeling better prepared than ever?
Ill agree with that, he said. I feel Ive done all my work.Whatever happens from here is whatever, but I wouldnt change anything.
Brett Pill and Freddy Sanchez accompanied Bumgarner to minorleague camp and spent the day getting at-bats. Theres still no timetable forSanchez to play second base, though.
Hector Sanchez caught Bumgarner and got some at-bats, too
Brian Wilson was supposed to pitch Wednesday, but BruceBochy insisted his closer was fine. Wilson had said he wasnt certain whetherhe would be on the schedule for Wednesday or Thursday. Apparently, itsThursday.
Now if Wilson takes another day off well, lets just saywell keep an eye on it.
Omar Vizquel made the Blue Jays roster as a utilityinfielder, and baseball is the better for it. It'll be his 24th year in the bigleagues. Hes got my Hall of Fame vote.
If Vizquel plays in 92 games, hell become the ninth playerin major league history to reach 3,000 games played in his career. The othersare Pete Rose, Carl Yastrzemski, Hank Aaron, Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb, EddieMurray, Stan Musial and Cal Ripken.
The Iron Man barely made it, playing in 3,001 games. WillieMays played in 2,992.
So there are no surprises, (ha!), here is Thursday nightslineup at Texas: Blanco CF, Theriot SS, Sandoval 3B, Pill 1B, Huff DH,Christian RF, Belt LF, Burriss 2B, Whiteside C. Cain SP.
A crowd formed around Ryan Theriot in the clubhouse as he pulledout a catalogue with photos of the World Series ring hell receive from the St.Louis Cardinals. Hell probably have to wait until May 16 to slip it on,though. Thats when the Cards arrive in San Francisco.
There were no catalogues floating around the Giants clubhouse last spring, when the players wereeagerly awaiting their 2010 World Series rings. Then-owner Bill Neukom kept theTiffany design secret until players opened their powder blue boxes on thefield.
The Giants didn't make it back to the playoffs to defend their title. Perhaps that partially explains why every single player who saw Theriot looking at the cataloguestopped to take a peek. Thats a pretty good sign that these guys are hungry toget back again this season.