EXTRA BAGGS: Bumgarner's homer inspires Belt, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Bumgarner's homer inspires Belt, etc.


DENVER A few weeks ago, Brandon Belt said a key to histurnaround at the plate was to stop internalizing everything, moping orworrying over his own struggles, and instead keep his thoughts external.

Think about helping the team win.

After the fourth inning Tuesday night, he had one morethought on the brain.

I just do not want to be outdone by Madison Bumgarner atthe plate at all, Belt said. I think he hit a three-run home run and I gotfour RBIs. So I beat him.

Bumgarners home run was an equalizer after the Rockiesscored four runs against him. Belt put the Giants in front with a two-rundouble in the fifth. Then he hit a solo home run in the seventh on a 95-mphfastball, no less, from right-hander Edgmer Escalona. The Giants needed all of those runs to hold off the Rockies in a 9-8 victory at Coors Field.

Belt helped the team win, all right.

It wasn't an isolated game, either. Belt is a .351 hitter over his last 36 games, including adominating .418 average against right-handers over that span. And hes gettinghis hits when the team needs them most. Hes 12 for his last 28 with runners inscoring position.

Its not changing my approach, Belt said. Earlier in theyear, Id put a little more pressure to get the runs in. Now Im treating itlike any other at-bat and Im confident I can put the ball in play.

His bat is too potent to keep out of the lineup, evenagainst a left-handed starter. Thats why Belt is expected to be in left fieldon Wednesday, with Buster Posey moving to first base so Hector Sanchez cancatch Tim Lincecum.

Its good to see him swinging the way he is, Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy said of Belt. Hes really starting to come into his own.The confidence is growing in him. This second half, hes showing what kind ofplayer he can be.

Especially when Bumgarner homers. The big lefty has gone deep twice this season. Belt has a home run in both those games.

This is not turning into a good second half for severalmembers of the Giants rotation. Bumgarner, like Ryan Vogelsong, is turning froma mild concern into a major one. (Can you imagine the panic around here if theoffense wasnt coming to the rescue so often?)

Bumgarner gave up four infield hits including two fluky onesoff third base, but the Rockies collected 11 in all against him in just 4 13innings. And 11 hits are 11 hits.

Bumgarnersvery succinct summary: The ball was up a lot and that didnt work out toogood.

Everything was up. His slider and fastball werent cracklingon the fringes as they did so often in the first half. Weve never seenBumgarner just tired to the point of gassed. We might be seeing it now, eventhough all parties insist that isnt the case.

I didnt have a good command of any pitch away, Bumgarnersaid. I pitch in a lot, but youve got to be able to throw away too and theywere more or less sitting on one spot. Youve got to make adjustments andfinish pitches better.

A fresh arm finishes pitches. A tired arm drags.

At least Bochy took out Bumgarner after 92 pitches. Theywere stressful innings, so it might not qualify as a light load. But this timeof year, every bit helps.

Speaking of time, this one clocked in at three hours, 43minutes and thats without any rain delays or stoppages due to some of thewet stuff that blew through in the early innings.

This is what happens when your starter works a short nightand Bruce Bochy has 14 relievers at his disposal in the bullpen. Were going tosee more of these down the stretch, I fear. Even Tony La Russa would roll hiseyes.

Aubrey Huff is good for comic relief, but since joining theclub Sept. 1, hes been good for more than that. Hes 3 for 5 with a walk as apinch hitter, and yes, Hector Sanchez made sure to stick his phone in Huffsface to be sure he saw the replay of his diving act following his single offthe wall in the seventh inning.

He smoked that ball, Bochy said. He did a good jobturning that double into a single.

Like a cat, Huff said.

A cat that might be spending his ninth life by getting on the playoff roster

Oh, and good thing Bochy used Francisco Peguero to pinch-run for Huff. Ifnot, theres no way on this planet or any other that Angel Pagan wouldve beenable to advance to third base and tie Willie Mays franchise record for triplesin a season.

Bumgarner has two home runs. Giants second basemen have combined for one all season.

As I understand it, the Houston Astros havent askedpermission to interview Ron Wotus, Tim Flannery or anyone else on the Giantsstaff about their vacant managerial position.

Im not sure thats a job any sane person would want totake, anyway. But the new guy is going to need to be prepared and relentlesslyoptimistic, and I cant think of two coaches who possess those qualities morethan Wotus and Flannery, respectively.

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017. 


Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija’s first season in San Francisco was ultimately not far from what the Giants hoped it would be. Samardzija gave them the desired durability, throwing 203 innings with a 3.81 ERA in 32 starts. 

The route to those final numbers was remarkably circuitous. Samardzija had a 2.84 ERA through the season’s first two months, but that number jumped all the way up to 6.23 over his next 11 starts, seven of them losses for the team. As the Giants went into a second-half tailspin, Samardzija found his groove and helped keep them in the playoff race. He had a 2.45 ERA over his final 10 starts, earning the nod as the Game 2 starter in the NLDS. That appearance against the Cubs lasted just two innings. 

The up-and-down season showed the Giants two very different versions of a big offseason acquisition, and at times opposing hitters saw two very different Samardzijas. He went heavy on his cutter early, but when hitters started teeing off on pitches that all came in at a somewhat similar velocity, Samardzija mixed in a curveball that was completely mothballed through June. Down the stretch, when he found his form, Samardzija brought back his splitter and ignored the cutter. He threw 165 cutters in April but just two in September. On the flip side, he threw 113 splitters in September after never throwing more than 35 the first five months. 

“He found the splitter and using it more made him more of a complete pitcher,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the four (main) pitches now. They can’t just sit on the hard stuff. He had a good year. It was a little bump there, but he had a great run and was throwing the ball really well (down the stretch). He’s one of our guys. We certainly think (that deal) is going to pay off, and it did last year. He got us deep into games consistently.”

Samardzija learned from the up-and-down year, and during his first start of the spring, he varied the repertoire. He gave up two runs in the first inning but was pleased with a curveball he threw four times — twice for called strikes, twice for foul balls. 

“If you can get it going here in Arizona, it’s going to be a pretty solid pitch for you,” he said. “(Bringing it back last year) was kind of out of necessity. I picked it up and played around with it and it felt good.”

The curveball, which he hadn't thrown since 2012, changed eye levels last season and kept hitters from loading up on pitches in the low to mid 90s. Samardzija further expanded the velocity gap by finding the feel of a splitter that had toyed with him for years.

“For me, with that splitter coming back late in the year, it’s going to be about mixing it in and seeing what feels good on that day, seeing what’s going to be the out pitch,” he said. “I had been chasing (the feel) of it since 2014. We broke it all the way back down and went back to zero. So many guys were sitting fastball. To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.”

The Giants expect the more varied approach to lead to big results in 2017, and Samardzija could subtly benefit from a change Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti made. Samardzija will pitch behind left-hander Matt Moore, not Johnny Cueto. He said he would often last season compare notes with Cueto, who like Samardzija, pitched most of his career in the NL Central. The two would often take a similar approach on the mound.

“(Opponents will) have to face a tough lefty like Moore, so they can’t have that same lineup two days in a row,” Samardzija said. “To me, that’s big.”