EXTRA BAGGS: Could Sandoval address first base woes?


EXTRA BAGGS: Could Sandoval address first base woes?


ATLANTA So much has been made of Buster Poseys playingtime at first base. So it might have been easy to overlook Pablo Sandoval putting on a first basemans mitt for the first time all season Thursday.

Sandoval moved to first base in the eighth inning afterGiants manager Bruce Bochy pinch-hit Justin Christian for Brandon Belt.

And yes, Bochy and his staff, frustrated over the lack ofproduction at the position, will discuss the idea of playing Sandoval at firstbase more often.

Well see, Bochy said. Well talk about it on the plane.

Putting Sandoval at first base would mean having JoaquinArias bat in the lineup with Belt on the bench. That wouldnt seem to be avery good idea, even though Belt continues to struggle to make consistentcontact.

But it might open another avenue for GM Brian Sabean tobolster the lineup. If he cant acquire a first baseman ahead of the July 31non-waiver trade deadline, what about a third baseman?

There arent many attractive third basemen expected to bemade available, but Sabean is known to value an experienced player such as thePhillies Placido Polanco. Its highly unlikely, but if the Giants want tothink big, and that means taking on some big-time salary commitments, theycould gamble on the Marlins Hanley Ramirez.

In the meantime, Bochy has to keep fighting the perceptionthat he is forever down on Belt. In fact, Bochy defended Belts baserunningdecision in the second inning of Thursdays 3-2 loss to the Braves, when he gotthrown out trying to go from first to third on Emmanuel Burrisss single.

Sandoval scored from second base when the throw was cut off.

Theres a play with Pablo at the plate there, so its not abad play (for Belt to run), Bochy said. I dont look at that as the differencein the game. You want to get to third with one out. He just hesitated there.

What about the decision to pinch-hit Justin Christian forBelt in the eighth, after Sandoval hit a double?

Well, even though Belt has been more productive againstleft-handed pitching, Braves southpaw Eric OFlaherty has been virtuallyunhittable against left-handers. Entering the game, OFlaherty held them to a.093 average (4-for-43). Right-handed hitters were batting .354 (28-for-79)with three home runs. And Christian hit the ball on the button three times theprevious night. So the move certainly was defensible, even if it didn't work out.

At any rate, it wasnt a move that reflected entirely onBochys faith in Belt, or lack thereof.

Partially, maybe. But not entirely.

As of right now, the Giants are not close to making anytrades, so Im told. Theyre finishing up the process of canvassing the leagueto find out whos available and whom they want to target. Theyve also senttheir scouts through each level of their minor league system to evaluate theirown prospects.

I did hear that the Giants heavily scouted the Cubs andRoyals Triple-A clubs a couple weeks back. So take that for whatever itsworth.

My expectation, based on everything I hear, is that theGiants probably wont part with the necessary package of prospects to get atop-flight closer such as Huston Street or Francisco Rodriguez. If the pricedrops on Jonathan Broxton, theyd be interested, though.

Emmanuel Burriss knows he might be on borrowed time as theGiants look for roster upgrades. But theres no reason he cant enjoyThursdays two-hit game that included an RBI single and a stolen base.

Its a tough situation but were winning ballgames, saidBurriss, who only starts when Ryan Theriot needs a rest. When Boch puts me inthere, Ill try to do as much as I can. The way the team is clicking, everyoneis doing their best to help out.

Its never easy to have a bench composed of several young oryoung-ish players, all of whom can hear the clock ticking as their 20s rollalong while they sit on the bench, unable to compile the stats that could makethem a comfortable salary. Nate Schierholtz has dealt with the frustration foryears, and now hes reached the point where hes finally willing to go publicwith it.

Madison Bumgarner allowed two solo home runs while takingthe loss. He leads the staff with 14 homers allowed. Its already two more thanhe gave up last year.

And yet Bumgarner got 10 ground outs compared to just two inthe air.

So what happened on those two pitches to Freddie Freeman andDavid Ross?

I wanted the fastball to Freeman away and it was middle,Bumgarner said. The other was a full count to Ross. I threw him a lot ofcutters in and thought a change-up would be a good pitch. It was outside, butup, and he did a good job of keeping his hands back.

Overall, Bumgarner said he was pleased with how he pitched.And the Giants, despite being wasteful on offense (led by Angel Pagan, who was0-for-4 with three strikeouts while leaving runners three times), had to bepleased with the result in Atlanta.

Hard to believe the Giants have played 19 regular-seasonseries at Turner Field, and this is just the second one theyve captured.

I think everybody feels good about what we did here,Bumgarner said. This is a good team, and they always play us tough.

Now it's on to Philly, where Friday night's weather forecast looks something like this.

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

Cubs outfielder vows he didn't give Trump the middle finger at White House

WASHINGTON – Albert Almora Jr. didn’t use Wednesday’s Oval Office photo op as a subtle form of political protest, but it did sort of look like the Cubs outfielder gave President Donald Trump the middle finger, at least from that angle in an image that went viral on Twitter.    

“There was two fingers! Look closely, there was two fingers!” a veteran player yelled across the room as reporters gathered around Almora’s locker inside the visiting clubhouse at Nationals Park. 

“Guys were giving me a hard time about it,” Almora said, “but I pointed out the second finger. We’re all good.”

In another White House visit that didn’t look nearly as unofficial or informal as the Cubs said it would be, one snapshot became Almora with part of his left hand in his pocket. Almora stood near Kris Bryant – who held a 45 Wrigley Field scoreboard panel – and Trump at his desk with the World Series trophy.

“Obviously, it’s unfortunate,” Almora said with a laugh. “I’m getting ready to take a picture and I’m posing there. But you guys know that I would never do that to the president of the United States. 

“I respect everybody. It is what it is. We laugh about it now, but there’s definitely two fingers out there.”


Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

Giants notes: Melancon gets injection; Kontos gets an at-bat

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants were annoyed by Monday’s “rubbing teammates the wrong way” report for a number of reasons, but near the top of the list was the fact that the target, Mark Melancon, has been pitching hurt to try and help a last-place team. That’s no longer the case. 

Melancon went on the DL on Wednesday morning and later had a PRP (platelet rich plasma) injection in his right arm to try and ease some of the discomfort in his pronator. He is expected to be out the rest of the first half. Melancon would be eligible to return with two games left until the break, but there’s no point in rushing him. He missed 12 games the first time this came up and he now has more than two weeks to rest before the second half kicks off. 

In the meantime, Sam Dyson is the closer, but he was unavailable Wednesday because of a heavy workload. So Bruce Bochy got creative to close out a 5-3 win over the Rockies. George Kontos came on for a sharp Ty Blach in the seventh and carried the lead to the eighth. Steven Okert got through the 26th out and Hunter Strickland came in to get Ian Desmond to fly out for his first save of the year. 

Because Bochy wanted Kontos to face Pat Valaika in the eighth, he got an at-bat 15 hours after Cory Gearrin got to take his hacks. It at first looked like Kontos had “don’t swing” orders, but he fouled a ball off. 

“The second fastball I got, if it was near the plate, I was going to swing,” he said. 

Kontos said he doesn’t have bragging rights over Gearrin because he fouled a ball off, noting that Gearrin is 1 for 2 in his career and he is 0 for 8. It turns out that they used the same bat, too. Yes, there is a Cory Gearrin model.

“It’s just been hanging out since last year,” Gearrin said, looking down at his equipment bag. “Just in case.”

--- Dan Slania woke up a 4:30, drove to Philadelphia, and boarded a flight that was went down through Nashville to fuel up. He arrived in San Francisco in time for the second inning. And then he watched, met with old teammates, showered … and prepared to fly all the way back to Pennsylvania. 

“I’m going to pass out as soon as I get on the plane,” Slania said. 

He wasn’t complaining at all. The Giants needed a potential innings-eater with Melancon on the DL, and if Slania is sent back down before Friday’s game, he’ll at least be back near Double-A Richmond and the flight back will have been taken on a chartered jet with a bunch of former teammates. Plus he gets a couple of service days. 

“I can tell you it’s well worth it,” Bochy said. 

--- The main story today is about Jae-gyun Hwang, who brought some more life to a team that got its first sweep of the year. The standings are what they are, but the Giants are playing much better, and some players started talking Wednesday about how they’re looking forward to being a spoiler for teams like the Rockies and Diamondbacks. 

More than anything, the players are just happy that they got to listen to the victory soundtrack again and walk out of this park with smiles. 

“We did a really good job of coming into this series and decided what the intent should be,” Nick Hundley said. “We weren’t going to worry about what’s been going on. You control what you can control. It’s nice when the results match up.”

There was a players-only meeting on Monday and Hundley said “everybody got on the same page again.”

Now the tricky part: Keeping it going on the road. 

--- Nolan Arenado is a freak and the Giants should give him a blank check, a ton of Facebook stock, and the rights to the Salesforce building when he’s a free agent in two and a half seasons. 

--- Ryder Jones is hitless in 16 at-bats but he was keeping his head up. He was an inch or two from a double down the line Wednesday and the Giants feel he’s having good at-bats. More than anything, he's not taking those results into the field and he talked about that at length when we sat down for a podcast the other day. If you subscribe on iTunes here, you’ll have it in the morning.