EXTRA BAGGS: The fate of the final-out ball, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: The fate of the final-out ball, etc.

DETROIT What happened to the ball from the final outSunday night, the one that Sergio Romo so daringly threw at 89 mph down themiddle past a baffled Triple Crown winner to win a World Series?

Buster Posey tucked it safely in his glove. And he didnt wantto be responsible for it.

So I gave it to Boch, Posey said. Let him make thedecision.

This ball might mean more to Bruce Bochy than anyone else.Hes spent a lifes work in this game, beginning in 1975 when he was a20-year-old in the Appalachian League, renting a trailer near the West Virginiaborder with four other guys for 10 a month.

A backup catcher who feared cut day every spring, Bochy nolonger has to fret over his place. He has arrived, in every sense. Hesfashioned an 18-year career as a manager that includes six NL West titles,three NL pennants and two World Series championships.

Hes the first manager to win two titles in a three-yearspan since the Yankees and Joe Torre three-peated in 1998-2000, and the firstNL manager to do so since Sparky Anderson and the Big Red Machine won in1975-76.

If you dont consider this two non-consecutive-titles-in-three-seasonsthing a dynasty, then look at it another way: If Buster Posey hadnt gotten takenout by a targeted hit at home plate in May of 2011, the Giants just might havewon last year, too. They wouldve gotten in the playoffs, at least. And asweve learned by now, you never underestimate Bochy in the postseason.

In the story I wrote after the Giants clinching victorySunday, I described 2010 as a happy accident and 2012 as more of amaster-planned community -- the younger, more athletic, contact-oriented, defensivelystrong team that Bochy and GM Brian Sabean always believed would fit theirballpark and division.
RELATED: These World Series champion Giants weren't lucky -- just good

To put it another way: Two years ago, the Giants were aGrateful Dead concert one long, rocked out, improvised, feel-good jam session.With some familiar wafting scents, too.

This time, it was, in the words of Motowns own Diana Ross,I Hear a Symphony.

But it was a symphony that required so many instruments tobe tuned along the way. And Bochy conducted better than Vivek Mehta, using TimLincecums tempo allegro to brighten the middle innings, believing that BarryZito could keep time on percussion and backing it all with deep, determinedreverberations from Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong.

When Brian Wilson couldnt provide the crescendo, Bochy wentwith cymbals by committee. It almost never works that way in a bullpen. Thistime, it did.

Bochy used his personnel expertly. He not only put them inpositions to succeed, but the respectful way in which he nudged them ledplayers like Lincecum to embrace those adjustments.

And Bochy joined Torre and Sparky in baseball lore.

I count my blessings, Bochy said. Im blessed to be in asituation where we can win. I know how lucky I am and Im numb really, thatweve won two World Series in the last three years. Im sure it will sink in,but right now, Im speechless.

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Tigers manager Jim Leyland went out of his way to give Bochyand the Giants credit for being the better team in the World Series.

This wasnt the first time Leyland has gotten bested byBochy. In fact, Bochy pretty much has career ownage on Leyland. Entering this series, Leyland had a 24-40 record against Bochy-managedteams:

The Pirates were 4-8 against the Padres in 1995 and 4-9against them in 96; the Marlins were 5-6 against the Padres in 97 and 4-5against them in 98; the Rockies were 4-9 against the Padres in 99, the Tigerswere 2-1 against the Giants in 2008 and 1-2 against them in 11.

And now, Bochy is 4-0 against him in the postseason.

Obviously there was no doubt about it, they swept us,Leyland said. So there was certainly no bad breaks, no fluke. I tip myhat to them. Simple, they did better than we did.

We just didn't do good enough.They were better thanwe were, and you can't say anything different.I mean, if it goes sevengames and you lose the seventh game on a freak play or something, you mightsay, well, we were as good as they were, but in this series we were not as goodas they were, that's simple, you tip your hat to them.

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From sweeping the Yankees to getting swept by the Giants Leyland summed it up in one word: Flabbergasted.

Hey, he wasnt the only one. I picked the Tigers in five,too, as some folks have delighted in reminding me.

My rationale: The Giants had expended so much energy in thefirst two rounds while winning six elimination games. They didnt have a chanceto set up their rotation, and they hadnt played well at home until those lasttwo games against the Cardinals in the NLCS.

Plus wed already seen what Justin Verlander did to kill theBernie-leaning As, who entered the postseason with more momentum than anyone.Along with a lot of others, I felt it wouldnt be smart to bet againstVerlander. (And if you want to chastise me for not believing, then you dontreally understand what a beat reporter does.)

You know what happened: Pablo Sandoval turned Game 1 intoPandamonium, and the entire tone of the series changed from there.

After the fact, the Giants werent shy about saying it: Theylet all those predictions fuel them.

I think some people have a foot in their mouth right now,Cain said.

Guilty as chmnnfnannhnhhrged.

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The Giants won the first extra-inning clinching World Seriesgame since the Florida Marlins won Game 7 in 1997. The two guys with thego-ahead singles in those games, both to right field?

Marco Scutaro and Edgar Renteria. Seems appropriate enough.

Well, maybe Leyland would see it differently. Renterias hitclinched Leyland his only World Series title as a manager. Scutaros hit deniedLeyland another.

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Posey is likely to become the first player to win an MVPaward and World Series title in the same season since Kirk Gibson in 1988.

Hed also become just the third Giant to pull off that doublefeat, joining Willie Mays (in 1954) and Carl Hubbell (in 1933).

The Giants could join the 1976 Reds as the only teams tohave a player win the All-Star MVP, regular-season MVP and World Series MVP inthe same season.

The NL MVP will be awarded Nov. 15. I was one of 32 votersassigned to that committee by the BBWAA. Regulations prohibit me from revealingmy ballot until the award is announced, but based on gathered intelligence, itwould be a huge shock if Posey doesnt win in a landslide.

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Not to make Dusty Baker feel any more miserable, but if theReds had gotten past the Giants in the NLDS, I really believe they wouldvegone all the way.

They had defense and a live-armed bullpen that was even moretalented than what the Giants displayed in the World Series, and dont forgetwhat Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey did in their starts. They might havegotten Johnny Cueto back for the World Series, too.

The Reds and Giants were the only teams in the majors indeed, the only teams since the 2006 White Sox to receive 30 starts fromfive different pitchers. Not to suggest Mike Leake couldve been Lincecum, butrotation depth can be such an asset to help you survive a postseason series.

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The Giants survived that grinding NLDS because they found away to win in extra innings when Bailey held them to one hit and struck out 10in Game 3. And when Jay Bruce couldve sent the Reds through with a home run inthe ninth inning of Game 5, Romo put the weight of the entire season on everypitch he threw. Incredibly, he did that 12 times as Bruce fouled away onepitchers strike after another. Finally, Bruce lifted a slider to shallow leftfield, and Romo won the battle.

I think that was the proof kiln moment for Romo the momenthe became what the Giants needed him to be.

His manager and his teammates already believed in him. Buttwo years earlier, hed given up that home run in Atlanta to another leftyhitter, Eric Hinske, which nearly cost the Giants everything. (The Giantsrallied in the ninth to win, leading Romo to exclaim over and over, I love myteammates.)

Romo suddenly had confidence that his ordinary, 88-mphtwo-seam fastball could be more than an honesty pitch to keep him from triplingup sliders. It could become a weapon a perfect little ploy when hitters werelooking for that sweeping breaker.

Even Triple Crown hitters.

The Giants wouldnt have made it to that final confrontationwith Miguel Cabrera, and the celebration that followed, if they hadnt squeakedpast the Reds just as they did in that torturous NLDS with the Braves in2010. Theres something to be said about that, I think.

First youve got to win your division and the biggestobstacle, as weve learned, is that first round, Sabean said. Whenever wevebeen able to punch through, weve gone to the World Series or won the WorldSeries.

In our case this year, Romos save in Cincinnati was thelightning rod. Thats where everything began to turn.

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I sometimes wonder why Santiago Casilla doesnt get more credit,love, ink, edible arrangements, etc. for converting 19 of his first 20 saveopportunities, which was so important to keep the bullpen from destabilizingafter Wilsons elbow couldnt make it through the first week of the season.

Well, Casilla was the winning pitcher in Sundays WorldSeries clincher, and he joins a very short list of Giants to make that claim:Tim Lincecum, Don Liddle, Dolf Luque, Art Nehf (twice) and Christy Mathewson.

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Just for kicks, I also looked up the list of Giants pitchersto throw the final pitch to clinch a World Series championship:

Sergio Romo, Brian Wilson, Johnny Antonelli, Dolf Luque, ArtNehf (twice again!) and Mr. Mathewson.

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It was Barry Zito, along with Hunter Pence, who took thefloor before Game 4, reminding the Giants that the Tigers had just swept theYankees in the ALCS. Zito also reminded his mates that there was a strongchance of storms and an even stronger chance of Justin Verlander in Game 5.

So there was no place for complacency.

It was one more, one final speech that reached its intendedaudience.

This is the Giants seventh World Series title in franchisehistory, trailing only the Yankees (27), Cardinals (11) and As (9).

Its the fifth time the Giants have clinched the title onthe road. They havent won a World Series in front of their home crowd since1921.

Youre just going to have to deal with that.

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Just landed in SFO and the World Series championship T-shirtsare in every store. The merchandisers mustve printed them in advance, whichmeans they didnt listen to the pundits, either!

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.

The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?

"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.

"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.

The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen. 

Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.

"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.

Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot. 

Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...

STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.

"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”

ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo

SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.

LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”

QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?

“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said. 

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

Giants keep Christian Arroyo on fast track to big leagues

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Christian Arroyo’s fingers flew across the face of his iPhone in a scene that would not be out of place in any dorm room across the country. For a moment, he was simply a young man facing an online opponent on an app, but Arroyo is far from your average 21-year-old.

Arroyo was sitting in front of a locker where a No. 22 Giants jersey hangs as a sign of what the organization thinks of the infielder. A former MVP, Jimmy Rollins, dressed a few feet away. On a flatscreen TV hanging from the ceiling, a feed showed Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford practice bunting. That group is one Arroyo hopes to soon join.

“When you get drafted by a team, your goal is to be a guy that stays around for a while,” he said. “I love it here, and to be one of those guys down the road would be awesome. There’s a lot of work to be done to get to that point, and I understand it is a business and some things work out and some things don’t, but I would definitely love to be one of those guys.”

The Giants believe strongly that he will be. It’s why they ultimately felt they had coverage when Matt Duffy — once the fourth member of that group — was traded away in the seconds before the 2016 deadline. It’s why Arroyo is wearing Will Clark’s old number. It’s why Bruce Bochy broke into a wide smile when asked about Arroyo’s month in camp last spring, when he had 10 hits — including two homers — in 18 at-bats.

“Wow — I mean, he had an impressive spring, to the point where guys are going, ‘Maybe he can help us (now),’” Bochy said. “But he needed to go to (Double-A) Richmond and play. He’s not on our radar to make the club (this spring), but what he did last spring opened a lot of eyes.”

The Giants would like Arroyo to get a full season at Triple-A and general manager Bobby Evans said they don’t feel pressure to have their top hitting prospect in the opening day lineup in 2018. Eduardo Nuñez is in the final year of his contract, but Conor Gillaspie is under team control through next season. Still, Arroyo could be a fit as soon as this summer. 

“We’ll let his development dictate the pace of his rise to the big league level,” Evans said. 

The front office will continue to move Arroyo around the diamond in Triple-A, but his future is at third base and that’s where he’ll get most of his time this season. To make the transition, Arroyo — who was drafted as a shortstop — has at times turned to a player who was once blocking him. When bench coach Ron Wotus started working him in at third last spring, Arroyo started following the lead of the incumbent. 

“I was with Duffy on the back field and we were doing our infield work,” he said. “I started turning double plays and he said, ‘Hey, man, you’ve got to slow it down over here. When you’re here, you have time. If you get a double-play ball just deliver a good throw to Joe. It’s not really the speed, it’s the area that you throw it, and let Joe turn two.’

“He’s a Gold Glove second baseman,” Arroyo continued. “He’s going to turn it every time. Once I started to realize that and started to slow everything down over there, my feet were under me and my angles on the throws were right.”

Arroyo continued to work on slowing the game down during his season in Richmond, where he played 48 games at third base, 48 at shortstop, and 19 at second. He is learning the nuances of positioning, and another spring in big league camp — where Wotus regularly helps veterans grow by leaps and bounds — will only help.

At the plate, the focus is on consistently having the right approach. Arroyo showed it last spring, when he fell behind 0-2 during a televised night game and then calmly worked a full count. When he got a cutter he could handle, Arroyo pulled a two-run homer over the bullpen. Several Giants compared the approach that night to Buster Posey’s, and during the season it was continually reinforced.

“When (team executives) would come into (Richmond) and you talk to them, they tell you very specifically the exact plan for the big league level,” Arroyo said. “'Hey, get on base, keep it moving, and make stuff happen.' I understand that when I’m making stuff happen I’m not hitting home runs, I’m hitting doubles and taking walks and taking the extra base. 

“Eventually, hopefully, when I grow into my body and get a little bit stronger down the road, doubles turn into home runs and I can make things happen that way. But for now I understand what kind of player I am at this age and I’m just going to try to stay consistent at what I do and let the other things fall into place.” 

That's the attitude the Giants want Arroyo to continue to take. It’s easy for a young player to get caught up in prospect rankings or homers and RBI, but the numbers that mean the most to the Giants are the ones on Arroyo’s driver’s license. Arroyo hit .274 with a .316 on-base percentage and .373 slugging last season, but he did so in a league where the average player was more than three years older.

“When you’re playing Double-A at the age of 21 and you have 36 doubles and good defense, it stands out,” Evans said. “We challenged him by moving him around, that’s a lot to take, and he had a good year. He has a good head on his shoulders and a good approach at the plate, and he’s only going to get stronger as he grows into a man’s body. Now he’s looking at Triple-A at the age of 22 — and he’ll still be the youngest player.”

Arroyo won’t mind that. The jump to Double-A last season was a challenge, and he was happy the Giants gave it to him. He’s ready for another jump, another season of trying to stay consistent against older and more experienced players. As Arroyo sat in the clubhouse Tuesday waiting for the on-field workout to start, one veteran infielder after another walked through the door. Nuñez, Gillaspie, Rollins, Aaron Hill and others will get most of the time at third base this spring. There are limited at-bats for the prospects, but Bochy doesn’t need to see much more from Arroyo — who is 14-for-26 in two springs — to know what’s on the way. 

“He showed he can handle the bat, third base, or wherever we put him,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of time with him.”