CINCINNATI The Giants could have chosen from among two former Cy Young Award winners, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum, to hold the shield with their backs against the wall in Game 3 Tuesday night.They chose neither. Theyll put their faith in their 35-year-old journeyman, instead.Ryan Vogelsong knows what its like to stand with his back against his wall. Its the natural result of walking down so many career dead ends. But his remarkable path led him back to the major leagues in 2011 after a six-year, continent-jumping hiatus. And now the Giants will entrust him to extend their playoff lives against the surging Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.Was it emotional when manager Bruce Bochy told Vogelsong the ball would be his?Yes and no, Vogelsong said. It was, because of the path Ive been on. And no, because I went into this series with the mindset that I was going to do whatever was asked of me to do.The fact hes given me the opportunity to start a game is tremendous. Its exciting. its amazing for me, but I said this a couple days ago: Its not about me at this point. Its about the team and whats best for us.Bochy announced Vogelsong in the hours prior to Game 2 on Sunday. Shortly after the club landed in Cincinnati on Monday and prepared to take the field for a light workout, Bochy made it official that Zito would start in Game 4.Bochy, his staff and the front office agreed over the final week of the regular season that Tim Lincecum would be the one starter bypassed in this NL Division Series.Even though Vogelsong got tagged for a 10.31 ERA over a seven-start span in late August and September, he rebounded well and threw filthy stuff at times while allowing just one earned run over his final three outings.Vogelsong said the rough run was a mix of overthinking his mechanics and some bad luck on balls in play.But Im pretty happy with how I feel going into tomorrow, said Vogelsong, who turned down the option to fly ahead of the team.The Giants were 2-0 in Vogelsongs starts against the Reds this season, although he didnt factor in the decision either time. (Angel Pagans ninth-inning homer turned a loss into a victory in Vogelsongs start here April 26.) He had a 4.15 ERA over the two starts and allowed home runs to Jay Bruce (at Cincinnati) and Todd Frazier (at home).Vogelsong said he would take full advantage of the intelligence gained by watching the first two games, when Reds hitters prevented Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner from recording an out in the sixth inning.Bruces homer off Cain, for instance, came when he got a fourth consecutive changeup over a span of two at-bats.Yes, I think we need to attack some people differently, said Vogelsong, who will put his trust in catcher Buster Posey. I have trusted him all year and he and I will talk about things tomorrow and try to come up with a good game plan and hopefully, that works.--Tim Lincecum did not do any pre-throwing or get his arm loose out of sight Sunday. He really did throw just two warmup pitches off a bullpen mound -- in front of the rubber, actually -- before he was summoned amid confusion to take the mound in the sixth inning.Asked again about the odd start to Lincecums rare relief appearance, in which he threw two scoreless innings, Bochy said Lincecum assured them he was OK to take the mound.We placed him on toss (in the bullpen) and he assured Righetti, Im good to go. Im ready to go, Bochy said. And he got confused there because he thought we were waiting for the pitcher to get up.Lincecum made the standard number of warmup pitches on the game mound before retiring six of the seven batters he faced. Perhaps he told Righetti he would be fine, assuming he still had more time to get loose?Im not going to get into that, said Lincecum, when asked about it after Mondays workout at Cincinnati.Bochy said the cold start might have benefited the former ace, who has struggled to repeat his delivery all season.It probably worked well for him, Bochy said. There wasnt a lot of thinking going on and he had some of his best stuff in terms of command.Maybe so. And maybe Lincecum is called The Freak for a reason.But hes still owed 22 million next season. So the Giants should count themselves lucky if they emerge from this with perhaps some hurt feelings and nothing else.--I hadnt appreciated what a tremendous all-around player Brandon Phillips was till I watched him on a playoff stage over the past two games. From diving to back up first base to doing the Bernie Lean to avoid a tag and defuse a potential double play to the more traditional stuff, like playing great defense or hitting a tone-setting, two-run home run. Phillips really does it all.Ill let Dusty Baker explain it. He does a better job than I ever could.Its hard to find that energy with talent. Sometimes you can find that energy, but without talent it doesnt do any good. He sparks us on the field, off the field, on defense, on offense. And he can do many things to beat you. Like the other night when he avoided that tag That goes unnoticed but we notice it. Going first to third, taking pitches or not striking out very much -- here is a guy who can do almost anything on a baseball field.Hes the only person that Ive had probably other than Barry Bonds that can bat anywhere in the lineup and feel comfortable doing that.Ive seen a growth. Hes one of our leaders here. We have a lot of leaders in a lot of departments, but The B is The B. Ive seen him grow big-time since Ive been here. When I first got here, I was having to spank him once a month, you know what I mean? Now its probably once every three months.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”
Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter.
“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”
The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.
“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.
After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday.
“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”
POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week.
Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring.
FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves.
AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter.
BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.
Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face.
Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.