EXTRA BAGGS: Giants want a heavier Lincecum, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Giants want a heavier Lincecum, etc.

NASHVILLE -- The Giants have asked Tim Lincecum to put some more meat on his bones this winter -- preferably not by eating out of a paper cheeseburger sack.

"The focus is on good weight," said Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner, who spoke by phone with Lincecum last week. "If he can gain five or six pounds of good weight this winter and come into spring, that would be what we're looking for."

Lincecum struggled to a 5.18 ERA last season -- the highest among all NL starting pitchers who qualified for the ERA title -- before becoming a secret weapon as a highly effective long reliever in the postseason. He either ran into trouble in the first inning, when he struggled to repeat his mechanics, or in the later innings, as his pitch count began to climb.

The latter was more of a stamina issue as Lincecum pitched nearly 20 pounds lighter than the previous season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he didn't like the way his knees and ankles felt in 2011, even though he had a 2.74 ERA and struck out 220. He had gained weight by gorging on In-N-Out double-double burgers.

The Giants don't want Lincecum to grease-bomb his way back to his 2011 weight. But they'd like him to begin the year with some reserves in his tank.

"He felt good (in 2012) and it wasn't like he was in bad shape," Groeschner said. "This is a strong kid we're talking about. Could he be in better shape? Certainly. We'd like to see his legs a little stronger, work on core strength. We just don't want him to start on a deficit."

Lincecum is entering his final year before he'd be eligible for free agency. He'll be a member of the starting rotation, manager Bruce Bochy reiterated to me on Monday. And as you might expect, Lincecum is motivated to have a turnaround season.

Groeschner was encouraged after hanging up the phone.

"Timmy just seems more eager to get going this winter and do it," Groeschner said. "He's ready to go for it. I was pleased with that as a starting point. Now it's up to him to put that into play.

"We just don't want him to fluctuate. We want him to find a happy medium."

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Lincecum and all other pitchers were under orders to "stay cool" through Dec. 1. Now they are just beginning to crank up their fitness and throwing programs. But Groeschner said he plans to curtail their activity this spring, whether it takes the form of fewer bullpens, shorter exhibition starts or even delaying their participation in Cactus League games for the first week. (The Giants' Feb. 23 exhibition opener is their earliest in history, which is partly due to the World Baseball Classic.)

NEWS: Giants release Cactus League schedule

Groeschner said he would get with Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti to map out a plan to limit pitches after the Giants won their second World Series in three seasons.

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Pablo Sandoval confirmed what he told us in October: He's definitely participating for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

Sandoval is in Venezuela now and will play for Magallanes in the winter league. It's a different offseason than the previous two years, when he did less baseball work and more strength training along with weight loss.

He'll be watched by Jose Alguacil, the Giants' well-regarded roving minor league infield instructor, who is coaching for Magallanes. Giants hitting coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens is managing the Margarita club and checking in frequently with Sandoval as well.

Two years ago, the Giants put the fear of God (or Fresno) in Sandoval when they demanded that he lose weight. It's a little harder to do that with a reigning World Series MVP. Ultimately, club officials know it's up to Sandoval to come into camp in acceptable condition, and no amount of monitoring can change that.

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Sergio Romo is expected to play for Mexico in the WBC, and several other members of the organization are likely to participate. But the toughest call will be Buster Posey, who has gone on record saying he'd like to suit up for Team USA.

Bochy recently checked in with Posey about that decision; the Giants wouldn't actively try to dissuade him, but it's clear they would have greater peace of mind if he skipped the tournament -- especially after he spent 10 months of ankle rehab, played far more games than they expected in 2012 and pushed himself through three rounds of the playoffs.

Groeschner has received praise throughout baseball, and deservedly so, for the plan he and his staff devised to get Posey back on the field after those two ankle surgeries left him unable to walk for more than three months.

The Giants prefer to pace Posey the same way this spring, since you can't argue with the results -- a batting title and an NL MVP Award. But the WBC would throw everyone a big curveball. So stay tuned.

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George Kontos had successful laser eye surgery, and he wasn't the only one. Jeremy Affeldt had the procedure done shortly after signing his three-year contract last month, too. And no, thank heavens, it was not self-administered.

Maybe now Affeldt will be able to see those hamburger patties more clearly when he tries to separate them.

Ex-Giants pitcher doesn't make Mariners rotation, optioned to Triple-A

Ex-Giants pitcher doesn't make Mariners rotation, optioned to Triple-A

Chris Heston's bid to make the Mariners' Opening Day rotation came up short.

The former Giants pitcher was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday morning, Seattle announced.

Traded by San Francisco to Seattle in December, Heston struggled in his first spring with the Mariners. The 28-year-old allowed 14 hits and nine earned runs in 11.2 innings over five appearances.

Heston, who was a major part of the Giants rotation in 2015, pitched in 38 games over three seasons in San Francisco. He compiled a 4.16 ERA and struck out 148 batters in 188 innings.

The highlight of Heston's time with the Giants came on June 9, 2015 when he no-hit the the Mets in New York. He struck out 11 and walked none, but hit three batters.

In addtion to Heston, the Mariners also re-assigned former Giants reliever Jean Machi and former A's pitcher Cody Martin.

 

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

Giants spring training Day 41: Hwang wins award, hits game-winner

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jae-Gyun Hwang’s day started with an ovation from teammates who had selected Hwang as the Barney Nugent Award winner. It ended in style, too. 

Hwang’s walk-off single in the ninth gave the Giants an 8-7 win and raised his spring average to .308. Barring an injury or sudden change, Hwang will not make the team out of camp, but he’ll travel to San Francisco for the Bay Bridge Series next week and the Giants expect him back at AT&T Park soon.

“He can keep the award now,” Bochy joked after Hwang’s walk-off. “Good for him. Players love him, and the way he’s come out every day and the effort he puts in. He’s been inspiring with how hard he has gotten after it every day.”

The Barney Nugent Award is given to the player in his first big league camp “whose performance and dedication in Spring Training best exemplifies the San Francisco Giants spirit.” It is meaningful in large part because the voters are teammates, trainers and coaches. Hwang was called to the middle of the clubhouse by trainer Dave Groeschner on Saturday morning to accept the award. 

“With this being my first time coming to spring training to play baseball, I wanted to work hard and show that I belong here,” Hwang said through interpreter Mark Kim. “I think my teammates have noticed how hard I’ve worked for the team.”

The rest of the Giants have also noticed how easy Hwang has made the transition look. He said that, outside of learning a new strike zone, the adjustment hasn’t been a difficult one. He has four homers this spring, but doesn’t necessarily view that as a shining positive. Hwang said he wants to show more of an all-around game, especially on defense, and a stint in Triple-A Sacramento should provide that opportunity. 

If the rosters play out as expected, Hwang should see most of the time at third base in Triple-A. He can also play first, and he’s eager to show that he’s viable in left field. 

“I want to show I’m a versatile player,” he said. 

GAME RECAP: Chris Stratton was having a good spring, but he got knocked around by the Padres early … Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford both hit deep homers in their second game back from the WBC … Mark Melancon still has not allowed a run this spring … Hunter Pence's March slump got a bit deeper with an 0-for-3 ... Bryan Reynolds, last year’s top pick, entered as a pinch-runner and flew home from first on a Gorkys Hernandez double off the wall. 

BULLPEN BATTLES: In the front office’s perfect world, Josh Osich would be the one to take over for Will Smith, giving the team a hard-throwing lefty capable of neutralizing lefties and righties. It’s been an up-and-down spring for Osich, but he was filthy Saturday, striking out a pair in his lone inning. 

George Kontos looked even better in his inning, striking out the side. Kontos has allowed just five hits in 10 innings this spring, with 15 strikeouts. He seems forever stuck in that sixth-seventh range, but given his splits have been just about even over the years, maybe it’s time the Giants see what he can do in a more high-profile role. 

Cory Gearrin followed the previous two with a perfect eighth. Neil Ramirez struck out one and allowed one hit in the ninth. In 9 1/3 innings this spring, Ramirez has struck out 16 and allowed just five hits and two runs. He has a real shot to take someone’s job in the bullpen next week. 

ICYMI: The big news from this morning: Michael Morse will stick with the team and try to rehab/play his way back to the big leagues. And from the early afternoon, Johnny Cueto had a ton of fun with a 19-year-old he faced in a minor league game. 

NOTABLE: Bochy said that all of the players left in camp are slated to head home on the team flight Tuesday, but some guys have opt-outs on March 30, so moves are coming. This would seem a great sign for Aaron Hill, who is due a $100,000 retention bonus on Tuesday. Hill has slumped late in camp, but he’s still in position to make the team. Also noteworthy: Tyler Beede is scheduled to start Saturday’s game in Oakland. The Giants surely want to knock some MLB-stadium-nerves off before Beede heads down to Triple-A to wait for a call-up.