EXTRA BAGGS: Lincecum scraps slider to save elbow


EXTRA BAGGS: Lincecum scraps slider to save elbow

PHOENIX Tim Lincecum pronounced himself ready for theseason, even though his line score wasnt pretty in a 7-4 loss to the MilwaukeeBrewers at Maryvale.

And even if Lincecum isnt throwing his slider.

The pitch was key to Lincecums turnaround from a wretched, 0-5August to a hair-flipping, World Series hero in 2010. But hes leaving it in his back pocketto start the season. He said he doesnt need the extra wrinkle.

But theres another reason hell limit himself to fastballs,curves and his signature split-change when he starts Fridays season opener atArizona.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged the slider isnt sofriendly on the elbow, and Lincecum is trying to pace himself this season.

He just wanted to back off, Bochy said. Its a longseason and he has a lot of innings in him. It probably puts a little morestress on his arm. He probably wants to wait to break it out later.

Asked a follow-up question about Lincecum's health, Bochy insisted that the two-time Cy Young award winner has no physical issues. It's true, Lincecum hasnt thrown hard this spring. But that is notatypical. He often starts out slow before zipping 94 mph on the gun when the seasonbegins. More important, he says, is location of his two-seamer so he can get ahead ofhitters and try for more efficient, contact outs.

It's still cause for concern, though. (That will always be true for Lincecum. People will always be at the ready to predict a breakdown. Story of his life.)

Lincecum did not appear concerned as he prepared to join the team flight back to the Bay Area. Although he struggled to get his fastball down all spring, he threw all heaters in his final two innings and said its the besthes felt.

Good, fine, everything felt the same, Lincecum said. Bestthe fastball location has been all spring. I feel ready to get back out thereand pitch in a real game. Im out there pitching for a purpose, and thats towin.

A few defensive plays werent made behind him includingone exchange between Lincecum and first baseman Brandon Belt and thatcontributed to a linescore that was messier than it shouldve been. Lincecumgave up two doubles to Rickie Weeks and Ryan Braun also hit a two-run double asthe Brewers scored six runs on eight hits and one walk in 4 23 innings.

Lincecum, who was only scheduled to throw five innings,recorded four strikeouts and also hit Weeks with a pitch.

He ends his spring with a 5.70 ERA.

He will match up against Arizonas Ian Kennedy at ChaseField on Friday. Kennedy was 3-0 with a 1.22 ERA in five starts against theGiants last season.

The Giants were 16-14-3 in Cactus League play, if you're keeping track of such things.

One reason I don't: Arizona was 12-25 last spring.

Even in the last Cactus League exhibition Sunday, Bochy, thecoaching staff and front office were still trying to evaluate players as theypiece together the opening-day roster.

In the case of Joaquin Arias, it was not great. Hismiddle-infield defense has kept him under consideration, and by allindications, he has been in competition with Brett Pill for one roster spot.

But Arias hasnt looked as steady at third base, and he hada chalk-outline kind of afternoon there Sunday. Seemed everything was just outof his reach.

Pill is no great shakes at third base, either. But hisability to back up Pablo Sandoval would be another notch in his utility belt asthe Giants try to justify carrying his right-handed power bat.

Youd better believe the Giants had a purpose by havingHector Sanchez catch Lincecum, too.

They need to figure out if Sanchezs defense has made enoughprogress to justify putting him on the roster as Buster Posey's backup.That way, their lineup wouldnt suffer as badly on the many occasions whenPosey needs a break from behind the plate.

Yes, the front office and coaches agree with you: A lowerthird of the lineup with Emmanuel Burriss, Brandon Crawford and either ChrisStewart or Eli Whiteside is not tantalizing in the slightest.

But they also have to do right by this pitching staff, andif Sanchez isnt ready defensively, they have to pay consideration to that.

Sanchez looked rough at times while receiving Lincecum, asmost catchers do. Timmy is tough to catch. Sanchez was charged with one passed ball and let one changeup in the dirt getpast him for a wild pitch. He also dropped a foul pop. But Ill give him abreak on the drop; it was especially windy and this is one of the worst sunfields in Arizona.

Sanchez also blocked several other curves and changeups in the dirt, as Bochypointed out.

He did fine, and Timmy looked comfortable throwing to him,Bochy said.

Final predictions after gleaning a bit more intelligence from sources today: Dan Otero makes it over Steve Edlefsen. No Eli Whiteside. No Brett Pill. Yes, Brandon Belt. And the final spot will come down to Joaquin Arias vs. a third catcher. If no Arias, then Chris Stewart and Hector Sanchez both make the club.

Time for me to begin my two-day exploration of I-10 and I-5,in that order. Before I turn out the lights in Maryvale, though considerthis:

The opening day roster and lineup are important decisions. It is an honor for the players. Those who make it are elated and those whodont are crushed. The decisions give you a window into what the front office and coachingstaff thinks of their players. (And another thing: The executives and coaches arent always inagreement.)

But opening day, for all the hoopla, really is just one gameout of 162. The starting nine that day will be exactly that: The lineup forthat day. Things change, injuries happen. Evaluations are being made all thetime. If Angel Pagan is the center fielder on Friday, it doesnt mean he canhave a .221 on-base percentage on April 30 and will continue to be the starting centerfielder. (It's true. Pagan has a .221 on-base percentage this spring.)

Same goes for Nate Schierholtz, Emmanuel Burriss, and yes,Aubrey Huff.

You will see Belt this year. I cant say for certainthat youll see him starting on opening day. But hell be a factor in 2012. A potentially bigone, too.

Lets just summarize my point this way: See if you can guess the opening-daylineup for your 2010 World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Now scroll down and count how many you got right. (No peeking!)


CF Aaron Rowand
SS Edgar Renteria
3B Pablo Sandoval
1B Aubrey Huff
LF Mark DeRosa
C Bengie Molina
RF John Bowker
2B Juan Uribe
P Tim Lincecum

Bonus points if you knew that DeRosa was the only Giant tohomer on that opening day in Houston. Extra credit if you knew it would be hisonly homer as a Giant.

As I've often said, if you predicted on opening day of 2010 that the Giants would win the World Series, you are allowed to take no credit. That team didn't win it. Another one did.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”