EXTRA BAGGS: Pence takes protection racket seriously, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Pence takes protection racket seriously, etc.

BOX SCORE

SAN DIEGO Hunter Pence reached 100 RBIs for the first timein his career with his three-run home run in the first inning Saturday night,but he wasnt doing handsprings in the clubhouse.

And not just because its bad form to celebrate a milestonefollowing a loss.

Its nice but you cant be too happy, said Pence, pointingout that hes getting tons of RBI chances because cleanup man Buster Posey hasbeen an on-base machine.

With Posey, theyre walking him a lot with runners on base.So its important that I have a good approach. Theres a reason Im gettingthese opportunities. To protect him, thats my job right now.

Everyone knows it: There will be times in the postseasonwhen Posey wont get anything to hit. Thatll be especially true if the Giantsface left-handed pitchers in the playoffs. Posey is hitting .431 against themthis season -- the highest average in the majors.

Yes, thats right. Posey is hitting .431 in 160 at-batsagainst left-handed pitching.

He did more damage Saturday against lefty Eric Stults. Poseywalked and also went 2-for-2 with a pair of singlesto raise his average to .337. He now has a larger lead over the Pirates AndrewMcCutchen, who saw his average fall to .329 despite hitting a walk-off home runagainst the Reds.
MCCUTCHEN WATCH: Slump halted, ground lost

Of course, for now, Melky Cabrera is still listed as theofficial leader with a .346 average. Thatll change after the 162ndgame, when hell no longer have enough plate appearances to qualify.

And in case you were wondering, yes, its theoreticallypossible for Posey to pass Cabreras average. Hell be off on Sunday, soassuming he gets 12 at-bats over the final three games at Dodger Stadium, hedneed nine hits to raise his average to .34586. That would nudge out Cabreras.34565, assuming you add an extra plate appearance to his total -- whichwouldve been the case if MLB and the union hadnt changed the rule atCabreras request.

Posey will get a break Sunday, but Bochy wont rest all hisregulars. For one, he wants to give Tim Lincecum a fighting chance at avoidinga career-worst 16th loss. For another, there are some regulars whowant the chance to continue to hone their swing. That includes Pence, who ishitting just .224 as a Giant but has 43 RBIs in 55 games.

Average is overrated to me, said Bochy, who probably won't trot out that same comment if Posey wins the batting title.

I like damage anddriving in runs," the manager continued. "Thats how you win ballgames. You talk about a guy whosknocked in 100 runs, its a great year and he did it in nice fashion there witha home run today.

If Pence can continue to do damage, that might get Posey afew more pitches to hit. And theres nothing wrong with that.

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Aubrey Huff did not have a productive day, and not becausehe had a hitless at-bat off the bench.

Madison Bumgarner struggled in his four innings. And themore the starting pitchers struggle, the more likely itll be that Bochy keepsa 12-man pitching staff. Thatll make it tough to keep someone like Huff, whoessentially requires two roster spots because he needs a pinch runner.

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A loyal reader gave me one heck of a news tip. He thought hesaw Brandon Belt and Bumgarner on the off day last Monday, kayaking around thebay near McCovey Cove. Their wives were in a double kayak while the two playerseach paddled solo.

I asked Belt today and he said yes, indeed, it was them. Thewhole thing was Belts idea. Bumgarner went along with it, but forget the swimtrunks and water shoes. He wore his blue jeans and cowboy boots. I only wish Ihad the pictures.

Apparel choices aside, they did the smart thing by ridingsolo. Every kayak guide knows those double-seaters by another name: divorceboats.

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

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.”

Smooth. 

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.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

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.