EXTRA BAGGS: Perplexed Vogelsong will start again, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Perplexed Vogelsong will start again, etc.

PHOENIX Ryan Vogelsong wants an answer.

Is it something in his mechanics? Is he tipping his pitches?Does he need to change his sequences or throw fewer fastballs in two-strikecounts or rub a rabbits foot?

I dont know, said Vogelsong, after the ArizonaDiamondbacks cuffed him for seven runs (six earned) in 3 13 innings Sunday. Idont I dont know.

RECAP: Baggs' Instant Replay -- D'backs 10, Giants 2

Vogelsong has a 10.31 ERA over his last seven starts. Thisone included the numbers 3 13 (as in innings) and seven (as in runs allowed,although one was unearned).

This one also included a three-run triple to an opposingpitcher, Patrick Corbin, who was hitting .071 entering the game.

First things first: Giants manager Bruce Bochy has no plansto rest Vogelsong or push him back or make any other kind of adjustment to therotation.

Every time he goes out there, I feel good about whatsgoing to happen, Bochy said. Hes having his down period but hell come outof it. His stuff is too good. Hes one of our guys. Ill have all theconfidence in the world in him.

So what went wrong Sunday at Chase Field?

He just worked a little too hard and his pitches caught upwith him, Bochy said. Obviously, he made a mistake to the pitcher. But thegood news is his stuff is good. Im encouraged with his stuff. Hes going to befine.

Vogelsong agreed that his stuff is fine. He did not agreethat the pitch to Corbin was a mistake.

Heater up and in, Vogelsong said. It wasnt even astrike.

Upon close inspection of the replay ... Catcher Buster Posey gave Vogelsong a target and ifVogelsong missed, it was by an inch or two. The pitch was on the black, if itwas a strike at all. Corbin turned on it almost like he knew it was coming.

And you had to wonder did he? After all, Vogelsong heldArizona hitters to a single and a walk while striking out five the first timethrough the lineup. Upon a second viewing, they were 5 for 7 with two walks andsome hard contact.

It jogged mymemory: When the Giants got the stuffing kicked out of them here at Chase Fieldin a three-game sweep to begin the season, there were some grumbles aboutwhether the Diamondbacks hitters were getting tipped off.

They were on every pitch, one Giant told me at the time.

I asked Bochy if Vogelsong was tipping anything Sunday.

No, I think its just more he made mistakes there, Bochysaid. He worked hard the first couple innings. Hes just got to back off. Ithink hes going a little too hard here. Its human nature.

Especially when the answers are so elusive.

Really, the only pitch I missed location was on (Justin)Uptons first double, said Vogelsong, referring to the two-run drive high offthe center field wall in the third.

Vogelsong continues to hit 92-93 mph with consistency. Buthes throwing more straight fastballs, and fewer pitches with sink and cut. Hehasnt had confidence in his cutter in recent starts the pitch that broke somany bats two springs ago and got him noticed as a non-roster invitee.

The balls coming out good, Vogelsong said. Thats whythis is getting perplexing because the stuffs there. It doesnt make sense tome right now. I feel healthy. I feel strong. Im just not getting results.

The Giants continue to lead the NL West by 7 games with 16to play; their magic number shrank to nine after the Dodgers lost in extrainnings. They will have tough decisions to make soon regarding the playoffroster and rotation, and its becoming obvious that Barry Zitos star hasrisen. Perhaps Vogelsong, who has much more experience pitching in relief,could make the roster as a long man and piggyback Zito, allowing Bochy to havea quick trigger if he doesnt like what he sees from the left-hander.

But the Giants have a 10-game homestand to glean informationbefore they begin to set up their rotation on the final six-game road trip. Nodecisions need to be made now.

The only call to make now is whether to keep giving Vogelsong the ball.The intense right-hander has one answer, at least.

Ive been on the other side when youre looking over yourshoulder every day, the 35-year-old said. So it means a lot.

Beyond that, its all faith and trust.

Its got to (change), Vogelsong said. I dont see how Ican keep throwing the ball the way I am and getting the results I am. Ivegotta keep fighting through it. Itll turn around. It has to.

Angel Pagan exited in the sixth inning because of lower backstiffness, Bochy said. Its something he has dealt with before and he isexpected to be in the lineup on Monday, the manager said.

Gregor Blancos left shoulder is responding well totreatment but he remains questionable to play Monday. The Giants will face left-handersin the Colorado series Tuesday and Thursday, and its likely that Xavier Nadyshamstring will be improved enough to start for those games. But what will theydo against a right-hander on Monday if they dont have Blanco?

They could play Brandon Belt in left field and Buster Poseyat first base, but then theyre weakening themselves defensively in at leasttwo positions and many will argue three, in spite of Hector Sanchezs recent solidplay behind the plate. Im not sure compromising the defense is a good idea athome behind Madison Bumgarner, when theyre more likely to win 3-2 than 8-7.

Justin Christian, who started Sunday, was 0 for 3 with awalk. Hes now in a 1 for 39 slump and has gone hitless in his last 24 at-bats. His last hit was July 22: a pinch single in the 10th inning off the Phillies Jeremy Horst.

So yes, Christian needs a slumpbuster in the worst way.

Dan Otero struck out Upton on three pitches and Jean Machi looked good. The rest of the fresh horses in the Giants' 14-man bullpen? Not so much.

In other major league news, Omar Vizquel had two hits and isnow one short of matching Babe Ruth (2,873) on the all-time list.

That is staggering. In the minor leagues Vizquel got the batknocked out of his hands. He cried himself to sleep, he was so frustrated thathed never learn to switch hit. When he made his big league debut, nobodynoticed. It was opening day, 1989, and some smiley kid named Ken Griffey Jr.made his debut that same day in Oakland.

Now, more than two decades later, Vizquel not only set astandard for grace and excellence at shortstop. He also learned to hit, andhit, and hit. And now hes one more from matching Babe Goshdarn Ruth.

Cant wait for the Hall of Fame speech.

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.”