EXTRA BAGGS: Picking the Giants' ideal roster vs. Reds, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Picking the Giants' ideal roster vs. Reds, etc.

LOS ANGELES The regular season is over, the CincinnatiReds are the Giants first-round opponent and there are no more games remainingto audition for the postseason roster.

All precincts have reported. Now its time for Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy and his staff to draft their names.

The composition has changed over this past week. Earlier onthis trip, Bochy said he was leaning toward 11 pitchers. Now all indicationsare that the Giants are more likely to keep 12. That would allow them to carrythe impressive George Kontos in addition to the experienced Guillermo Mota,along with all five starters, plus Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt,Santiago Casilla and Jose Mijares.

Im a believer that you go with the guys who are throwingthe best, Bochy said.

You can lock in most of those 13 position players, too.Theres Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, RyanTheriot, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, AngelPagan and Hunter Pence.

Two spots remain, and Xavier Nadys right-handed bat makeshim a fit especially given the Reds lefty-laden bullpen. Its less likelythat Nady will start, though, as the Reds have an entirely right-handedrotation. The hints thrown on Wednesday point to Blanco starting in left fieldas the Giants prioritize defense and speed, especially when they play the firsttwo games at AT&T Park.

That leaves one more roster spot. Aubrey Huffs success offthe bench in September made him a near lock just a week ago, but his lefty bat might not beas useful against the aforementioned Reds bullpen. Plus Huff's general lack of mobility would make it evenmore important that the Giants carry another speed guy. (Justin Christian wouldbe my guess to lead that derby over Emmanuel Burriss and Francisco Peguero.)

Maybe in a series when you're facing a lefty starter or two, you couldstart Nady in left field and use Blanco as your speedy reserve. But against theReds, that wont be the case.

Here is one other idea thats being kicked around the staffmeetings: Have Eli Whiteside fill that final roster spot, freeing up the Giantsto use Sanchezs switch-hitting bat off the bench.

However they decide to line em up, the first decision willbe whether to carry that 12th pitcher. Even when Bochy said hed gowith 11 a week ago, I didnt buy it. Always, always, always bet on Bochy totake a pitcher over a spare position player. This is a manager whos won a lotof games because of bullpen management, after all, and he wants as many options aspossible.

The sixth and seventh innings might be the Giants greatestconcerns as they enter the postseason. As I mentioned yesterday, this currentbullpen did not post a 0.90 ERA in September or enter the postseason with 24consecutive scoreless innings, as the relievers did in 2010.

The Reds do not have a book on Pence this season.That's because, strangely enough, he hasnt faced them since 2011, due to the trade in Julythat sent him from the Phillies to the Giants. (Philadelphia hadnt begun itsseason series with the Reds, and the Giants were already done with Dustys gangby the time Pence arrived.)

They dont know whats coming, Pence said, smiling.

Game 2 starter Bronson Arroyo does. Pence is a .343 hitter(12-for-35) with two homers and four doubles against him. Hes fared OK againstGame 1 starter Johnny Cueto, too, hitting .276 (8-for-29) but with no home runsand 11 strikeouts.

Want to know who has the most experience against Cueto? Its Theriot, who owns a .302 average in 48 plate appearances. In fact, Theriotis tied with Milwaukees Aramis Ramirez for the most career plate appearancesof any active player against Cueto.

Not that Theriot would start over Scutaro. I dontthink Rogers Hornsby would start over Scutaro right now.

As mentioned in my story on Buster Posey and the battingtitle, Pence led a team effort to present Posey with a token of esteem.For all my journalistic efforts, I wasnt able to find out what they got him.It might have been a Rolex. Or a hamster. Or a Subaru Outback. Ive got mymoney on cowboy boots. I saw clubhouse man Mike Murphy lugging around a couple of huge boot boxesWednesday afternoon. Pence was sporting new crocodile boots, after the game, too.

Whatever the gift was, I hope Pence dropped some dimes on it.Poseys NL-best .408 on-base percentage had a little bit to do, after all, withPences ability to collect 45 RBIs despite a .221 average in 58 games as a Giant. Pence reached 100RBIs in a season for the first time. And thats gonna look mighty sparkly when he files forhis final year of arbitration.

Speaking of Pence and a lot of bread, you'll want to watch this.

Everyone is amazed by the As, and that includes their BayBridge rivals. In the hours before Wednesdays game at Dodger Stadium, when theGiants first-round still hadnt been set, the TVs in the visiting clubhousewerent tuned to the Washington Nationals game. They had the As on, and nearlyeveryone watched with great interest as they clinched the AL West aftertrailing by five with nine to play.

Its one of most amazing stories ever in baseball, Bochysaid.

Ryan Vogelsong finished with a 3.3690 ERA barely nudging outMadison Bumgarner for the second lowest among Giants starters. Bumgarner was at3.3696.

But Bumgarner crushed Vogelsong, 11 hits to 5. (Matt Cain led thestaff with 13 hits.)

And when it comes to clubhouse bragging rights, the startersspend far more time and energy on that.

Bochy made Thursday afternoons workout optional andspecifically told a couple regulars to skip it. Fridays workout will be moreof a formal affair.

Time for me to fill out my BBWAA ballots. Ive got MVP andRookie of the Year. After the Nationals let Teddy Roosevelt win the PresidentsRace for the first time, I might just give both awards to him. (Not really.)

Cant reveal my ballots until after the awards are announcedin November. But if you have any last-minute suggestions, any at all, please leave them in thecomments section.

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his season managing Barry Bonds, Bruce Bochy watched the slugger get intentionally walked 43 times. 

“There were (managers) who had the (signal) up before he even got to the batter’s box,” Bochy said Wednesday. 

That’s part of the reason Bochy is completely on board with a new rule stating that managers only have to signal for an intentional walk. The elimination of the four pitches has been approved by MLB and the MLBPA, with the caveat that a manager can change his mind in the middle of the plate appearance. 

“I’m fine with it,” Bochy said. “I know a few pitchers are happy because they kind of have a thing about throwing (those pitches), not on our team, but last year it happened to us and we didn’t go. I’m fine with it.”

It’s rare that an intentional ball would go to the backstop, but the Giants experienced it last year against the Yankees. Dellin Betances threw wide as he tried to put Brandon Crawford on and Angel Pagan didn’t react quickly enough to score from third. 

Bochy met with league officials last week to go over some of the new rules and ideas, and he said he wants MLB to keep pushing to cut the time of games. 

“We talk about it so much but we really haven’t done a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m all for (limiting mound visits). I’m all for it, I am. It’s gotten more and more popular in the game. It used to be the catcher, and now it’s the catcher and infielders, and they go to the mound and come back and then the pitching coach goes out there.”

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is currently slated to start Friday’s Cactus League opener, with Matt Cain also throwing an inning. Ty Blach will start Saturday, Matt Moore and Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and Jeff Samardzija will start Monday. It’s possible that 18 or 20 different pitchers will take the mound over the first two days since almost all of them will be scheduled for just three outs. With the exception of Will Smith, every projected Giant should see the field this weekend. Hunter Pence is the only guy who has been held back at all, but his intercostal issue has cleared up. Pence put several on the left-field berm during BP on Wednesday.

“Hunter wants to (play Friday). He's ready to go,” Bochy said. “I’ll make that call tomorrow once I talk to the staff, but Hunter assured me he’s a full go with no limitations, and he really wants to play.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Bochy took the van over to the minor league facility to watch some of the projected Triple-A players take part in live BP. Jae-gyun Hwang hit a homer off Jose Dominguez during his session. 

“He’s a guy that rotates (well) and he’s got good power,” Bochy said. “He can go the other way. He’s got some bat control. He’s got a nice swing.”

Over on the main field, Gorkys Hernandez hit an impressive homer to left-center. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Smith is being held out of workouts. Reporters spoke to him in the afternoon and he said there’s no concern. Also, here’s a podcast with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t … there’s a very popular Giant coming soon.

QUOTABLE: Smith missed time last season because he tore a knee ligament while taking his shoe off, so this spring’s speed bump is somewhat easier to take. He had a message for the trainers: “I said I’m going to sit down every day this spring,” when I take my shoes off.

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK -- There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."