EXTRA BAGGS: Playing the Lincecum 'what-if' game, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Playing the Lincecum 'what-if' game, etc.

BOX SCORE
WASHINGTON If you are searching for positives after TimLincecum melted like an ice cream cake in Tuesday nights 9-3 loss to theWashington Nationals, then sorry.

Unless you like ice cream soup, we dont have much for you.

But there is this: Even though Giants manager Bruce Bochypulled most of his starters, including Angel Pagan as early as the fourthinning, the entire team save Wednesday starter Madison Bumgarner stayed tothe final out.

Ordinarily, that would not merit special mention. But thegame was delayed nearly 90 minutes by a thunderstorm in the seventh inning. AndWednesdays first pitch is at 11:05 a.m.

No, no, they wanted to stay as a team, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Itsnot too bad. Well have a bus that leaves at 9 a.m. Theyre all still here.

Said Pagan: You want to be here to the last out to supportyour team.

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As mentioned in the Instant Replay story, the Giants areexactly halfway through the season and they have 45 victories in 81 games. Theyare on pace for 90 victories. If they had won Tuesday night, they wouldve hadthe most victories in the National League.

What if the Giants were a meager 9-8 instead of 4-13 in TimLincecums starts?

They would be 50-31, tied with the Texas Rangers for thebest record in the majors. And, with the Dodgers result still pending as ofthis writing, the Giants would hold a six-game lead in the NL West.

If I had told you the Giants would be 9-8 in Lincecumsfirst 17 starts, youd have been disappointed.

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Interesting stat from my pal Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports:The leader in the NL West on the Fourth of July has failed to win the divisionin four of the past five seasons.

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So much for the whole whos catching Tim Lincecumcontroversy.

I figured itd end either way with Tuesdays start.

Outcome No. 1: Lincecum would have another good outing withHector Sanchez, giving him momentum that could be viewed as a little moresustainable. Call it the string and the top effect. Then Bruce Bochy couldswitch back to pairing Buster Posey with a more confident Lincecum.

Outcome No. 2: Lincecum would have a bad start, proving thetheory that it doesnt really matter who catches No. 55. It comes down toexecuting pitches. So hed switch back to Posey, so long as the schedulepermits him to catch.

Bochy originally turned to Sanchez because the Giants hadlost nine consecutive starts with Lincecum on the mound. Something had tochange. After the wheel came up red, he put more chips down. After it hit redagain, Bochy didnt want to mess with a good thing, and besides, the scheduledictated that Posey would have to take a break from catching either Tuesday orWednesday. Made sense to me.

Now Lincecum has around 17 starts remaining, and Ill wagerthat Posey will catch at least a dozen of them. Color me up, Monsieur Croupier.

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The rub of having Sanchez catch Lincecum is that it forces Bochy to choose between starting Posey and Brandon Belt at first base. Belt is on a tear at the plate.

What about putting Belt in left field, and perhaps sitting Gregor Blanco?

I asked Belt the last time he took a fly ball in batting practice. "Spring training," he said.

It might be an option in the future, Bochy said. But he wasn't going to try it in one-off fashion Tuesday. Belt acknowledged he is more comfortable at first base, and playing there and only there probably has helped him settle in and make adjustments at the plate without adding another element of uncertainty.

"But if they asked me, I'd go out there," he told me. "I think I'd be OK."

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Angel Villalona still doesnt have his U.S. visa and thatprocess remains a bureaucratic mess. But the one-time 2.1 million bonus baby is playing in Dominican SummerLeague games for the Giants affiliate. And hes doing quite well.

Villalona had a .407 average with two home runs in 14 games.Hes even drawn seven walks compared to 14 strikeouts in 54 at-bats.

Then again, Villalona should be dominating the competition.The former teenage prospect is now a soon-to-turn 22-year-old playing againstmostly teenagers.

If you've forgotten, Villalona hasn't stepped foot in the U.S. since he was arrested and charged in the 2009 fatal shooting of a barroom patron in the Dominican Republic. After two years, the charges were dropped -- reportedly because witnesses changed their stories.

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Youve probably heard this a billion times already, but for Wednesdays 11:05 a.m.game here in Washington, the first bus will leave the Giants' hotel at 8 a.m. The second bus will leave at9 a.m.

I just wish Guillermo Mota were still on the active roster.Id take 10:47 in the Mota arrival pool.

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."