EXTRA BAGGS: Posey collects seed money, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Posey collects seed money, etc.

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS Buster Poseys free video game is available foryour iPhone, and heres a quick review:

"Buster Bash" is mildly addicting. The first level, set in Bustersboyhood backyard in Leesburg, Ga., is easy. After that, you need to useaccumulated sunflower seeds to equip yourself with better bats, gloves, etc.to compete at higher levels.

Or you need to be better at video games than I am,apparently

(Seeds can be compiled through playing the game, or bysigning up for a credit card, or by watching commercials, or, if its moreconvenient for you, the game developer is also kind enough to accept cold, hardcash. America! What a country.)

Aubrey Huff and Brandon Crawford were playing the game nonstop inthe clubhouse Tuesday, taking virtual batting practice before the real-worldkind. Judging from the displeased faces they made at their iPads, Im pretty sure they didbetter taking actual swings.

Posey took his share of grief from teammates and claimed that no, he hadno cheat codes to give anyone.

Against real major league pitching, of course, theres no such thing asa secret up-down-up-down-left-right-left-right sequence.

It only seems likePosey has access to the codes.

His three-run home run in the first inning powered theGiants to a much-needed 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night.It was his fifth home run in six games. It also was his 18th of theseason, matching his career high.

He leads the major leagues with 30 RBIs since the All-Starbreak, and hes hitting .432 over an 11-game hitting streak. Those are video game numbers, all right.

The Pirates Andrew McCutchen probably would win the NL MVPaward if the ballots had to be cast right now. But Poseys name is bubbling up,much as it did in discussion leading up to the Rookie of the Year award in 2010.

Poseys least favorite topic is himself. Heremained consistent when asked his thoughts about the MVP chatter.

Well, thats humbling to have your name even mentioned insomething like that, he said. Its pretty cool, I guess.

Thats Buster for you. I wonder if wed get a longer comment for 1,000 sunflower seeds.

And I jest, of course.

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Posey and Barry Zito had started as a battery just twicethis season entering Tuesday, and the Giants had lost both times. But they madea nice team against a tough Cardinals lineup loaded with right-handed problemsto solve.

Zito always seems to deliver an excellent start when you leastexpect it. He had a 11.35 ERA in three career outings at Busch Stadium and saidhe knew he had a couple rough ones here in St. Louis."

"But it doesnt reallystand out in my mind," he continued. "You just come back to the fundamentals: Being aggressive,throwing strikes. When you do that, you put pressure on them. Theyll swing atpitches out of the zone. Theyll just react differently.

It was the 15th time in 384 career starts that Zito went at least 6 23 innings and didn't walk a batter. That was impressive, since the same Cardinals lineup spoiled dozens of good pitches from Matt Cain a night earlier.

Of course, it helps when Posey gives you a 3-0 lead with one swingbefore you take the mound.

Well, Ive had him for awhile, Bochy said of Zito. Youcan see when hes on. He used all his pitches at any time. He gave up a couplehome runs to a good hitter (Allen Craig) and kept his poise.

Yes, Bochy and Zito have been together awhile. Theirfirst season as Giants came at the same time, in 2007. Who could forget that media guide cover ofthe two of them, hands awkwardly grabbing their belts, standing back to back?(The most awkward thing about that cover: Barry Bonds, who would break the all-time home runrecord that season, was nowhere to be found on it.)

Its at turns easy and difficult to remember that Zito hasbeen a Giant for six seasons now. Hes surpassed expectations while going 9-8with a 4.19 ERA. So he was asked if he is having his most fun in a Giantsuniform.

I always try to have fun playing the game, Zito said. Sometimesits more fun than others. But I love the chemistry in this clubhouse. I wantto stay healthy, get out there every five and help this team win.

Ill let you know at the end of the season how happy I am.

I believe the words playoff roster will dictate Zitosmood at the end of the season, should the Giants make it.

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Its been mentioned in this space before and it bearsmentioning again: Hunter Pence is going to be extremely important for theGiants. Hell need to protect Posey in the lineup and ensure that hes notpitched around.

If its already happening, Posey hasnt taken note of it.

Are they? I dont know. They havent really yet, he said. Idont feel like it.

Even if they do, Posey said he would try not to let it alterhis game plan.

I try to keep the same approach -- just look for a ball youcan hit hard, he said.

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If you missed this from my Twitter post earlier today,right-hander Heath Hembree came out of two live BP sessions without anyproblems and the Giants activated him on Tuesday. But they assigned him toSingle-A San Jose, not Triple-A Fresno.

Hembree tossed a scoreless inning at Stockton, striking outone.

Hell remain in San Jose just long enough to get hisbearings before the Giants move him back up the chain, club vice president BobbyEvans told me. Theres no such thing as a rehab assignment in the minorleagues.

Hembree had been shut down for a month because of a flexorstrain in his right elbow.

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Xavier Nady, who homered Monday, was 0 for 1 with three walks, an RBI and a run scored for Triple-A Fresno Tuesday night.

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Left-hander Jose Mijares arrived during the game and wasissued No.50. With my binoculars, I could spot him in the Giants bullpen.

Actually, I could see him plenty well without the specs. Hefills out a uniform.

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The Cardinals have a pitcher named Barret Browning, which Ilove. How much? Let me count the ways.

Hed better keep throwing strikes. I heard the Cardinalshave a young arm named Al Tennyson charging through the minor leagues.

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Time for me to spend three hours obsessively trying to hitthe ball over the goshdarn barn in Buster Bash. One reader informs me that in later rounds, you get a shot to hit announcer Dave Flemming's car.

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.