Giants

EXTRA BAGGS: Sanchez finally looking like a second baseman

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EXTRA BAGGS: Sanchez finally looking like a second baseman

PHOENIX The Giants are 0-3 to start a season for the firsttime in 28 years, but at least they saw something positive before the firstpitch was thrown Sunday.

Second baseman Freddy Sanchez took infield and lookednoticeably better while making throws, including double-play pivots.

Sanchez was dropping down, throwing across his body andgetting much more on his throws compared to how he looked when he tried to takeinfield three weeks ago. Hes been playing second base in minor league campgames hell play again Monday in extended spring but hasnt been tested bymany tough plays thus far.

Sanchez told trainers and coaches that his surgicallyrepaired shoulder is finally starting to turn a corner. Maybe it was thecortisone shot he received at the end of March. Or maybe hes just finallygetting over some of the mental hurdles. Either way, its now much morerealistic for me to envision him playing second base in the major leagues againsometime soon.

If he has no setbacks, the rough plan calls for Sanchez tobegin a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Fresno by the end of theweek. The maximum length of a rehab stint for a position player is 20 days. Soits possible that Sanchez could return at the beginning of May, if not sooner.

The Giants need his right-handed bat. Or did you not notice how their offense died the moment left-hander Wade Miley entered the game?

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Its amazing that the Diamondbacks could commit five errors,fall behind 6-0 after three innings against a quality pitcher like Matt Cain andstill find a way to win the game.

The Giants practically gave it away in the seventh. Still,all those home runs and doubles have a magical way to get you back into games.Thats what power does for you.

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On a related note, werent they once kicking around the ideaof a humidor at Chase Field?

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Bruce Bochy doesnt care to hear that the Giants have losteight consecutive to Arizona, or 10 of the last 12.

I dont get caught up in those numbers as much as we didntplay well, Bochy said. We did for three innings (Sunday). After that, wedidnt execute. Were lucky. We couldve gotten blown out.

True. On the road, the Giants lost three one-run games to avery good opponent. On paper, these losses dont look as bad as they did inperson.

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Sunday was a study in contrasts for Buster Posey. He lookedgreat while sending an opposite-field home run soaring. He aggressively slidinto second base while trying to break up a double play.

But he also looked, really, really tentative at times behindthe plate. He made three of the Giants six errors in the series. And twice, hemade the final out with the tying run on base. His at-bats definitely were notas crisp as the games dragged on.

I think its fair to assume that itll take time for Poseyto truly get back in game shape and feel comfortable behind the plate. Itsalso fair to assume that hell need plenty of days off including Monday atColorado.

I think I could go back out there, said Posey, whosalready been told he wont start anywhere on the field Monday. At the sametime, itll be nice to rest it as well.

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Nate Schierholtz had an interesting day. He entered as theright fielder on a double-switch in the seventh inning. But Bochy needed todouble-switch again when he summoned, Sergio Romo, his fourth reliever of theinning.

So out came Schierholtz, Melky Cabrera moved back from rightto left, Gregor Blanco shifted over from center field and Angel Pagan enteredthe game.

I didnt hear Bochys response in detail when asked aboutwhy he didnt just insert Schierholtz in the No.9 spot instead of the pitcherat the start of the inning, but I think he was planning on using a right-handedpinch hitter either Brett Pill or Ryan Theriot in the eighth.

That plan changed when he knew he needed to keep Romo in thegame. Just another thing that went wrong for the Giants in this series.

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.