EXTRA BAGGS: Sandoval sends 'em home happy

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EXTRA BAGGS: Sandoval sends 'em home happy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Pablo Sandoval hasnt made a ton of loudcontact this spring. But he sent the ballpark home with a mighty kaboom Mondayafternoon.

In one of the best signs for the Giants all spring, Sandovalbattled the count full before crushing a breaking pitch from Greg Holland that strucklike an arrow onto the berm in right-center field.

Sandoval raised an arm as he rounded the bases and theScottsdale Stadium crowd got as loud as Ive ever heard it. The shot gave the Giants a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

You know, its my second one, said an obviously prideful Panda, recalling a walk-off in 2009 against the Washington Nationals. So my second one feels great.

Even better than the result was the method behind it.Sandoval had to recoil out of the box at least twice on wildly high, upper-90sfastballs. Justin Christian stole second base one of those pitches, and tookthird when the catchers throw bounced into center field.

With the count full, Sandoval noted that Holland shook off.He deduced the rest.

I wait for one pitch, said Sandoval, who was sitting on abreaking ball. If he throws fastball right there, he strikes me out.

Holland is not a nameless No.87 in Royals camp, either. Hehad a 1.80 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP in 60 innings for Kansas City last season and isa candidate to close now that Joakim Soria is hurt.

RELATED: Cortisone shot for Sanchez's troublesome shoulder

David Schoenfield of ESPN recently wrote that Holland wasmurder on lefties last season. He faced 106 of them and struck out 38 thesecond best percentage of whiffs among AL pitchers. Left-handed hitters were 4for 60 (.067) when Holland had two strikes against them last season.

So all things considered, Sandoval should feel very goodabout that at-bat. It might be a springboard as he gets ready to help drive themiddle of the Giants lineup beginning in 11 days.

Sandoval said his extra conditioning work hasnt dragged himdown this spring. Its just taken a little longer to find his stroke after notplaying winter ball in Venezuela.

Now Im getting my foot down, he said. I got my rhythm. Ifeel great at home plate. So, no complaints.

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Its turning into one of those springs for Ryan Theriot. Hehasnt looked too dependable with the glove, and after leaving Mondays game,lets hope he didnt have any expensive family portraits scheduled in the near term.

Theriot tried a snap tag on a pickoff play and it backfiredin a bad way. The ball glanced off his glove, hit the runner and ricochetedright off Theriots nose. He was bleeding profusely, in manager Bruce Bochysdescription, but X-rays ruled out a fracture.

Theriot had been day-to-day with a mild ankle injury. Hescome up in trade rumors, too. Do they have voodoo dolls down on the Bayou?

In just four days, the other three-quarters of Theriots1.25 million salary will become guaranteed if hes still on the roster. Whilethe Giants are looking at trade possibilities, I do think Theriot is seen as a fit on the roster. Hes a tough out in the late innings, and other than BrettPill, the Giants dont have many right-handed threats for the bench.

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Its mentioned in other posts, but in case you missed it:

Buster Posey will start Tuesday and catch Tim Lincecumagainst the Angels (and presumably, Albert Pujols). Itll be the first time Posey goes back-to-back behind theplate this spring. He and Lincecum havent worked together since last May, soBochy felt it was important to pick this spot to test Poseys ankle.

RELATED: Posey deemed ready for back-to-back duty behind plate

Brian Wilson is on the schedule to throw an inningWednesday. Its possible he could go Thursday, too. But that hasnt beendecided yet.

Ryan Vogelsong will start again on Saturday. The Giants sayhell start the Cactus League exhibition against the Reds. But dont bet on it.If he starts that day, they couldnt backdate his DL stint any earlier thanApril 1. That would make him eligible to be activated on April 16 and the clubneeds a No.5 starter on April 15. So expect Vogelsong to throw his 50 pitchesin a minor league game.

And Freddy Sanchez? After a cortisone shot in his shoulder, it's anyone's guess.

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Helped his cause Monday: Joaquin Arias. He was 2 for 2 andcollected the tying single. Hes the only person besides Brandon Crawford thatIve seen this spring and would trust putting at shortstop.

Hurt his cause Monday: Nate Schierholtz dropped a very catchableball on the warning track in right field. It was scored a double, leading tothe only run that Vogelsong allowed. Then Schierholtz struck out with two outsand the bases loaded in the bottom o the first. Yee-owch.

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Expect more minor league camp activity or Angel Pagan. Heshitting .176 after going 0 for 4. Pagan did make a nice, diving catch in centerfield, though.

I dont think Pagan can lose the everyday center field jobwith a bad spring. The Giants acquired him to be that guy, and you dont flipthat script based on a few good (albeit very, very impressive) weeks out ofGregor Blanco.

Heres another thing to consider: Managers manage people,not just games. In Pagans case, hes a free agent at the end of the season.Thats a good thing for the Giants because you can count on guys in thatsituation to be hungry and motivated all year long.

But if you take away that guys opportunity based on a badspring, you risk losing him completely. Hell stew all year, thinking youretaking money out of his pocket. So Pagan has to be given a shot to provehimself in the regular season, and be the player the Giants envisioned whenthey acquired him.

My guess: If Blanco takes away at-bats from anyone in the early going, it'd be Schierholtz. That could be especially true if Pagan struggles in the leadoff spot. The Giants could hit him down in the order in an effort to get him going, and bat Blanco in the No.1 spot.

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There are four non-roster guys remaining in camp: Arias,Blanco, Justin Christian and Jean Machi. A Final Four, if you will.

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Another reason to feel good about Vogelsongs outing Monday:He made a nice team with Posey. I didnt realize it till I looked it up, butVogelsong made 28 starts last year. Posey was behind the plate for just threeof them.

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Well, you can pencil in your pitching matchups for theseason-opening series at Chase Field. Arizona manager Kirk Gibson announced hisarrangement on Monday. Itll be Lincecum and Ian Kennedy on April 6, followedby Madison Bumgarner vs. Daniel Hudson and Matt Cain vs. Josh Collmener.

Verrrry interesting that Arizona is not pitching TrevorCahill in the opening series.

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Well, my Macbook Pro adapter turned volcanically hot andstopped working so I had to go to the Apple store this morning. The good news:I didnt have to pay for a replacement. The bad news: I broke down and made a veryexpensive impulse purchase. Now I just need to figure out what the kids aredoing with these iPads.

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You will not find a nicer, more thoughtful person thanTriple-A Fresno announcer Doug Greenwald. One of the best parts of springtraining is being able to interact with Doug every day and hearing him onsfgiants.com.

In his spare time, Doug enjoys traveling and taking photosof post offices around the country, and yes, you read that correctly.

This morning, he posted the following on Twitter: Watchingthe Weather Channel now. Great channel, love knowing the weather in theDakotas. Seriously, love it.

If anything ever happens to the Dos Equis guy, I hereby nominateDoug Greenwald to take his place.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants dropping series vs Braves

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The kid who raced The Freeze on Thursday night blew a tire as he hit center field, hobbled for about 50 feet, and then went down for good. He still had a better night than the Giants. 

They blew all four tires in the fifth, giving up eight runs in a nightmare frame that turned a two-run lead into a 12-11 loss. The Giants finished 1-7 on the swing through Denver and Atlanta, and they have lost 18 of their last 23 games. 

But, let’s face it, you’re here already. So here are five more things to know from the night … 

—- Matt Cain was hanging in there until the fifth, and then … disaster. The inning started with Brandon Phillips’ solo shot that cut the lead to one. Then it went single, single before Cain was relieved by Bryan Morris. After that, it was single, single, single, sacrifice fly, homer, flyout, walk, single, pitching change, single. 

—- Morris had to wear it in the fifth because the bullpen is short, and boy, did he wear it. Morris gave up five runs on five hits and a walk. His ERA jumped two full points in two-thirds of an inning. 

—- Kyle Crick made his MLB debut in that horrendous bottom of the fifth. The Giants surely did not want to bring him in with runners on, but Bruce Bochy had no choice when Morris blew up. Crick’s first pitch was a 95 mph heater. After giving up a hit in that inning, he pitched a perfect sixth and perfect seventh. Crick topped out at 97 mph. Pretty, pretty good stuff there. He needs to get a long look the rest of this year. 

—- In the second, Buster Posey hit a ball that went 311 feet and had a hit probability of just six percent. Cain hit a ball 357 feet. Posey got a homer that bounced off the top of the wall; Cain just got a double. Baseball is such an odd game.  

—- On a positive note, Javi Lopez, who calls Brandon Belt “Sparky,” repeatedly referred to Posey as Gerald. He’s going to be good at this job. 

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

Why you shouldn't freak out in June about Cueto's opt-out

SAN FRANCISCO — There’s a very important fact you need to keep in mind when talk of Johnny Cueto’s opt-out comes up, as it so often will over the next six weeks: The Giants always expected him to opt-out after this season, from the moment the ink was dry on the six-year, $130-million contract. 

When you sign at the top of your game and have a chance to hit the market at 31 years old and cash out a second time, you take it. Those are just the rules of professional sports. On the day Cueto was introduced, his agent, Bryce Dixon, said the two-year opt-out was important because they felt Cueto didn’t get a totally fair shot at free agency. 

“Johnny, a little bit unfairly, had a lot of questions about his arm,” Dixon said in December of 2015. “I felt we could reestablish his actual value … He knows he’s as good as (David) Price and (Zack) Greinke, but his situation was a little different.”

The Giants were fine with this, too. The flip side of the opt-out is that if you have the chance to pay a dominant right-hander $46 million over two years, and then escape his mid- to late-thirties, you do it. Every time. You don’t even blink. 

So, here we are, in June of the second year of that deal, with reports that Cueto will opt out. You should take a deep breath because you should have already expected this. But if you didn’t, take comfort in this: By all indications, Cueto has not made a decision, even with the Giants having an unimaginably poor season. 

First of all, Cueto can't make a decision in June. What if the blisters return and he repeats his April ERA a couple more times? What if his elbow starts barking? There are no guarantees with pitchers, and until Cueto gets through the second season, there will be no finality with his decision. 

Aside from the fact that he really can’t make that decision, though, sources insist Cueto hasn’t made up his mind or even thought much about it. People familiar with his thinking continue to say the focus has been baseball all season long, from spring training through his last start. 

Cueto is said to be happy in San Francisco and he enjoys pitching in front of the crowd at AT&T Park. His biggest concern has been wins and losses, and in that respect, this has been a disappointing year for all involved. 

That record has brought the Giants to a crossroads, and this is where it gets interesting. The easy solution is to trade Cueto next month, avoid the opt-out situation entirely, and add prospects to a system lacking them. But, it’s complicated. The Giants do not intend a full teardown, and if they’re going for it again in 2018 — with their core of Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, etc. locked in, that’s the plan — they’ll want that second ace at the top of the rotation. And if Bumgarner doesn’t return to form after an injury, they’ll need Cueto’s presence. 

The Giants have until July 31 to decide what to do with Cueto. He has until three days after the World Series ends to decide what to do with his contract. Here in June, by all indications, those decisions haven’t been made.