EXTRA BAGGS: Scutaro MLB's best at contact, etc.

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EXTRA BAGGS: Scutaro MLB's best at contact, etc.

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO The next time you see Marco Scutaro swingand miss, take stock of the moment. Etch it in your memory. Then understand youarent likely to see it again soon.

Entering Friday nights huge showdown with the Los AngelesDodgers, Scutaro had made contact on 94 percent of strikes thrown to him thisseason. If that sounds exceptionally high, it is.

It leads the major leagues.

Josh Hamilton swings and misses at 31 percent of strikesthrown to him. Even a hitter with such refined skills as Buster Posey swingsand misses at 11 percent of the strikes he sees.

But Scutaro is in another universe. If the ball is anywherebetween the chest and the hollow of the kneecap, and is over any portion of thedish, Scutaro will find a way to put his bat on it.

That is a handy skill for a No. 2 hitter. It gives Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy supreme confidence to put runners in motion. Unless its apitchout, Scutaro will probably advance the runner -- or better yet, move himfrom first to third with one of those flares to right field.

Tim Lincecum might have said it best:

Well, I know I didnt like facing him, he said.

Scutaro smiled when that comment was relayed to him.

I didnt like facing him, either, he said.

When the Giants acquired Scutaro from the Colorado Rockieson July 27, he was a 35-year-old hitting .271 with an unimpressive .684 OPS. Hewas on pace to hit five home runs and drive in fewer than 60. But the Giantskept asking about him; Im told they had asked the Boston Red Sox about tradingfor him over the offseason, too.

Finally, a week ahead of the trade deadline, the Rockiescalled the Giants with a list of names. Scutaro was on it.

The Giants tried not to give away their excitement.

The Rockies only asked for minor leaguer Charlie Culberson,who had long ago lost his shine as a top prospect. Colorado even kicked in500,000 to cover some of the roughly 2 million remaining on Scutaroscontract.

The Giants didnt have to take any high-priced dead weight,as the Dodgers did.

It just goes to show that value doesnt always lie in theritziest players. Not only has Scutaro been a perfect addition for Bochyskeep the line moving offense, but hes come up with some huge hits withrunners on base. You could make the argument that Scutaros approach has rubbedoff on some of his teammates, especially when you think back to the first halfand consider the Giants woeful .225 average with runners in scoring positionprior to the break.

They were 4-for-11 with RISP in a well played, 5-2 victoryover the Dodgers on a rowdy Orange Friday at AT&T Park. And Scutaro, ofcourse, collected the two-out, two-run, tiebreaking single in the seventhinning.

Theyre hitting .311 with RISP since the All-Star break --the best in the majors.

It comes down to making more contact with runners on base,and Scutaro has the stats to prove it: nobody in the major leagues is better atputting the bat on the ball.

Seeing as second base is a wide-open proposition for 2013, it wouldn't be surprising to see Scutaro return on a two-year contract.

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There was no crowing in the Giants clubhouse, even thoughtheir 5 12game lead is their largest in the NL West since the final game ofthe 2003 season. (Coincidental note: The pitcher they faced in Game 1 of theNLDS vs. Florida that season, Josh Beckett, was on the mound for the Dodgers Fridaynight.)

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But Scutaro was among several players who noted that theydlove to clinch before setting foot in Dodger Stadium for those final threeregular-season games.

We dont want to go back there those last three games andbe close, Scutaro said.

Added Sergio Romo: Wed like to not necessarily put ourfeet up, because you never can in this game, but wed like to have an idea whatsgoing to happen. It happens so seldom in this game, but thats what we want.

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Brandon Crawford had another solid game on both ends, twicegetting on base and scoring runs from second base on singles. But Joaquin Ariaswill be at shortstop against left-hander Chris Capuano on Saturday, Bochy said.

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Prior to the game, Bochy said he planned to move bodies inthe late innings and he accomplished it without wasting an extra player. AfterGregor Blanco pinch-ran for Hector Sanchez, Bochy put Blanco in left field,moved Brandon Belt from left to first base and stuck Buster Posey behind theplate.

Blanco stole a base and scored the tiebreaking run, and theGiants improved their defense in at least two spots without going to the bench.All in all, not bad.

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Santiago Casilla is recharged and has become a late-inningweapon again. As mentioned in the slideshow I filed earlier today, the Giantsbullpen had struggled against the Dodgers while posting a 5.97 ERA in 12 games.Its on nights like Friday that a closer by committee is really tested. Casillaand Romo made the pitches to nail down a seismic victory.

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.