EXTRA BAGGS: Surprising name in roster conversation

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EXTRA BAGGS: Surprising name in roster conversation

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. The Giants are considering somesurprising roster candidates this late in the spring.

Raise your hands if, a month ago, you considered GregorBlanco a stone-cold lock to make the team. Keep them raised if you thoughtHector Sanchez looked like an obvious although far from guaranteed choiceto break with the club.

Still in the air? OK, smart guy, what say you about Joaquin Arias?

No, Arias hasnt made the club yet. Far from it. But youdbetter believe the coaching staff and front office are kicking around manydifferent roster scenarios, and some of them involve Arias as the backup infielder.

This is a pitching-and-defense team, remember. And nobody incamp, other than Brandon Crawford, has played as impressively in the infield asArias. The 27-year-old journeyman came up in Texas system and was onceconsidered their shortstop of the future before the Rangers landed Elvis Andrusin the Mark Teixeira trade. He was traded to the Mets for Jeff Francoeur in2010 and spent last year at Triple-A Omaha after the Kansas City Royals pickedhim up off waivers.

Arias is a .281 career hitter in the minors and isntconsidered a premium offensive player, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy likes theat-bats hes seen this spring. Most importantly, Arias could provide an extraglove at three positions.

Hes got that baseball savvy that you like, Bochy said. Hesdone a nice job wherever weve put him. And he can handle the bat a little bit.Sure, you look at the numbers (.212 average this spring), but the at-bats havebeen good.

Arias is getting a long enough look, thats for sure. He playedthe entirety of Saturdays home split-squad against the Colorado Rockies (a7-6 loss) and showed impressive range and throwing ability. He has logged 20 innings at third base, 50 at short, 19 at second -- more time on the infield than than anyone in camp.

Hes still more of a longshot to make the roster. But hisspring, and the performance of Emmanuel Burriss, has the Giants confidentenough to put out trade feelers for Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot.

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As I wrote earlier today and mentioned on Twitter, I wastold today that if the Giants had to choose an opening-day second baseman rightnow, itd be Burriss.

Heres what Bochy had to say about him during our postgame session: Believe me, wereexcited with where hes at. Hes worked hard on (the hitting) part of his game.Hes keeping the ball out of the air. Hes thinking line drive (and) down. Lastnight he faced some good arms, threw out some good at-bats.

As for Freddy Sanchez? He still isnt making throws ininfield practice. So much for getting in a minor league game over the weekend.

I cant tell you when Freddys going to be ready, Bochysaid. We dont know.

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It was a split squad today, so until I can track down thescientist who cloned Dolly the Sheep, Ill always be limited to picking one gameor the other to watch.

Actually, I could have used three versions of myself becauseBrian Wilson threw an inning in minor league camp. He threw 19 pitches in oneinning and allowed two hits and a walk. He had bases loaded and no outs,apparently.

Pitching coach Dave Righetti said that Wilson escaped thesituation. Great. Hes in midseason form, I thought.

Righetti did not mention that Wilson was charged with tworuns, both earned.

But the session was fine and Wilson felt good. Righettisreport was positive. Wilson remains on track to pitch Monday against the KansasCity Royals, and thats really all that matters.

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Bochy confirmed that Ryan Vogelsong would pitch Mondayagainst the Royals as well, and not in minor league camp. Hes expected tothrow 40 pitches.

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I chatted with Dan Runzler today. He said he has playedcatch for the past three days and he isnt feeling anything in histroublesome strained lat muscle in the back of his shoulder.

Runzler went back to San Francisco a few weeks ago to havesome blood removed, spun, enriched with platelets and put back into his injuredarea. Real Dr. Frankenstein stuff. (Me, Id just use a cocktail shaker. But then poor Dan might have an olive lodged in his shoulder.)

Runzler said the treatment helped, and doctors theorized that hejust had some scar tissue break loose when he felt his shoulder grab earlierthis spring. Hell get on a mound within a week and hopes to begin the seasonhealthy for Triple-A Fresno.

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Melky Cabrera continues to look good. He seemed to get upslowly after sliding into second base on a double play. But a few inningslater, he roped one off the wall, really booked it around first base and madean aggressive, headfirst slide into second base with a double.

I dont know if hell amass 200 hits and 100 runs again. Butfor you rotisserie players out there, I have a hard time believing he'll fall off a statisticalcliff this season. This guy is focused and ready to do some damage.

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Aubrey Huff might have filled his winter days and winternights with Pilates, but he didnt look so swift while failing to beat out thataforementioned double-play grounder.

Give him credit, though, for running hard for 270 feet toscore on Buster Poseys double earlier in the game. Huff might have just burnedall his fuel early.

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In case you were wondering the Giants are not interestedin signing Pudge Rodriguez, so Im told.

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Had you forgotten about Yusmeiro Petit? Yep, me too.

He was once a fairly well regarded prospect for the Marlinsand he started 17 games for Arizona as recently as 2009 before heading off to pitch in Mexico. I hadforgotten this, but the Giants signed him to a minor league contract. Hedoesnt have a locker on the big league side, but he came in and threw three scoreless innings against the Rockies. Bochy wasimpressed.

Travis Blackley started for the home split squad against theRockies and gave up a long homer to Troy Tulowitzki, but otherwise had a fairlyclean two innings. Blackley is from the outskirts of Melbourne, Australia,which means his life is literally the Endless Summer. When baseball season isover, he goes home to Southern Hemisphere sunshine.

Blackley hadnt spent much time at home in recent years,though. Hed been playing winter ball wherever he could find a roster spot. Butthis past year, he got to play in the rather new Australian winter league. Hespent 4 months back home and absolutely loved it. Having been to Victoria and environs. I know what he means. Beautifulpart of the world.

Blackley is a nice fellow. When he was with the Giants a few years ago, I told him I was an All Blacks fan. He responded with, "Oh naoh! That's loike being a Chicago Cubs fan!"

Well, the All Blacks, pride of New Zealand, won the Rugby World Cup last year. So I guess the Cubs can win the World Series after all.

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Matt Cain started for the Giants road squad against theReds at Goodyear (a 6-4 victory) and his linescore was solid. He threw fiveshutout innings, allowed four hits, strick out five and did not walk a batter.He also had an RBI single.

Gregor Blanco hit a two-run home run, and now I think he's just showing off. Power isn't usually part of his game.

Also notable: Nate Schierholtz had two hits and was caughtstealing. Perhaps hes stepping on the gas now that hes been challenged to winthe right field job.

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Youve got to like infield prospect Joe Panik. The other day, he played anafternoon game in minor league camp and then got called up to the Cactus Leagueexhibition that night. The Giants were short on infielders with Ryan Theriot(ankle), Brandon Crawford (sick, dizzy spell) and Emmanuel Burriss (hamstring)all out for the day.

The next day, I saw Panik in the on-deck circle in minorleague camp. And I joked if he was ready for another day-night doubleheader.

Oh, always, he said.

Sure enough, Panik was needed to fill out the squad againthat night.

He always seems to give you a good at-bat, and he has agreat attitude. Youre going to hear more from this kid in the future. Andyoull be able to see him locally at Single-A San Jose this season at leastto start the year.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”