EXTRA BAGGS: Wilson's new ink -- Johnny Cash


EXTRA BAGGS: Wilson's new ink -- Johnny Cash

DENVER Brian Wilson got a new tattoo over the winter.

You know that famous photo of Johnny Cash? The one takenduring a sound check at Folsom Prison? The one where hes sending a special,one-fingered message to the photographer?

Yep. Its on Wilsons calf. In remarkable detail, too.

So Wilson wont need a knee-jerk response whenever hesasked if hes healthy. He can just point to his calf. Message received.

Wilson insisted during the spring that hes fine. Heinsisted his back and hip are fine. His elbow, too. But he knows there will bedoubts among fans and the media. He is adamant that he will answer all thequestions through his performance.

But rough save conversions like his ninth-inning escapadeThursday wont make the questions go away. Wilson only cracked 90 mph a fewtimes and looked totally out of sorts on a few pitches after what the Giantsdescribed as a tweaked left ankle on a delivery to Tyler Colvin.

Some of that velocity drop can be explained by the fact thatWilson was pitching on a second consecutive day something he did just once inthe spring. Wilson is known to throw all sliders or all cutters in an outing,just for kicks. He did hit 94 mph when he needed to hump up and blow a pitchpast Wilin Rosario, which he did while striking him out.

Can Wilson be the elite force the Giants have relied upon inthe ninth inning? Well, Im not sure hell be as durable. He wont be availablein the home opener Friday because Bruce Bochy doesnt want to use him on athird consecutive day. Everyones durability is questioned over a long season.Wilson will be tested, too.

But there is something about him, however he might be compromised,that keeps him successful in that role. And he does tend to get lucky when hemost needs it. When second baseman Emmanuel Burriss snared Todd Heltonsbases-loaded line drive, it reminded me of the Carlos Ruiz liner from theclinching, Game 6 victory in the 2010 NLCS.

Given what weve seen, Id say sure. Theres every reason tobe a bit skittish about Brian Wilson. But dont be surprised if he finds a wayto get the job done. Or if he points to his new tattoo when you ask him aquestion.

Bochy liked the way Buster Posey came through his firststart since he was diagnosed with shingles. It likely will take a few days(maybe weeks) before Poseys energy level is back to 100 percent. But hesplayable, and hell start behind the plate for Fridays home opener.

I had no concerns, Bochy said. He caught very well. Hellbe back in there tomorrow.

Javier Lopez has stranded five runners in his threeappearances, including two when he got Carlos Gonzalez to hit a broken-batground out in the eighth. Lopez is such a weapon in that bullpen, Bochy said,and nobody knows it better than him.

Madison Bumgarners 117 pitches were the fourth most hesthrown in a start in his career. Im not sure thats a good idea for a22-year-old making his second start of the season. But dont put all the blameon Bochy. He couldnt have foreseen Colvin working Bumgarner for a13-pitch at-bat to end the leftys day.

For a pitcher, Bumgarner is pretty darn good at turning arounda quality fastball. He was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts against Jamie Moyer, butwhen he batted against hard-throwing lefty Rex Brothers in the eighth,Bumgarner took him deep. Almost deep enough. His fly ball was caught on thetrack in dead center.

Brothers might be one of the nastiest relievers in the NL.Bumgarner might have preferred facing him to Moyer.

That was pretty cool getting to throw against him, saidBumgarner, of the man who had over 100 big league starts before he was born. Ican see why hes successful. Thats tough to hit.

The Giants averaged 5.5 runs on the road trip, but the signs are more encouraging than that. It seems hitters are working deeper counts and drawing walks, and yes, that includes Aubrey Huff. Brandon Crawford is showing he can hit lefties. Nate Schierholtz gets a start and pops two home runs. And Melky Cabrera looks like he'll make an everyday impact. He hit safely in all six games on the trip, getting multiple hits in four of them. (No, the Giants do not miss Jonathan Sanchez.)

Now they just need to get their leadoff man on base. If Angel Pagan can't do it, Gregor Blanco will get a chance.

As I await my flight out of Denver, I see that snow is inthe forecast for this weekend. Thank you, baseball and weather gods!

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Dodgers will play their first opening day since 1950 without Vin Scully calling their games. He won't be in the stands. He won't make a point of watching on TV, either.

"It's a day game. I'll probably have things to do," the famed 89-year-old announcer told The Associated Press from his home in Hidden Hills, California. "I might catch a piece of it."

Not that Scully has any regrets since retiring after last season. He says he's grateful for every minute he spent with the Dodgers, the franchise he joined 67 years ago in Brooklyn and followed to Los Angeles eight years later. He feels blessed to have worked as long as he did covering the game he fell in love with as a boy.

But he's learned that after a lifetime in the broadcast booth, watching a game as a fan holds little appeal.

"During the World Series back around '77 or '78, there was a game at Dodger Stadium with the Yankees, and I went to the game as a spectator. Now, I hadn't been as a spectator in a long, long time, and I felt somewhat restless that I wasn't broadcasting," Scully recalled Tuesday.

"I did not have the challenge of trying to describe, accurately and quickly, the way it should be done. I just sat there, and I was not happy, I'll be honest. So I realized that although I love the game, what I loved more was broadcasting it," he said.

Scully spoke to the AP because the Library of Congress has announced it will preserve his call of a 1957 game between the Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, the final time they played at the hallowed old stadium. Both teams moved to California after that season, opening up the West Coast to Major League Baseball.

Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game is more famous. But that game at the Polo Grounds meant more to him personally, because he grew up going to games there, cheering for the Giants and dreaming of watching from the press box.

"It was so meaningful to me. I'm not sure what it really means to baseball fans anymore," Scully said. "The sands of time have washed over the Polo Grounds. But for me, it was one of the more memorable games I was ever involved in."

During that broadcast, Scully implored the players to take their time before there franchises left town: "Let's take it easy, we just want to take one last lingering look at both of you." The Library of Congress called it "a masterful example of the artistry that great sports announcers bring to their work, as well as their empathy for players and fans."

Six decades later, Scully is having an easier time letting go. So no plans to keep track Monday when Los Angeles plays the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

"All summer long, I expect to get feelings of nostalgia, wistfulness, whatever the word may be, but no, I am comfortable, I do know in my heart and soul I am where I should be, and that really is all I need," he said.

"Sure, after 67 years, you'll bet I'll miss it," he added. "But heck, I miss the guys I hung out with when I was in school."

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco …