EXTRAS: Burriss plans to bring the leather this time

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EXTRAS: Burriss plans to bring the leather this time

Emmanuel Burriss wasnt so well equipped last season.

No longer limited to the middle infield, Burriss became a utility-man extraordinaire, getting experience at left field, third base and even first base. He did surprisingly well at all positions, giving him an edge to win the last spot on the Giants opening-day roster as he enters spring training.

But he always seemed to be playing with a borrowed glove.

He used catcher Chris Stewarts first basemans mitt, bench coach Ron Wotus third basemans glove and he snagged some extra leather from Nate Schierholtz whenever Bruce Bochy pointed him to the outfield.

When Burriss played the outfield at Triple-A Fresno, he raided the locker of Grizzlies teammate Tyler La Torre.

Wait. Isnt La Torre a catcher?

Uh yeah, Burriss said.

Now Burriss has a whole new collection of gloves on order. Hell enjoy breaking them in this spring and never needing to rely on the charity of his teammates.

Not that Stewart minded handing over his first basemans mitt.

He kept it warm for me, Stewart said. When I needed it, it was ready to go.

You might wonder: Why does Stewart own a first basemans mitt in the first place? Well, he has his own glove story to tell. He had been called up by the Chicago White Sox in 2006 and joined the team at Fenway Park.

Ozzie (Guillen) called me over from the bullpen, so here I think Im coming in to catch, Stewart said. I get to the dugout and Ozzie says, If (Paul) Konerko gets on, youll pinch run and youll play first base. Oh, and do you have a glove?

Stewart couldnt just say no, could he? Of course not. He told Guillen he would find a glove, then he began to envision all the ways he could look like a total spaz in his major league debut.

Then Konerko lined out, Stewart said. And I took a deep breath and I sat down on the bench.

Stewart has one more message to pass along to Burriss:

Tell him he can borrow my catchers mitt if he wants to, he said, grinning. Anytime.

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As expected, Buster Posey did not catch any bullpens Monday. He did take batting practice without his ankle brace and participated in other drills. He iced down his ankle after the workout.

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Ryan Vogelsong is not having a great spring thus far. In addition to his strained back, which could force him to sit out the first two weeks of camp, Vogelsong was sent home Monday with flu-like symptoms.

REWIND: Back strain slows Vogelsong's spring

Were getting it all out of the way early, Bochy said.

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With Vogelsong out, the Giants are looking at their starting pitching depth and maybe even scanning the free-agent ranks to find a last-minute arm or two. For now, Ramon Ortiz and Brian Burres will be stretched out along with Eric Surkamp.

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Another player who will be sidelined is minor league infield prospect Charlie Culberson. He broke the tip of his left index finger when he dropped a dumbbell on it in the weight room a week ago. Culberson is wearing a splint and said he should be OK to take ground balls in a week.

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Maybe it wasnt such a good idea that Brian Wilson threw off a bullpen mound one spot over from flamethrowing prospect Heath Hembree, who has been known to dial it up in the 99 mph range.

I thought the same thing, Manager Bruce Bochy said. Two power arms next to each other, first bullpen, the last thing you want is for them to compete and see who throws the hardest.

Clear advantage: Hembree.

That was pretty neat, said Hembree, who was drafted by the Giants four months before Wilson clinched the World Series championship. I cant say I was watching what he was doing. I was just trying to focus on getting my own work done.

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In case you hadnt heard, Aaron Rowand, now a non-roster player in Florida Marlins camp, was able to get his familiar No. 33. The player who gave it up was none other than Scott Cousins, the baserunner who injured Buster Posey with his spearing collision at the plate May 25.

Cousins decided to switch to No .6, saying it was in homage to J.T. Snow his favorite Giant while growing up a huge fan of the team.

Heres the weirdest part: It was Snow, remember, who once famously collided with a catcher in Florida Pudge Rodriguez in a failed effort to knock the ball out of his glove. The play was the final out as the Marlins clinched the NL Division series in 2003.

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The Giants will play an intrasquad game on March 1, Bochy said.

Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

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Giants Notes: Blach shows resiliency; Another option in center?

CHICAGO — John Lackey's night started with a leadoff homer. Ty Blach's night started with a 13-pitch battle. Neither one is a positive for a pitcher, but Blach didn't view it that way. He actually appreciated Ben Zobrist stretching him out.

"It's good to have a battle like that and get you locked in," Blach said. "It gets you focused and you'll be like, I can execute and get guys out. It's good. It's a good battle."

There, in a nutshell, is so much of what Bruce Bochy loves about his young left-hander. The Giants have found Blach's arm and resolve to be remarkably resilient. He wasn't bothered when they moved him to the bullpen and he didn't get too high when they moved him back to the rotation. He is the same after seven shutout innings or three poor ones. Bochy smiled when asked about the Zobrist at-bat, which ended in a strikeout looking. 

"How 'bout that?" the manager said. "He won that at-bat. It seems like the advantage goes to the hitter, seeing all those pitches. He kept his focus and got a called strikeout and here he is pitching in the eighth inning."

After needing 13 pitches for one out, Blach got the next 23 on 81 pitches. Bochy thought Blach tired a bit in the eighth, but the deep effort allowed Bochy to mix and match in the bullpen, and ultimately he found the right mix. Hunter Strickland and Mark Melancon closed it out and got Blach his second win.

--- From last night, Joe Panik's huge night helped give Blach an early lead. With the help of Ron Wotus and his shift charts, he also put on a show defensively.

--- We're trying something new right after the final pitch: Here are five quick takeaways from the 6-4 win.

--- The options game sent Kelby Tomlinson back to Triple-A on Wednesday when the Giants activated Melancon, but his latest stint in Sacramento comes with a twist. Tomlinson started his third consecutive game in center field on Monday. The Giants are getting a bit more serious about their longtime plan to make Tomlinson a super-utility player. 

“Tommy is a valuable guy in the majors and if we can give him some experience in the outfield, it gives you more flexibility and versatility,” manager Bruce Bochy said. 

This is not Tomlinson’s first foray into the outfield. He did work there in the offseason after the 2015 season and he has played 25 big league innings in left field the last two seasons. This is Tomlinson’s first real experience with center field, and while in the past he has said that the transition isn’t as easy as some might think, Bochy is confident Tomlinson can figure it out. He certainly has the speed to be a semi-regular in the outfield, and the Giants aren’t exactly brimming with quality center field options behind Denard Span, who is dealing with his second injury of the season. 

“It’s a little different now,” Bochy said when asked about Tomlinson’s past experiences in the outfield. “He’s in Sacramento doing it, and knowing there’s a possibility we could need help in the outfield.”

If the switch doesn’t come in handy this season, it could in 2018. Bochy compared Tomlinson’s infield-outfield ability to Eduardo Nuñez, who has found regular playing time in left but is a free agent after the year. 

--- Hunter Pence did some light running in the outfield before Monday’s game. Bochy said Pence is still about a week away from being an option.

--- Bochy has said it a few times now when asked about the standings, so it’s officially a new motto for a team that got off to a brutal start: “We’ve put ourselves in a great situation for a great story.”

--- They're starting to get a little grumpy around here with their team hovering around .500. Perhaps the Cubs thought they could fool a few on the way out of Wrigley.

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

Panik takes step in right direction, helps Giants build lead Cubs can't overcome

CHICAGO — The Giants gave Mark Melancon $62 million to make sure they don’t have an NLDS repeat, and the closer did shut the Cubs down in the ninth Monday. There’s a far cheaper solution to those big problems, however: Score so much that a late-inning implosion doesn’t matter. 

The Giants gave up four in the eighth inning in their first meeting with the Cubs since that infamous Game 4 meltdown, but thanks in large part to Joe Panik, the cushion was large enough. Panik, back atop the leadoff spot with Denard Span aching, reached base four times and had three extra-base hits. He came into the game with a .172 average over his previous 14 games, but he took John Lackey deep to lead off the night. 

“The last couple of days in St. Louis I started feeling better,” Panik said. “I started feeling a little better and today it clicked. It’s definitely a step in the right direction. I felt good. The swing path felt good. It’s going back to staying on the ball and not trying to do too much.”

With the wind rushing out toward the bleachers, there was no need to try and muscle the ball. The Giants hit a season-high three homers and added four doubles. Brandon Belt and Justin Ruggiano also went deep as the lead was stretched to 6-0. After Ruggiano’s blast, a familiar feeling set in.

Ty Blach had been brilliant through seven, but Javier Baez took him deep in the eighth. Derek Law entered and gave up a two-run shot to Ben Zobrist. Just as in Game 4, Bochy started wearing out the track to the mound. Steven Okert faced one batter and plunked him as Hunter Strickland and Melancon started to heat up. Strickland got the call, and after falling behind in the count, he got Willson Contreras to ground into a double play, stranding a pair. 

“No lead is safe on a night like this,” Bochy said of the wind. “It’s not surprising when the other team answers.”

It probably wasn’t surprising to the players on the field. It did, however, bring back bad memories.

“You’re human,” Panik said. “You’re human, but with the bullpen we’ve got, we have confidence that they’ll shut it down.”

As the Cubs rallied in the eighth and again the ninth, a half-dozen key plays from earlier loomed larger. Panik was sent from second by Phil Nevin on a hard single to left and he cut the corner at third perfectly, scoring the second run of the night. Blach helped kill one potential Cubs rally by cutting behind Albert Almora in the sixth. The center fielder had dropped a one-out bloop into right and he made a hard turn. Blach followed him to first, fielded a throw from Ruggiano, and threw Almora out at second, eliminating a baserunner ahead of Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

“We work on that all the time,” said Blach, a former minor league Gold Glove winner. “I saw him rounding pretty hard so I tried to sneak in. We were able to catch a guy sleeping.”

Blach was being modest. It is not a play most pitchers make, not in a 5-0 game. It was simply one of many defensive highlights for the Giants, who did just about everything right until the eighth. When the bullpen started to wobble, the lead was large enough that it didn’t matter. 

The win was the eighth in 10 games for a team that’s threatening to get back into the postseason chase. For all that’s gone wrong, the Giants are just 3 1/2 games behind these Cubs. They’ll try to get another one back Tuesday in a reminder of what could have been: Johnny Cueto against Jon Lester.

Earlier this season, Panik would have hit seventh or eighth against Lester, but Bochy said he’ll get another night atop the lineup. The manager said Panik earned it with his first career night with three extra base hits. After the first leadoff homer of his career — and probably life — Panik doubled twice. That helped build the lead, but it led to some ribbing hours later. As Panik addressed reporters, Matt Cain snuck up behind the scrum.

“Ask him why he didn’t try for third on his second double,” Cain whispered.