Former Giant Molina surprised, honored by retirement bash

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Former Giant Molina surprised, honored by retirement bash

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Bengie Molina couldntunderstand why his in-laws wanted to browse in the sporting goods store for solong Saturday afternoon. He couldnt figure out why they suddenly wanted toleave. And when he approached his house, he didnt recognize the carsparked on the street. Thats when I knew, Molina told me.Something was going on.

Hewalked into a surprise retirement party and a room full of former teammates,coaches, trainers and clubhouse personnel. Matt Cain, Barry Zito, JeremyAffeldt and Travis Ishikawa were there from his years with the Giants. Heplayed with Ramon Ortiz and Ervin Santana with the Angels. And there wereothers he never counted as teammates: catchers like Ramon Hernandez and MiguelMontero, and yes, newest Angel Albert Pujols. Thatsthe impact Bengie had on guys around the league, Cain told me. It was great.We had a good time. Its always fun to be around Bengie. He was a great teammate,such a great family guy, and really, a great friend. You know youve got alifetime friend with Bengie. He always cared about all his teammates and itshowed. It showed last night." Molina hasnt playedsince Game 5 of the World Series, when he was the starting catcher for theTexas Rangers -- a team he joined after a July 1 trade that basically freed upthe catching position for Buster Posey with the Giants. Hedidnt play last season but hadnt announced his retirement. The party made itofficial. It was a special night, said Molina, whosesurprise bash was organized by his wife, Jamie. I cant thank enough all thepeople that came. At some point they touched my life and helped me be who I amright now. Molina retires with a .274 average over parts of13 major league seasons with the Angels, Blue Jays, Giants and Rangers. Hesalso the eldest of the history-making Molina clan, joining Jose and Yadier asthe only trio of brothers to own World Series rings. Infact, theyll each own two. Yadier claimed his second ringlast season with the St. Louis Cardinals. Jose owns a pair as well; he andBengie were teammates on the 2002 Angels club that defeated the Giants. Josewon another with the 09 Yankees. And yes, Bengie has tworings in his collection. Even though he played on the losing side in 2010, theGiants saw fit to give him a ring for the contributions he made prior to theJuly 1 trade for reliever Chris Ray. Giants vice presidentBobby Evans arranged for one of the Tiffany sparklers to be sent to Bengieshouse. Yeah, I have it with me, Bengie said. Im veryproud of that. Even though I didnt play for them in the World Series, I felt Ihelped those kids. I wasnt part of the winning team, but I contributed in manyother ways. It was a really good feeling when they gave that tome. The Giants are sure to stage many, many reunions andevents for the 2010 World Series champions in the future. Bengie said he hopesto be a part of them. Oh, I would enjoy it with all myheart, he said. You dont have any idea. Ill go back in a heartbeat. Anyday, doesnt matter. Giants fans treated me with respect and gave me theirlove. I have nothing to be ashamed of to go back. I stillcheer for the Giants. All my friends are there. It all depends on whatownership wants. Its common for retiring players toreflect on their careers and appreciate the time that they enjoyed in the bigleagues. Molina didnt need to stop playing to appreciate what he had. Hewasnt drafted, signed for 500 and paid every due imaginable in the minorleagues while proving he was more than an organizationalplayer. In addition to his big league friends, members ofthe Angels front office and clubhouse staff were at the party to congratulatehim. So were his old coach and pitching coach (yes, he was once a pitcher) fromArizona Western College. Im a kid who wasnt supposed tomake it, he said. I was one step lower than everyone else. So Im very happywith what I was able to make and what I did in my career. I wake up every dayand thank God for the opportunities I had. I have no regrets inbaseball. Hes especially happy for the pitchers he workedwith over the years. I always wanted them to be greatpitchers to help us win, but I also wanted them to be able to make a living andbe able to take care of thief families, he said. I look back at a JarrodWashburn or John Lackey, or a (Tim) Lincecum or Cain. They were able to makegood money to support their families. Do you know how great I feel aboutthat? Those pitchers felt just as good about pulling thesurprise on him. It was important to support Bengie becausehes been such a supportive person when he played, Zito told me. Hes one ofthe best teammates Ive ever had. It was important to take time to let him knowI wish him well in the next phase of his life. It can be a daunting thing for aplayer to go to the next stage. This is a lifestyle, not just ajob. Next up for Molina is some traveling, fishing andenjoying time with his wife and two daughters. He wants to take a trip to seethe Olympics in London.Then, in a year or two, he plans to look for a coaching position where he canmake an impact. His late father, Benjamin, was deeply invested in youthbaseball in Puerto Rico until the day he diedof a heart attack in 2008. He was crossing the street with boxes of baseballsin his hands when he collapsed. I want to dedicate myselfto do what my dad did: teaching kids how to play, and also how to be a betterperson and how to love their families, Bengie said. Im going to try to passit on. For now, he has one more message to pass along tofans: They made a difference in my life, he said. Pleasetell the fans, and not only Giants fans, but wherever I played, tell them I saythank you so much for all the support and the cheers. Everything I did, I didfrom the heart. For the Giants, tell them congratulations from me for the WorldSeries, and thank you. And tell them theyve got a youngcatcher theyll enjoy for a long, long time. Buster Posey is a superstar. Hesso serious. He wants to get better every day. Were always texting each otherand hes a great kid. I love him a lot. I think of him as one of my brothers,too.

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

Giants spring training Day 40: Belt continues domination of Rockies' home park

BELT RIVER FIELDS, Ariz. — Earlier this spring, Brandon Belt moved his schedule around so he could get additional at-bats. That led to some random trips across the desert, but there was never any doubt Belt would be in Friday’s road lineup.

Belt demolishes the ball at Salt River Fields, spring home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. After coming out of Friday’s win, he shook his head in mock disgust when talking about the day’s stats.

“One for four, you’ve gotta be kidding me,” Belt said. “That’s terrible.”

That one happened to be a homer, a three-run shot off Jon Gray, the likely opening day starter for the Rockies. Belt thought he crushed the ball but it ended up pretty high, so it simply dropped onto the berm in right. 

“It squeaked out,” Belt said. “Good mojo, I guess.”

The mojo kept his remarkable run going at Salt River. His updated career stats here: 22 for 35, with eight homers, four doubles, one triple and 18 RBI. Belt said he’s not quite sure why he turns into the flames emoji every time he steps onto this field. 

“I don’t know what it is, but I like hitting here,” he said. “Maybe it’s the batter’s eye?”

Salt River has a dark green batter’s eye with no distractions on either side, and the Giants certainly saw the ball well Friday. They had seven straight hits in the third before Gray was pulled with a sore foot. Belt hit second, and manager Bruce Bochy said that wasn’t simply because Joe Panik had the day off. Bochy will look at several different lineup permutations over the next week, and a Span/Belt/Pence/Posey/Crawford one-through-five is one option. 

“I like (that spot) a lot,” Belt said. “I feel good getting started and knowing I’ll get to bat in the first inning. It’s a good spot. I don’t think my approach changes that much: Get a pitch to hit and try to hit it hard.”

GAME RECAP: Jeff Samardzija was sharp in four innings, allowing just two hits and striking out three. He threw about 45 pitches on the field and then went down to the bullpen for 45 more. Samardzija certainly benefited from having Buster Posey back in the lineup. He said Posey noticed during warmups that Samardzija’s delivery was a little flat and his arm was dragging too low. 

“That doesn’t happen often,” Samardzija said of having a guy like Posey back there. “You have a lot of catchers who are afraid to say something.”

The rest of this one was a laugher until the ninth, when the Rockies rallied and brought the winning run to the plate. It hasn’t been a great spring for the bullpen.

STOCK WATCH: Chris Marrero hit a deep homer, his seventh of the spring. He also made a nice pick at first, where he looks much more comfortable. At this point, it appears it’s either Marrero or Kelby Tomlinson for that final bench spot.

TRAINER’S ROOM: The news on Will Smith was as expected. He will have Tommy John surgery next week. 

There is good news for Trevor Brown: The catcher, who has a sore ankle, took some swings and he’s feeling much better. Brown did not, as first reported, get hurt hiking on an off day. It happened during a game. Brown won’t be ready in time to return to Cactus League action, so he’ll likely stay here during the Bay Bridge Series and then travel home with Triple-A Sacramento. 

ICYMI: Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey and Mark Melancon are back in camp. Here’s a story on Posey’s WBC experience, with the catcher saying he’d like to play again in four years. Here’s Crawford on his month, which ended with him giving an NL West rival a slump-busting bat. 

ROSTER UPDATE: The Giants released David Hernandez, at his request. They have started to tell others that they’re not making the opening day roster, so there should be a series of minor transactions this weekend. (You know where to go.)

QUOTABLE: "I swung at a heater and a slider went right into my bat. I was happy to be able to track (pitches), and happy that the next time the bunt didn't go off my beautiful face." -- Samardzija, when asked about his double off the wall. 

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Plenty of high-profile MLB players wearing new uniforms in 2017

Chris Sale traded socks (AP) -- or Sox - from white to red. Edwin Encarnacion took his big bat to Cleveland. Aroldis Chapman returned to the Bronx.

Plenty of All-Stars, Cy Young winners and MVPs are wearing new uniforms this season.

The biggest move occurred when the Boston Red Sox acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox. The five-time All-Star left-hander left a team that hasn't reached the playoffs since 2008 for one that's won three World Series titles since 2004.

Encarnacion left Toronto for the team that beat the Blue Jays in last year's ALCS. He averaged 39 homers and 110 RBIs over the past five seasons in Toronto and gives the Indians a major boost.

Chapman is back in New York after spending the first half of last season with the Yankees before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs and helped them win the World Series.

Here's a 25-man roster of familiar faces in different places this season:

STARTING LINEUP

1. CF: Dexter Fowler. Jumped from World Series champion Cubs to rival St. Louis. Gives the Cardinals stability atop the batting order.

2. RF: Adam Eaton. Traded from White Sox to defending NL East champion Nationals. He'll play center field in Washington between Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper.

3. DH: Kendrys Morales. Joined Blue Jays to help fill Encarnacion's void after spending past two seasons with the Royals.

4. 1B: Encarnacion.

5. C: Brian McCann. Traded from Yankees to Astros, giving Houston's stacked lineup another slugger.

6. SS: Ian Desmond. Returns to NL to join Rockies after one season playing outfield in Texas. He'll play first base for Colorado, but he's back at shortstop on this squad.

7. LF: Matt Holliday. Signed with Yankees following 7 1/2 seasons in St. Louis. The seven-time All-Star will likely DH in New York though he'll see some action in left field.

8. 2B: Brandon Phillips. Waived no-trade clause to go to rebuilding Braves after 11 seasons with Reds.

9. 3B: Howie Kendrick. Comes east after spending his entire career in Los Angeles - nine seasons with Angels and last two with Dodgers. Kendrick is playing left field for Philadelphia but he starts at third to fill this lineup.

BENCH

1B: Chris Carter. Landed with Yankees after swatting 41 homers for Milwaukee last season to tie for NL lead.

INF: Jimmy Rollins. Former NL MVP is trying to land a roster spot with San Francisco as a utility man after playing all but one-third inning of his 17-year career at shortstop. Has bounced from Dodgers to White Sox to Giants after 15 seasons in Philadelphia.

OF: Michael Saunders. All-Star for Blue Jays last season and will start in right field for Phillies.

OF: Carlos Beltran. Returns to Houston after spending half the 2004 season with the Astros and hitting eight postseason homers for them.

C: Matt Wieters. Left Baltimore for Washington to replace All-Star Wilson Ramos, who joined Tampa Bay and is still recovering from knee surgery.

STARTING ROTATION

Sale.

Edinson Volquez. Goes from Royals to Marlins.

Jaime Garcia. Lefty joins Braves after eight seasons in St. Louis.

Jered Weaver. Stays in California, switching to Padres after 11 seasons with Angels.

R.A. Dickey. Knuckleballer returns to NL East after four seasons in Toronto. One of two 40-plus former Cy Young award winners signed by Braves.

LONG RELIEVER

Bartolo Colon. Other veteran Braves signed to bolster rotation. He'll be long man on this staff.

BULLPEN

Chapman.

Mark Melancon. Signed with Giants after finishing last season in Washington.

Sergio Romo. Went from San Francisco to rival Dodgers.

Wade Davis. Traded from Royals to Cubs to replace Chapman.

Santiago Casilla. Stays in Bay Area, going from Giants to A's.