Giants 2012 -- Baggarly digs in

671876.jpg

Giants 2012 -- Baggarly digs in

For my first blog post at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Im going to tell you about Derin McMains.If youve heard of him, congratulations. Hes a former minor league middle infielder in the Giants system who scrapped through an incredible amount of injuries before he retired in 2007. He only played 17 games at Triple-A. He never made the majors.During his playing career, McMains was a real-life version of Archie Graham: Baby faced, excitable, fast-talking, self-effacing, incredibly eager. Archie, you might remember, held out his thumb and stepped in Ray Kinsellas van on a dark Midwestern road in Field of Dreams. McMains probably didnt hitch his way from his hometown of Oskaloosa, Iowa, to play ball at Arkansas State. But I bet you he wouldve. When youre around the game long enough and meet someone like McMains, you instantly know theyll breathe baseball all their lives.

Sure enough, a few months after injuries forced McMains to retire, he became a 27-year-old third base coach in the Giants organization. This year, hell make his managerial debut for the Giants rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League.Recently, I came across the Giants news release about their minor league coaching staff and saw McMains name. It conjured a spring training memory that Im sure he hasnt forgotten.It was 2006 and he was invited to big league camp a big deal for a fringe prospect who wasnt on the 40-man roster. It doesnt happen often, but club officials sometimes hand out one of these invites to a kid who impresses them, by his dedication in rehabbing an injury, or never-ending hustle. McMains qualified on both counts. He spent six days a week in Arizona all through the 115-degree summer, grunting his way back after surgeries to reconstruct his shoulder and repair a ruptured wrist tendon.Not everybody has the dedication to do that, said Stan Conte, the Giants trainer at the time. That's what makes him one of our favorites."Said Felipe Alou: "That kid is one tough cookie.In 2006, it was McMains good fortune that the inaugural World Baseball Classic was being held that spring. Four of the Giants starters were taking part. They were light on players, and so McMains got a locker amid the big leaguers.The spring of 2006 was an especially busy time in Scottsdale, but not for the WBC. Barry Bonds was marching on the all-time home run record and to say emotions were conflicted would be an understatement. It was the height of the steroids scandal. Baseballs most hallowed record was about to intersect with one of its most disgraceful periods. The media descended on Barry, and because he wasnt talking to anyone, his teammates took the brunt of it.This was the clubhouse into which unassuming young Derin McMains entered. And in one of the first exhibition games, he got an at-bat in the late innings. He got ahold of a fastball and sent it over the fence.A couple days later, he received another late-inning at-bat. This time, he faced Trevor Hoffman. The all-time saves leader. Future Hall of Famer.He took him deep. Three-run shot.It was the moment of Derin McMains baseball life, and of course, it was a good little notebook item for the beat writers myself among them. Our small contingent approached him in the clubhouse, a vision of dirt and eye black and grinning teeth.All of the sudden, the rest of the media moved in, a cocoon of cameras and microphones, and our small group all began to laugh at the absurdity of the scene. McMains was totally befuddled. He hadnt been to big league spring training before. He thought he just made the national news for hitting a Cactus League home run.The reality: the media cocoon didnt know who Derin McMains was. They had no idea he wouldnt make the team. They didnt understand the story. They just saw someone in a Giants uniform, and they needed one of those guys to talk about Barry Bonds.McMains wasnt offended when the first question was about Bonds. He homered off Hoffman. He just realized for the first time in his life that a 165-pound kid can stand on a cloud. He didnt care.It felt like 1,000 pounds lifted off my shoulders," he said. I just wanted to make sure I didn't trip in front of my parents and my wife. The rest was a blur. I couldn't even tell you whose hands I shook.And what about taking Hoffman deep?Shoot, I've faced him enough times on video games, McMains said with a laugh. I knew he had a good changeup.At the time, that scene energized me, and now I understand why. Its because Derin McMains offered a baseball story to cover amid the sludge of the Bonds years. Not even the drudgery of that time could knock the shine off it.It also represents what I love most about spring training. Sure, there are positional battles and health updates and lineup configurations to write about every day. Thats the important stuff. But spring is also the slowest time of the year in what already is a slow sport. Its a time to reflect and to be hopeful.The clubhouse is half-full of promising rookies. And everyone is in first place. Even the Cubs.So as I get ready to begin the two-day drive to cover my ninth spring training in Scottsdale, and my first for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Ill be sure to watch every time Brian Wilson throws off a mound. Ill ask Buster Posey how his ankle responded after his first game. Ill watch Freddy Sanchez take infield. I might even ask Tim Lincecum whether hes fallen off the diet wagon and made an In-N-Out run.But Ill also hope to encounter another Derin McMains.If you followed my reporting in the San Jose Mercury News and clicked refresh often on my Extra Baggs blog, youll know I tended to write rather voluminous posts after games. Here on Giants Talk, those might get broken up into multiple posts. But I plan on bringing my same voice to this space, and now I wont have to embed links to game stories and notebooks from the paper. Youll find everything right here.So I hope youll bookmark Giants Talk and check back often. In addition to my coverage as a full-time, traveling beat reporter, we have a hardworking team of young, energetic producers who will be providing new content about all aspects of Giants baseball. Plus youll see a lot more images, graphics and videos than I could manage with a Flip Cam and half a clue.This is going to be exciting. Hope you enjoy.
Follow CSN's new Insider on Twitter @CSNBaggs and on his brand new Facebook fan page

Giants lineup: Posey, Arroyo out against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey, Arroyo out against Braves

Mired in a big slump, rookie Christian Arroyo is getting a night off, while Nick Hundley is catching in place of Buster Posey Saturday.

Atlanta Braves:
1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Tyler Flowers (R) C
7. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
8. Danny Santana (S) 3B
9. Mike Foltynewicz (R) P

San Francisco Giants:
1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
3. Joe Panik (L) 2B
4. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Aaron Hill (R) 3B
7. Nick Hundley (R) C
8. Mac Williamson (R) RF
9. Ty Blach (R) P

 

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

Giants get blanked by Braves, now have lowest-scoring team in majors

SAN FRANCISCO — Over in Cleveland earlier Friday, Brandon Moss hit a three-run homer for the visiting team and five other players chipped in a pair of hits. The Royals had six runs, which meant that when Jim Johnson closed the Giants out a few hours later, what has seemed true all season became officially true. The Giants have the lowest-scoring lineup in the majors.

At 3.32 runs per game, they have dipped below the equally-disappointing Royals (3.38). They are capable at the moment of making any pitching staff look dominant. A 2-0 shutout was the first of the year for the Braves, who previously had just two games this season where they allowed fewer than two runs. 

“Six runs in (the last) four games … I thought we would come home and get some rips in tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Bruce Bochy said. 

The manager’s frustration showed late in this one. After the only rally of the game — a two-run single by opposing pitcher Jaime Garcia — Bochy took his cap off and rubbed his forehead. He dipped his head and briefly stood as if he was going to fall asleep on the rail. The bats were equally still. 

The Giants had just four hits, all of them singles against Garcia, who is a nice pitcher but hardly one of the league’s best. One was an infield single by Eduardo Nuñez, another a single through Garcia’s five-hole, and a third a generous ruling by the official scorekeeper. 

“It comes down to, you’ve got to get some hits and create opportunities, and we’re not doing it very often,” Bochy said. “It’s just a matter of guys getting somewhat hot. We did, we had some success, and we won some games. The thing you like to see is some good cuts and I didn’t think we got enough of those tonight.”

That run, which spanned the last homestand and small parts of two road trips, has come to a screeching halt. The Giants have lost five of six. It seems silly to scoreboard-watch in May, especially when a team is playing like this, but it’s worth noting that the teams the Giants eventually need to catch keep winning. They fell 12 games back of the Rockies and 11 back of the streaking Diamondbacks. They are 9 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who might be the best team in the whole league. 

Matt Cain did his part to allow the Giants to keep pace. He got beat just once in seven sharp innings. The Giants intentionally walked Dansby Swanson to get to Garcia, who bounced a single into left. Brandon Belt had a play at the plate, but his throw was short and hit the runner. A second run scored. 

“That’s tough,” Cain said. “(Garcia) was throwing the ball really good and that’s what it comes down to, you’re looking for that one hit and he did it. He’s a good hitter. We’ve seen it in St. Louis. But it definitely is tough when the pitcher does that … it just stinks on my part to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher.”