Giants can't coax Lincecum through heat

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Giants can't coax Lincecum through heat

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON Bruce Bochy sounded like he was trying to coaxan old farm truck up a steep hill.

We were hoping he could get through the fourth inning,said the Giants manager, and he couldnt make it.

Tim Lincecum had nothing left in his tank. His gears were grinding. And he couldntescape the fourth inning. In his 172nd major league start, he gaveup eight runs for the first time. In the draining heat, his hair clingy withperspiration, Lincecums momentum from two good outings leaked out like power steering fluid.

The heat, said Lincecum, just got the better of me today.

Meteorology aside, here is the real thunderclap fact thatfollowed Tuesday nights 9-3 loss to the Washington Nationals:

The Giants face more than one steep hill with their formerace. They are exactly midway through a season. On this coast-to-coast drive,theyre in Topeka.

Somehow, they must continue to coax Lincecum along.

You always think hes turned a corner every time he goesout there, said Bochy, confirming that Lincecum would pitch Sunday atPittsburgh, the final game before the All-Star break. Hes got another starthere before the break. We need him to get back on track and pitch well.

Miraculously, the Giants made it to their 81stgame as a first place team, even though they are 4-13 in Lincecums starts.They are still a 45-win club, on pace for a 90-win season. They could be somuch further along. They could be spinning in mud, too.

Bochy waved off any big-picture talk of the Giants fortunesamid Lincecums failures.

Weve talked about that, Bochy said. I dont want todwell on that. Thats not what he needs to think.

You want to go with a mantra of, Its not how you start,its how you finish. The stuff is fine and hes healthy. We need him to pitchthe way we know he can.

Lincecum did not finish well amid the heat at NationalsPark, which was constant if not totally oppressive. Although temperatures werein the 90s with the requisite blanket-over-the-head humidity, an overcast skykept it from really roasting.

Lincecum threw 21 pitches in the first inning. Twenty-one.

Thats all it took to sap him.

Well, he worked hard and logged a lot of pitches, and Ithink it caught up to him in the heat, Bochy said. It showed. He couldnthold them. He couldnt get the ball where he wanted.

Lincecum threw 24 pitches in the Nationals two-run secondinning, including a curveball to pitcher Jordan Zimmermann that hovered like aglobby mass.

He threw 26 pitches as the Nationals hit rockets in athree-run third inning.

He had nothing left in the fourth.

It wasnt any one inning, Lincecum said. Just coming hereand dealing with that heat, its not anything different from what Ive dealtwith. It just got the better of me today. They made me work. They made me payfor it.

At the same time, Im not trying to make that my excuse ormy out.

Has he lost the momentum he searched for nearly two monthsto generate?

No, Lincecum said. Its easy to look at what happenedtoday and say I took a step back. But the next outing has nothing to do withtoday. Its about getting better the next four days.

Stuff was just a little flatter today. Just not as crispwith the exception of a couple batters in the first inning. That was thedifference.

Lincecum did a better job performing in the heat last season,when he was carrying an extra 20 or 25 pounds. He lost that weight over thewinter, saying he didnt like the way he felt.

Bochy said he didnt think Lincecums skinnier frame hadmuch of an impact. But his ability to maintain his stuff has been a largerissue this season. Heat or no heat. Long innings or not.

Well yeah, thats the case with most pitchers, Bochy said.Youre in the third or fourth inning with 70 pitches, its probably going tocatch up to you, especially in the heat. You could see him laboring in thesecond inning.

In the fourth, he couldnt quite make it.

Once again, Lincecum is left to talk about putting a badstart behind him. And find his old gear.

Ill try to feed off any wins we get, whether its mepitching or not, Lincecum said. Were all here for the same reason, and winningis contagious.

At least he can find some vapors there. Astounding though it might be, hes still pitchingfor a first-place club.

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.