Giants fans rock the vote, elect three All-Star starters

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Giants fans rock the vote, elect three All-Star starters

SAN FRANCISCO Third baseman Pablo Sandoval was asked howmany All-Star ballots he punched or mice he clicked.

I dont, I dont, Sandoval said, laughing. I dont havetime to vote.

Everyone else in the Bay Area did, apparently. Giants fanswere the story of All-Star selection Sunday, overwhelming the final vote totalsin a flood that was sufficiently large to generate suspicion.

Catcher Buster Posey, outfielder Melky Cabrera and Sandovalwere elected as starters to the NL squad, marking the first time that theGiants had three players lead the fan balloting at their positions since 2001.

Matt Cain was the only representative from the Giantspitching staff. If he gets the nod for the NL team, the Giants could have fourstarting players out of nine.

But thats only half the story. Posey, Cabrera and Sandovaldidnt just receive a final push in the voting. This was a gigawatt-sizedsurge.

Posey didnt simply lead all NL vote getters. His 7,621,370votes were the most ever for an NL All-Star. Cabrera didnt just catch reigningMVP Ryan Braun to make the starting outfield. He led all outfielders and his7,521,784 votes were second to Posey on the NL roster.

The biggest surprise was Sandoval, who missed a monthbecause of a broken hamate bone in his left hand and yet was able to pass theMets David Wright, who is hitting .355 and has led the NL in batting averagefor most of the season.

But nothing symbolized the ballot-box stuffing more thanthis: Freddy Sanchez, who hasnt played an inning in more than a year becauseof shoulder and back issues, ranked fourth among NL second basemen with2,289,147 votes.

I was getting nervous, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said,tongue in cheek. Because I didnt have Freddy all year and here he was goingto get a shot to start the All-Star Game.

The Giants fan influence was felt throughout the ballot.First baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford finished second attheir positions. Belt drew 3.9 million votes to finish well behind CincinnatisJoe Votto; Crawfords 3.6 million votes were just 300,000 fewer than theCardinals Rafael Furcal. Crawford outpaced much bigger names such as TroyTulowitzki and Jimmy Rollins.

Angel Pagan finished fifth among NL outfielders, finishingahead of Matt Holliday, Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence, among others.

Our fans our fans are crazy, Belt said. I mean, itsamazing.

The last time the Giants had three elected starters, secondbaseman Jeff Kent, outfielder Barry Bonds and shortstop Rich Aurilia led theballoting.

The Giants could add another representative if there areopenings on the NL pitching staff due to injury or starters being ineligible ifthey pitch the final day of the first half. That could open up a spot for RyanVogelsong or Madison Bumgarner, both of whom have the numbers to go.

As it stands, Cain is the lone representative from a Giantsstaff that is the primary reason the club has ascended to first place in the NLWest.

Who wouldve thought this is the way itd go for theAll-Star Game? Bochy said. Pitching is our strength and its the reason weare where we are.

Im surprised, but at the same time, Im not surprised.Because here again, you are hearing from these great fans. Its amazing whattheyve done and how theyve supported the players

I mean, when you see Freddy Sanchez get 2 million votes thats one of themore amazing things Ive seen.

Cain, who threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history on June 13, was among the selections from the player ballot; itshis third All-Star team and for the first time, hes eligible to compete in thegame. The previous two times, he was injured (struck on the elbow by a linedrive) andor ineligible because he threw on the Sunday before the break.

What if Cain gets to throw to Posey during the game?

I mean, thatd be perfect, said Cain, choosing anappropriate word.

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

Bumgarner allows two runs, Giants start spring training with walk-off homer

BOX SCORE

At Scottsdale, Arizona, Chris Marrero hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and drove in four runs as the Giants rallied after Madison Bumgarner gave up two runs on two hits in the top of the first.

Marrero, a 2006 first-round draft pick of the Nationals trying to revive his career as a non-roster invitee, had an RBI single in the fifth.

Kevin Shackelford, the seventh Cincinnati pitcher, walked Orlando Calixte to open the ninth and Christian Arroyo blooped a single into left field before Marrero hit a line drive over the wall in left centerfield.

Patrick Kivlehan had a two-run single off Bumgarner in the first and Hunter Pence doubled in a run off Reds starter Rookie Davis. Davis, acquired from the Yankees in the Aroldis Chapman deal, is likely to open with Double-A Pensacola this year.

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

Giants spring training Day 12: Pence hits early, Marrero crushes walk-off HR

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Bruce Bochy thought he might take it slow with Hunter Pence this spring. Pence, of course, had other ideas. 

Pence, who was held back by intercostal soreness during the first week of workouts, insisted on playing the Cactus League opener. He drove in the first Giants run of the new year with a double off the wall in the bottom of the first inning. 

“I just like to be out there Game 1,” Pence said. “It’s a message. It’s good to be out there. I have every intention of being ready to play every game of the season, so getting out there Game 1 is important to me.”

Bochy played plenty of regulars on the first day, but they were long gone when this one was decided in dramatic fashion. Chris Marrero, a non-roster invitee, hit a three-run walk-off homer as the Giants topped the Reds 6-4.

Marrero, 28, was one of the lead targets for a scouting staff that has made a habit of finding non-roster gems. The former first-round pick hit 23 homers for Boston’s Triple-A team and the Giants went after him hard when he became a minor league free agent. Marrero said his agent got a call within the first five minutes. It was an easy decision, in part because of the non-roster history here and in part because Marrero never got a call-up despite minor league success with the Red Sox. 

“If this team wants you, it’s a good thing,” Marrero said of the Giants. 

Marrero plays first base and the outfield, and while there are plenty of longtime big leaguers in camp, he certainly made a statement on the first day. The slider he hit went out to left in a hurry. 

“He’s a right-handed bat with power,” Bochy said. “He threw out good at-bats on the first day. We’re excited he signed with us. He’s going to get some at-bats here.”

THE ACE: Bochy gave Madison Bumgarner the option of skipping this game and making his debut next week, but Bumgarner — who typically doesn’t throw off a mound until he gets to camp — wanted to face hitters. “I thought it’d be good to get out there and get my feet wet,” he said. Bumgarner worked with Nick Hundley, who made some friends the first time out. 

PROSPECT WATCH: Clayton Blackburn delivered a bit of a message with two perfect innings: Don’t forget about me. 

Blackburn has been bumped down the depth chart by Ty Blach and Tyler Beede, but he was sharp while striking out three. “He was right on, wasn’t he?” Bochy said.

Blackburn was a big story last spring, coming off a season where he led the PCL with a 2.85 ERA. He had a 4.36 ERA last season and that led to some offseason changes. Blackburn said he threw off a mound 10-12 times before coming to camp last year, but he limited it to a handful of sessions this year, instead focusing on flat-ground throws into a net.

“You only have so many bullets,” he said, noting there was some fatigue last season. “You can’t waste them all in the offseason.”

Blackburn was called up last season but never got into a game. 

“There’s definitely a lot more hunger,” he said. “It’s always cool to get called up, but it was disappointing not to get in and not see any more time the rest of the year. It’s disappointing, but it’s part of the game.”

With a few more outings like Friday’s, Blackburn will get that second shot. His peripherals were just about the same across the board in 2015 and 2016, with the glaring difference being 12 additional homers in a hitter-friendly league. If he cuts back on the home runs, there’s no reason why Blackburn can’t get back in the mix here. 

NOTEWORTHY: Jimmy Rollins was 1-for-2 in his Giants debut, with a run scored … Wynton Bernard, the speedy outfielder plucked from Detroit’s system, scored on a double and two wild pitches … Jae-gyun Hwang didn’t have the best debut. He struck out twice and stumbled (for an error) on a slow roller to third ... Healthy Joe Panik had two hits in two at-bats ... Orlando Calixte played second and short and Bochy lit up when talking about his versatility. Calixte will see time in the outfield this spring, too. 

FAMILIAR FACES: It was 2010 Day at the ballpark, as Freddy Sanchez, Bengie Molina and Jeremy Affeldt were all on the field during BP. Molina and Affeldt were part of broadcast teams, but Sanchez was here with his under-9 travel ball team. Per Sanchez, the team is the best U9 team in Arizona. 

QUOTABLE: “We feed off each other and I know he feeds off of me. Hunter is a special cat. He’s the most positive person you’ll ever come across, but it’s hard because he plays with the team-first mentality and he puts himself second and sometimes that gets really hard on a person and can weigh a person down. I like to be there with him and bounce things off of him and try to keep him light and energetic. I’m not saying I take anything away from him, but don’t let him carry this big burden. Be that guy for him. He can be Batman, I’ll be Robin.” --- Mike Morse during an interview that airs on my podcast this week. You can stream it online here or download it on iTunes here.