Giants: First-half awards, highs, lows, etc.

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Giants: First-half awards, highs, lows, etc.

FIRST HALF SURPRISESRyan Theriot
He looked cooked in the spring and couldnt hit a lick before landing on the DL with a bad elbow. Since returning, though, hes been a two-out hitting machine, stabilized the lineup in the No.2 spot and took the sting out of the news that Freddy Sanchez wont play this season.

Santiago Casilla
Until his last six outings, Casilla had a better save percentage, ERA and WHIP than Brian Wilson posted in the Bearded Ones best season as the Giants closer. Not bad for a guy plucked off the scrapheap a couple years ago, even if fans cant get behind the obscure Spanish-language Christian song he uses for his entrance tune.

Melky Cabrera
The Melk Man had 201 hits for the Royals last season and hit better than .300 from both sides of the plate, but the Giants merely hoped he could approach those numbers. Cabrera has exceeded them, and then some. Being named the All-Star Game MVP was icing on the cake.

FIRST HALF DISAPPOINTMENTSTim Lincecum
Hi, Timmy. Thanks for not signing that five-year, 100 million extension we offered you. Sincerely, the Giants.

Freddy Sanchez
Hes not going to play this season after back surgery. His shoulder hadnt allowed him to return to second base, anyway. A surprise? No. A disappointment? You bet. Thats 6 million the Giants cant use to boost the roster at the trade deadline.

Guillermo Mota
Done in by Dimetapp -- the kiddie version, so he claims. Hes eligible to return from his 100-game PED suspension at the end of August, and can begin working out with the team 20 days before that. Well see. In the meantime, no sniffling allowed.

THE HIGH POINT
We wont soon forget the sight of Melky Cabrera leaping against the wall, Gregor Blanco hurling his body into no-mans-land, Joaquin Arias throwing desperately across the full width of the diamond from flat feet -- and Cain, the longest tenured Giant, hooking the air triumphantly after throwing the 22nd perfect game in major league history. For evermore, June 13 will be Matt Cain day in San Francisco. He got a Samurai sword, too. Cool. Cain notched his feat against the Houston Astros. Its probably worth mentioning that his first start out of the break will come against you guessed it.

THE LOW POINT
What a cruel trick. A year to the day that Pablo Sandoval had surgery to remove a fractured right hamate bone in his right hand, the Panda was diagnosed with the same injury in his left paw. Call it the bane of the switch-hitter. The Giants already were five games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers when Sandoval was diagnosed with the fracture May 3. He started on a tear, too, hitting safely in 21 of his first 22 games and smacking a team-high five home runs. Without Sandoval, the Giants went 16 consecutive home games (more than 500 at-bats in all) bereft of a home run -- the longest in San Francisco-era history, and the longest by any major league team since the 1990 Houston Astros. Yet the Dodgers lost Matt Kemp, too, and the Giants managed a 21-14 record while Sandoval healed. At least hell never fracture another hamate again.

FIRST HALF MVP
Cabrera owns a major league-leading 119 hits, the title of top vote-getter among NL All-Star outfielders, the All-Star Game MVP award and his own freshly starched, bow-tie wearing fan club. The Melk Men are a hit at AT&T Park in their 50s-era delivery uniforms, and lately the ratio has improved with the addition of a few comely Milk Maidens. Cabrera has them in a froth over his hitting, but his excellent, smart baserunning, his left field defense and a cannon-strong left arm have inspired cheers as well.
FIRST HALF LVP
If Lincecum were merely pitching below his standards, the Giants would be threatening to run away with the NL West. Even a 9-9 record in his starts would have the Giants at 51-35 -- a record that would pace the NL and give them a 4 -game lead over the Dodgers. Instead, the Happy Lincecum Day is a faded memory. The Giants are 4-14 in his starts, hes thrown quality outings just four times in 18 assignments and hes already allowed three more earned runs than he did all last season. On the road, its been nothing but tractor marks on his slender backside. He has a 9.00 ERA away from AT&T Park. Thats contributed to a staff road ERA of 4.69 that ranks 25th among the 30 major league clubs -- even higher than the horror-show Colorado Rockies. (At home, the Giants 2.42 ERA is second best in the majors.)

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.