Giants notes: Which starter gets relief call first?

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Giants notes: Which starter gets relief call first?

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ryan Vogelsong plans to have his spikes on for the first pitch Saturday night. Same with Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he is keeping each of those three starting pitchers in play to back up Matt Cain, if needed, in Game 1 of their NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds.

Only Madison Bumgarner, the Game 2 starter, will be wearing his turf shoes in the dugout.

Bochy would not announce his Game 3 starter on Tuesday in Cincinnati, but that decision has been reached. There are a couple reasons Bochy is holding his cards close. First, he doesn't want the Reds to know which starters he would be less likely to use in relief. And also, he doesn't want the pitcher bumped from the rotation to get bombarded by the media. (A situation that would be a bigger deal if it's Lincecum, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, who is bypassed.)

The announcement could come later Saturday night after Game 1. The Giants would be expected to send their Game 3 starter to the interview room to meet with reporters prior to Sunday's Game 2.

In the meantime, Bochy is leaving all his options open.

"They all could be used today -- Timmy or Vogelsong, Zito," he said. "Hopefully that's not the case because ... you're hoping you get a quality start and you can use the (relievers) you've used for the most part during the course of the season.

"Now, if something happens, we go extra innings, we do have some long guys. That's a nice quantity. As far as the pecking order, I don't want to give that right now, to be honest.

"With that said, I have talked to the other starters to they pretty much know when they're going to pitch and we'll hopefully be able to have them stay in their normal routine they would have before they would start a game. ... So it's not like we don't have an idea and they don't have an idea."

It's no secret that Lincecum had the worst season among the starting five, regardless of his dossier. His 5.18 ERA ranked dead last among 46 NL pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title.

Here's how the team's record broke down by starting pitcher:

Barry Zito (21-11), Matt Cain, (21-11), Ryan Vogelsong (19-12), Madison Bumgarner (19-13). Tim Lincecum (14-19).

One other factor: Lincecum can get loose in a hurry and never ices his arm. When the Giants drafted him in 2006, they had a thought that if he had durability issues as a starter, he could be a dominant short reliever. So don't be surprised if you see him warming up at some point during Game 1, if the Giants are struggling to get outs.

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The Giants announced their NLDS roster on Friday. Bochy added today that relievers Jean Machi and Clay Hensley would remain with the team and travel to Cincinnati. Also on the travel squad is outfielderpinch runner Francisco Peguero and catcher Eli Whiteside.

The club allowed Justin Christian and Emmanuel Burriss to take leave. So if the club had decided to keep an extra pinch runner instead of a 12th pitcher, Peguero would've been the apparent choice despite his relative lack of experience.

Bochy said he felt the team could get by without the extra speed guy because Ryan Theriot could be used as a pinch hitter. (We know he likes to get frisky on the basepaths.) Also, Aubrey Huff had an injection in his troublesome knee a little more than a week ago and Bochy was feeling better about how the veteran first baseman was running on the last road trip. The Reds have a lot of lefties in their bullpen, so Huff could be used as a pinch hitter in the sixth or seventh innings.

"He has his bat speed back and you could have an important at-bat when (you need) an experienced guy who has been a DH in his career," Bochy said. "He has the ability to control his emotions and go up there and throw out a quality AB.

And if he gets on base, he'll be on base.

"If he (were) hobbling, this would be a tough decision," Bochy said.

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Announcer Dave Flemming worked a Stanford game that went to overtime, fought through traffic and still made it to the field while the Reds were taking batting practice. Now that's a full workday.

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Gotta go watch Alex Smith throw out the first pitch. What is the baseball equivalent of a perfect spiral -- a gyroball?

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”