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 Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

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Giants Notes: Span feeling better, hopes to return to lineup Wednesday

CHICAGO -- Joe Panik's leadoff homer in the series opener was a jolt, but the Giants are a much more dangerous offense when Denard Span is clicking atop the lineup, a spot ahead of Panik, and they hope to have that duo going Wednesday. Span got treatment all day Tuesday and said he could return to the lineup against Kyle Hendricks. 

"The swelling has gone down," Span said of his sprained left thumb. "The thing to do is to come in tomorrow, test it out, and if it feels good, you strap it on."

Span said an X-ray came back clean, but he didn't grab a bat Tuesday to test the thumb, focusing instead on treatment. He is batting .326 in nine games since coming off the DL. His replacement in center this week, Gorkys Hernandez, was 0-for-3 against Jon Lester, lowering his average to .160. 

--- The main story from the second game of this series: Johnny Cueto is now dealing with a second blister, and you can see the lack of movement on his pitches. The Cubs took advantage. Lester didn't need much help while throwing a 99-pitch complete game in two hours and five minutes. 

"He threw a lot more changeups than we've seen in the past," Buster Posey said. "He's shown it in the past but tonight he had good command of it. It wasn't just a show-me pitch. He used it a lot and threw it to lefties as well.

Posey twice grounded short rollers in front of the plate.

--- Posey's throw to nab Javy Baez on Monday was one of the best of the year, and on Tuesday afternoon, Bruce Bochy said, "If he's given a chance, I don't think there's anyone better in the game." That might be true, but Willson Contreras is threatening to get into the conversation. He threw an 85 mph rocket to second in the fifth to nab Eduardo Nuñez. If you're wondering how Lester -- who flat-out has the yips about throwing to first base and doesn't do it -- has allowed just six stolen bases this season, look no further than his young catcher. Long-term, Contreras is the guy I would expect to compete with Posey for Gold Gloves. 

"Nuney, with his speed, can go," Bochy said. "Their catcher made a great throw. Put it right on the money."

--- From before Tuesday's game, what do the relievers think of the new hidden bullpen at Wrigley? And if you missed the Power Rankings the other day, the records are outdated, but there are updates in here on old friends Matt Duffy, Chris Heston, Tommy Joseph, Adalberto Mejia, Yusmeiro Petit and others. Petit in particular is incredible ... just keeps doing his thing. 

--- This play was made by the shortstop. That's good for the old UZR.

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

Now dealing with a second blister, Cueto gives up three homers to Cubs

CHICAGO — Even after losses, Johnny Cueto tends to find a way to flash a smile or two in post-game interviews. He is as competitive as it gets between the lines, but off the field he embraces a relaxed attitude. 

There was none of that Tuesday night at Wrigley. Cueto wore a dour look while describing a 4-1 loss to the Cubs, perhaps because he is a man searching for answers. Cueto was already pitching with a blister for the first time in his career. On Tuesday, he admitted he’s now trying to make the ball dance while dealing with a second blister. 

The first, on his middle finger, popped up at the end of the spring and has bothered Cueto off and on. The second, on his index finger, formed in St. Louis last week. 

“It’s not an excuse,” Cueto said several times. “I was getting hit.”

The Cubs crushed three homers, including a 470-foot bomb from Kyle Schwarber. All three pitches leaked right over the heart of the plate, and Cueto admitted that he can't get that final twist on the ball as he normally does. A tad of his movement is missing, and hitters are taking advantage. 

“It’s just those pitches I left hanging,” Cueto said through interpreter Erwin Higueros. “When you leave pitches hanging or put them right in the middle of the plate, you’re going to pay the price.”

The homers — by Schwarber, Jason Heyward and Anthony Rizzo — represented 60 percent of the hits Cueto gave up. He struck out eight in six innings.

“It’s a little unlike Johnny to make mistakes like that,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You like to think you could make a mistake and get away with it, but he didn’t tonight. A couple of fastballs he pulled over the heart of the plate and then one cutter.”

Catcher Buster Posey said the Cubs were on Cueto’s heater, so the duo tried to adjust. You can’t pitch without your fastball, though, and Cueto’s isn’t quite as explosive as it was in his first year with the Giants. The velocity is down a couple of ticks, but it’s unclear if that too is related to the blisters. 

What is clear is that Cueto is a different pitcher in his second season in San Francisco. He has a 4.64 ERA and opposing hitters are batting .253 with 11 homers. Through 10 starts last year, Cueto had a 2.83 ERA and was holding hitters to a .229 average. He had allowed just two homers. 

“Gosh, it’s just probably a few more mistakes than he made last year,” Bochy said. “He’s still competing so well and he gives you a chance to win every game.”

Cueto made it through six despite the long-ball issues, but that wasn’t enough against Jon Lester, who would have faced Cueto in Game 5 last October. Lester needed just 99 pitches to carve up the Giants for a complete game. He threw 70 strikes. 

That’s the type of efficient performance the Giants came to expect from Cueto last year. Cueto still expects it from himself, but his fingers aren’t cooperating. Asked if he would take a short stint on the DL to get right, Cueto said he can’t. He needs to keep pitching and have callouses form. Plus, any break without throwing would be a significant blow to a team trying desperately to stay within shouting distance of a playoff spot. 

“Basically, it makes no sense whatsoever,” to take a break, Cueto said.