Lincecum and Zito in, Bumgarner out of playoff rotation

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Lincecum and Zito in, Bumgarner out of playoff rotation

ST. LOUIS Itll be up to Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito tobring the NLCS back to AT&T Park.

Following the Giants rain-delayed 3-1 loss to the St. LouisCardinals in Game 3 Wednesday night, manager Bruce Bochy made it official: Lincecum would takethe mound Thursday in Game 4 against Adam Wainwright the two-time Cy YoungAward winners first postseason start since he won the World Series clincher atTexas two years ago.

And Zito, a little further removed from his 2002 AL Cy Young season, is the choice over Madison Bumgarner to pitch inGame 5. He's likely to oppose Lance Lynn.

Bochy said he delayed the announcement in case he neededLincecum to pitch in relief in case the weather or extra innings necessitatedit Wednesday night.

Hes the guy we want out there and hes been throwing theball well, Bochy said. Weve got to bounce back, and its great to have a guylike Timmy all set to go for us.

The Lincecum decision was expected. The Giants werent goingto start both their left-handers, Zito and Bumgarner, against a club thatposted the best average in the NL against southpaws.

But the decision to dump Bumgarner from the rotation was amild surprise, if only because Bochy said in the interview room a day earlierthat he wasnt as concerned about the 23-year-olds struggles as everyone mightbe led to believe.

Ultimately, Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti decidedBumgarner was worn down.

We feel its time to give Madison a little break, saidBochy, adding that Bumgarner would be available in the bullpen. Hes a youngkid, 23. Hes been pitching a lot of innings and we feel at this point werebetter off giving him a break and going with Z, whos done a nice job for us.

Bumgarner insisted he wasnt injured.

If I was, Id lie to you, he said. But Im really not.

Bumgarner is 0-2 with an 11.25 ERA in two postseason starts.He ended the regular season with a 5.89 ERA in his last seven outings, anddidnt complete seven innings once. He has thrown 216 13 innings, counting theplayoffs, after throwing 204 23 last year and working all the way to his WorldSeries victory on Oct. 31 the year before that

Its whats best for the team right now, Bumgarner said. Im not throwingthe ball well at all right now. Theyve got to do whats best to give us achance to win.

The Giants have won the last 12 times Zito has taken themound, although the left-hander didnt make it out of the third inning and wasplagued by walks in his Game 4 start at Cincinnati. That night, Lincecumswooped in and saved the Giants with 4 13 solid, strike-filled relief innings.

Lincecum is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three postseason reliefappearances spanning 8 13 innings. Hes allowed just three hits, walked oneand struck out nine. It was a huge improvement from a miserable regular seasonin which he needed a second-half rally just to shave down his ERA to 5.18.

Id say his stuffs had more life on it, said catcherBuster Posey, who very possibly might be at first base for Game 4. Hes beenlocating better. Everything, really, has been better. We have a lot ofconfidence when hes on the mound.

Said Matt Cain, the hard-luck loser in Game 3: We feel wevegot a great chance with Timmy.

Bochy said he hasnt decided on a catcher for either of thenext two games. But Brandon Belts two ground outs to second base and hiscalled strikeout will inspire thoughts of putting Hector Sanchez Lincecum andZitos more frequent batterymate behind the plate and moving Posey to firstbase.

Posey, asked if he expected to start at catcher in Game 4, said: "Yes, that's what I expect. I don't know if that's the case."

Bochy will consider other lineup changes, perhaps movingdown Hunter Pence in the order.

The Giants trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. They need towin at least one of two at Busch Stadium, or else there will be no morebaseball at Third and King this year.

We are in their house, center fielder Angel Pagan said. Youdont want to be behind. But we have been in this position before.

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

Giants spring training Day 10: Bochy on board with new rules

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his season managing Barry Bonds, Bruce Bochy watched the slugger get intentionally walked 43 times. 

“There were (managers) who had the (signal) up before he even got to the batter’s box,” Bochy said Wednesday. 

That’s part of the reason Bochy is completely on board with a new rule stating that managers only have to signal for an intentional walk. The elimination of the four pitches has been approved by MLB and the MLBPA, with the caveat that a manager can change his mind in the middle of the plate appearance. 

“I’m fine with it,” Bochy said. “I know a few pitchers are happy because they kind of have a thing about throwing (those pitches), not on our team, but last year it happened to us and we didn’t go. I’m fine with it.”

It’s rare that an intentional ball would go to the backstop, but the Giants experienced it last year against the Yankees. Dellin Betances threw wide as he tried to put Brandon Crawford on and Angel Pagan didn’t react quickly enough to score from third. 

Bochy met with league officials last week to go over some of the new rules and ideas, and he said he wants MLB to keep pushing to cut the time of games. 

“We talk about it so much but we really haven’t done a lot,” Bochy said. “I’m all for (limiting mound visits). I’m all for it, I am. It’s gotten more and more popular in the game. It used to be the catcher, and now it’s the catcher and infielders, and they go to the mound and come back and then the pitching coach goes out there.”

EXHIBITION SCHEDULE: Bochy said Madison Bumgarner is currently slated to start Friday’s Cactus League opener, with Matt Cain also throwing an inning. Ty Blach will start Saturday, Matt Moore and Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and Jeff Samardzija will start Monday. It’s possible that 18 or 20 different pitchers will take the mound over the first two days since almost all of them will be scheduled for just three outs. With the exception of Will Smith, every projected Giant should see the field this weekend. Hunter Pence is the only guy who has been held back at all, but his intercostal issue has cleared up. Pence put several on the left-field berm during BP on Wednesday.

“Hunter wants to (play Friday). He's ready to go,” Bochy said. “I’ll make that call tomorrow once I talk to the staff, but Hunter assured me he’s a full go with no limitations, and he really wants to play.”

PROSPECT WATCH: Bochy took the van over to the minor league facility to watch some of the projected Triple-A players take part in live BP. Jae-gyun Hwang hit a homer off Jose Dominguez during his session. 

“He’s a guy that rotates (well) and he’s got good power,” Bochy said. “He can go the other way. He’s got some bat control. He’s got a nice swing.”

Over on the main field, Gorkys Hernandez hit an impressive homer to left-center. 

ICYMI: From this morning, Smith is being held out of workouts. Reporters spoke to him in the afternoon and he said there’s no concern. Also, here’s a podcast with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Subscribe on iTunes if you haven’t … there’s a very popular Giant coming soon.

QUOTABLE: Smith missed time last season because he tore a knee ligament while taking his shoe off, so this spring’s speed bump is somewhat easier to take. He had a message for the trainers: “I said I’m going to sit down every day this spring,” when I take my shoes off.

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

MLB players’ union agrees to pitchless intentional walks

NEW YORK -- There won't be any wild pitches on intentional walks this season.

The players' association has agreed to Major League Baseball's proposal to have intentional walks without pitches this year.

"It doesn't seem like that big of a deal. I know they're trying to cut out some of the fat. I'm OK with that," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.

While the union has resisted many of MLB's proposed innovations, such as raising the bottom of the strike zone, installing pitch clocks and limiting trips to the mound, players are willing to accept the intentional walk change.

"As part of a broader discussion with other moving pieces, the answer is yes," union head Tony Clark wrote Wednesday in an email to The Associated Press. "There are details, as part of that discussion, that are still being worked through, however."

The union's decision was first reported by ESPN .

"I'm OK with it. You signal. I don't think that's a big deal," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "For the most part, it's not changing the strategy, it's just kind of speeding things up. I'm good with it."

There were 932 intentional walks last year, including 600 in the National League, where batters are walked to bring the pitcher's slot to the plate.

"You don't want to get your pitcher out of a rhythm, and when you do the intentional walk, I think you can take a pitcher out of his rhythm," Girardi said. "I've often wondered why you don't bring in your shortstop and the pitcher stand at short. Let the shortstop walk him. They're used to playing catch more like that than a pitcher is."

Agreement with the union is required for playing rules changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice, in which case it can unilaterally make alterations. Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope Tuesday that ongoing talks would lead to an agreement on other changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Some changes with video review can be made unilaterally, such as shortening the time to make a challenge.

"I know they were thinking about putting in a 30-second (limit) for managers to make a decision," Francona said. "I actually wish they would. I think it would hustle it up and if we can't tell in 30 seconds, maybe we shouldn't be doing it anyway."