Lincecum to begin in bullpen; no revisiting Melky decision

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Lincecum to begin in bullpen; no revisiting Melky decision

SAN FRANCISCO Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito?

That was the question on everyones mind, but Bruce Bochywasnt ready to announce a Game 4 starter ahead of Sundays NLCS opener againstthe St. Louis Cardinals.

The Giants manager did confirm that all five members of hisrotation would be on the series roster, however, and that both Lincecum andZito would lace up spikes in case theyre needed to pitch in relief during thefirst two games at AT&T Park.

More on that in a bit.

In other roster news, left-hander Jeremy Affeldt told Bochythat his jammed thumb had improved and there are no current plans to replacehim. The Giants could scale back to 11 pitchers, though, if they decide toreplace right-hander Guillermo Mota with a position player either pinch runnerFrancisco Peguero or catcher Eli Whiteside, whose presence would free up Bochyto use Hector Sanchez off the bench.

The Giants also could merely swap right-handers and stickJean Machi or Clay Hensley in Motas spot.

And what about Melky Cabrera, who has served all 50 games ofhis suspension? Was there any talk whatsoever about revisiting the decision tokeep him away from the team?

No, Bochy said. We crossed that bridge. Thats over.

Bochy pointed out that Gregor Blanco had a terrific series againstthe Cincinnati Reds, going 4 for 14 with a double, a home run, three runsscored and two RBIs. Bochy made it as clear as possible without issuing adictum: Blanco would be the everyday starter in left field. Not that there wasany doubt, since the Cardinals, like the Reds, will send all right-handedstarters against the Giants.

The roster is due at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Now back to the ZitoLincecum question:

Here was my thought: Keep Zito penciled in as the Game 4starter. That way, you reserve the right to use the Timmy tourniquet in reliefwhenever you need it. Having Lincecum in the bullpen gives Bochy a major trumpcard and itll give Cardinals manager Mike Matheny something toconsider as he makes his moves.

Besides, if Zito doesnt start, hes useless on the roster.And its not like the Giants have another difference-making arm that they wouldrelish putting in Zitos place. In terms of utility, this is the best way to line 'em up.

And yes, the Giants should be worried about needing Lincecum to cover innings. Game 1 starter Madison Bumgarner averaged barely five innings while posting a 5.93 ERA in his last six starts, and then survived just 4 13 innings against the Reds in the NLDS. Game 2 starter Ryan Vogelsong, despite pitching brilliantly in Cincinnati, nearly reached 100 pitches in five innings against the Reds, too.

Now, if the Giants werent compelled to use Lincecum in thefirst three games behind Bumgarner, Vogelsong and Matt Cain, then they could revisit the Game 4 decision. Theyd have theflexibility to start either Zito or Lincecum, depending on where the series stands. And theydprobably turn to Timmy, since the Cardinals were 31-17 against left-handedstarters (.276 average, tops in NL) and 57-57 against right-handers (.270,second in NL).

I laid out my plan for Bochy and he said, Yeah, thats beendiscussed, sure. And thats why (Lincecum) will be available the first twogames.

Its about keeping all your options open. Managers like havingoptions.

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 50th loss of the season

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — The promotion of an intriguing prospect can bring a certain buzz to the ballpark. It didn’t last long. 

The debut of Ryder Jones came in the latest flat performance from the Giants, who collapsed late and fell 5-2 to the Mets. The loss was their 50th of the season. They did not lose their 50th game last season until August 12. 

With the score tied in the eighth, Curtis Granderson crushed a leadoff triple into the alley. Sam Dyson walked the next batter and then whiffed Yoenis Cespedes, but Jay Bruce greeted Steven Okert with an RBI single to right. It kept going poorly from there. 

Here are five things to know from a cool day by the water … 

—- Jones grounded out to second in his first at-bat and then flied out to center, grounded out to first, and grounded out to second. He had one chance in the field, starting a double play that ended the second inning.  

—- Johnny Cueto seems to have turned a corner. Over his past two starts, he has allowed just three earned runs over 14 innings. Whether they trade him or not, the Giants certainly could use a nice little hot streak for the next six weeks. 

—- A few seconds after Bruce Bochy shook Cueto’s hand, Brandon Belt got him off the hook for a loss. He hit the first pitch of the bottom of the seventh into the seats in left-center, tying the game. The homer was Belt’s 14th. He’s on pace for 29. 

—- The Mets got eight one-run innings out of Jacob deGrom, who is quietly the most reliable of a star-studded rotation. He struck out seven and gave up just four hits. 

—- If Madison Bumgarner wants another Silver Slugger Award, he’ll have to chase down deGrom, who hit a homer in his last start. His single in the third was his 10th hit, and he finished the day with a .294 average.