Lincecum to Giants fans: "I don't want them to start to hate me"

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Lincecum to Giants fans: "I don't want them to start to hate me"

MIAMI Tim Lincecum didnt receive a tongue lashing fromGiants management after another start went off the rails Friday night. He got apep talk.

More than anything, you let him know, hey, were all-inwith him, said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who took Lincecum aside for ameeting with GM Brian Sabean after a 7-6 loss the clubs eighth defeat in theright-handers 10 starts.

I had my own lengthy, informal and candid conversation withLincecum today. I didnt take notes, but Ill paraphrase his sentiments:

--He said he feels fine physically, aside from the blister issuethat crops up on the middle finger on his right hand. It happens because of theway the side of his nail rubs against his finger when he throws his slider. Heconfirmed to me that the blister issue, not elbow or arm fears, is the reasonhe planned to stay away from throwing the slider this spring a plan that hescrapped after one start. He said hes got to get tougher and pitch through anydiscomfort that the blister causes. Simple as that.

--He said he's as surprised as anyone to have a 6.41 ERA after 10starts. Even when he struggled in the spring, he expected the light to go onwhen the season began, just like it would every year after he had a rough timein Scottsdale.

--He said theres been no talk whatsoever of skipping a turn in therotation, nor would he encourage that.

--He said he's trying to take a lesson from Ryan Vogelsong, who hasfound a way to gut through innings even though he, like Lincecum, has pitchedwith 2 mph off his fastball from last season.

--He said he was happy that he controlled his body language better.He knows that when his shoulders slump, his opponents feed off that likesharks that smell blood. He thinks hitters are too comfortable in the boxagainst him, and maybe the fact hes not carrying himself with thatindestructible demeanor is part of that. (As an aside, I remember there weretimes in the past when Lincecum wasnt throwing well but winning, and catcherBengie Molina remarked to me that he was getting people out with his name.Thats not a luxury he has now.)

--He said he's really trying to purge negative thoughts, which iswhat he keeps saying in his postgame interviews. That isnt just pablum for themasses. He said he knows hes close and there are as many good signs as badones. He has to focus on the good ones.

--He said he honestly cares about what the fans think and he doesntwant to let them down. He doesnt want them to reach the point where they expecthim to fail or to boo him off the mound. Even after all hes accomplished inhis career, he isnt taking any fan support for granted. I dont want them tostart to hate me, he said.

With all those things going through Lincecums mind, it wasprobably a good thing that Sabean and Bochy interceded after Friday nightsloss.

You tell him, Hey, youre throwing the ball well, Bochysaid. Sure, you had a hiccup in the sixth inning. Thats gonna happen. Theonly thing youve got to do is keep working hard, which is what hes doing.

More than anything, you let him know, hey, were all inwith him.

All we ask is for our guys to give it all they have, andTimmys done that. Hes doing it every start. Hes taking it hard, believe me.We wanted to send a message that we know hes doing all we can."

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

Giants spring training Day 15: Arroyo picks up where he left off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants do not expect Christian Arroyo, their top hitting prospect, to get a lot of at-bats in a camp filled with veteran infielders. But the 21-year-old continues to make the most of every opportunity he gets. 

Arroyo hit a scorching single to left in his first at-bat Monday. When he came up with the bases loaded in the seventh, he poked a single into right, tying the game. Arroyo grounded out in his final at-bat, ending his perfect run this spring. With three hits in his first four at-bats down here, Arroyo is now 17-for-30 in three springs in big league camp.

“It’s the same (thing) he did last spring,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s getting great at-bats and playing well at shortstop. In the early go here, he’s playing the kind of ball that he was last spring. His mechanics are very solid. It’s a good foundation, good balance, and he doesn’t try to do too much. The bat stays in the zone a long time and he uses the whole field well. He’s a good hitter. He’s only going to hit for more power. The power is going to come, too.”

A move to the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League should help. No matter what Arroyo does this spring, the Giants will send him to Triple-A if their 40-man guys are healthy. But Arroyo’s time is coming, and it’s coming soon. 

For more on Arroyo, here’s a feature I wrote about him last week. Here’s more from the first day of the third week of spring training … 

GAME RECAP: The Giants will not go undefeated this season. They lost to the A’s for the 124th consecutive time in the Cactus League, this time by a score of 5-4 … Michael Morse got the first hit of his comeback attempt. His pinch-hit single up the middle in the seventh drove in a run. In the eighth, he lined a two-strike single to right … Brandon Belt hit his first homer of the spring. It was the 24th of his spring training career. You can see it here … Bochy was impressed with Jose Dominguez, who struck out one in a scoreless inning. 

STOCK WATCH: Orlando Calixte played right field, after previously seeing time at short and second this spring. “He’s intriguing,” Bochy said. “He showed the arm off in right field. He’s a good shortstop and plays second and third. He’s a good athlete.” The Giants plan to carry five outfielders, but if none of the right-handed bats break through, they could always carry Calixte as a super-utility guy. Remember, he’s on the 40-man roster. 

CUETO UPDATE: The co-ace still is not in big league camp, or on the way. Here’s the latest on Johnny Cueto. 

TRAINER’S ROOM: This room now belongs to Anthony Reyes, as Dave Groeschner is off to South Korea with Hensley Meulens and Team Netherlands. Will Smith (elbow) threw off flat ground and everything went fine. Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) will likely resume playing third base later this week.

QUOTABLE: “To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.” — Jeff Samardzija on a pitch that helped him dominate in September. Here’s more on Samardzija and his plans for 2017. 

 

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

Samardzija sticking with more versatile approach in second year with Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija’s first season in San Francisco was ultimately not far from what the Giants hoped it would be. Samardzija gave them the desired durability, throwing 203 innings with a 3.81 ERA in 32 starts. 

The route to those final numbers was remarkably circuitous. Samardzija had a 2.84 ERA through the season’s first two months, but that number jumped all the way up to 6.23 over his next 11 starts, seven of them losses for the team. As the Giants went into a second-half tailspin, Samardzija found his groove and helped keep them in the playoff race. He had a 2.45 ERA over his final 10 starts, earning the nod as the Game 2 starter in the NLDS. That appearance against the Cubs lasted just two innings. 

The up-and-down season showed the Giants two very different versions of a big offseason acquisition, and at times opposing hitters saw two very different Samardzijas. He went heavy on his cutter early, but when hitters started teeing off on pitches that all came in at a somewhat similar velocity, Samardzija mixed in a curveball that was completely mothballed through June. Down the stretch, when he found his form, Samardzija brought back his splitter and ignored the cutter. He threw 165 cutters in April but just two in September. On the flip side, he threw 113 splitters in September after never throwing more than 35 the first five months. 

“He found the splitter and using it more made him more of a complete pitcher,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s got the four (main) pitches now. They can’t just sit on the hard stuff. He had a good year. It was a little bump there, but he had a great run and was throwing the ball really well (down the stretch). He’s one of our guys. We certainly think (that deal) is going to pay off, and it did last year. He got us deep into games consistently.”

Samardzija learned from the up-and-down year, and during his first start of the spring, he varied the repertoire. He gave up two runs in the first inning but was pleased with a curveball he threw four times — twice for called strikes, twice for foul balls. 

“If you can get it going here in Arizona, it’s going to be a pretty solid pitch for you,” he said. “(Bringing it back last year) was kind of out of necessity. I picked it up and played around with it and it felt good.”

The curveball, which he hadn't thrown since 2012, changed eye levels last season and kept hitters from loading up on pitches in the low to mid 90s. Samardzija further expanded the velocity gap by finding the feel of a splitter that had toyed with him for years.

“For me, with that splitter coming back late in the year, it’s going to be about mixing it in and seeing what feels good on that day, seeing what’s going to be the out pitch,” he said. “I had been chasing (the feel) of it since 2014. We broke it all the way back down and went back to zero. So many guys were sitting fastball. To have that splitter that out of the hand looks like a heater, for me, that’s huge.”

The Giants expect the more varied approach to lead to big results in 2017, and Samardzija could subtly benefit from a change Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti made. Samardzija will pitch behind left-hander Matt Moore, not Johnny Cueto. He said he would often last season compare notes with Cueto, who like Samardzija, pitched most of his career in the NL Central. The two would often take a similar approach on the mound.

“(Opponents will) have to face a tough lefty like Moore, so they can’t have that same lineup two days in a row,” Samardzija said. “To me, that’s big.”