Lincecum overcomes first-day jitters

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Lincecum overcomes first-day jitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Tim Lincecum is known for his huge stride off the mound. He nearly set a long-jump record as he took the field Saturday afternoon.My adrenaline was kind of going, said Lincecum, who threw two innings in the Giants Cactus League opener. The first inning, I felt a little more erratic. I almost jumped from the grass cut to the mound.Thats what facing the Arizona Diamondbacks will do. Lincecum allowed a run on three hits in the first inning, but controlled his emotions and his fastball better in the second inning. He threw 21 of his 33 pitches for strikes, generated more than a half-dozen whiffs on his changeup and said his lower back was a non-issue.
He made his statement to the first batter, striking out Ryan Roberts on three pitches.Yeah definitely, I kind of surprised myself there that first batter, Lincecum said. Obviously, the first game, against an NL West rival, my adrenaline was kind of going. I was able to collect my nerves that second inning, calm down and be able to throw a little more collectively.Lincecums fastball was just 89-90 mph, but he said he wasnt concerned.For me I felt the ball was coming out fine, he said. Swings on the changeups were an inclination there must be some offset (from the fastball). So thats good.Lincecum threw only fastball-change. He said hed work on flat ground to find the same release point with his slider and curveball before he starts to incorporate them in his next outing.My whole idea behind fastball-changeup is these are pitches you have to get out in front and you have to get extension, Lincecum said. For me, curveball-slider are pitches you have to pull more into your body. Youve got to make them break. So Im trying to work backwards and make it easier on myself.Its always easier to execute when youre calm. But Lincecum hasnt forgotten how he lost control in his final regular-season start at Arizona last September a loss that left his record at 13-14. He also hasnt forgotten that hell get the NL West-champion Diamondbacks again on Opening Day, April 6 at Chase Field.Lincecum was scheduled for one inning Saturday but said he was told hed operate with a 40-pitch limit. So he welcomed the chance to sit down and throw another inning.You see them too many times before the season starts and the scouting report can be too vast, said Lincecum, who struck out two and didnt walk a batter. Its nice to give them a little bit of a taste and not a whole bunch. Two innings were good. Im glad to get that out of the way.He also got the Justin Upton confrontation out of the way. Lincecum was distressed last September when he threw a pitch that struck Upton on the helmet, knocking out Arizonas best hitter for a few days. Upton managed a single in the first inning.You can ask him, but I was wondering if there were any thoughts going through in his head about if one is let go accidentally, Lincecum said. When I was out there I wasnt making a conscious effort not to throw at his head. It was just, Try not to worry about what happened. Try to go out there and have fun and not think about that incident and just worry about now.Lincecums new outfield had a busy day. Center fielder Angel Pagan overran Uptons single, making an error on his first chance as a Giant. But left fielder Melky Cabrera showed off a strong arm, throwing out Upton trying to score from second base on Miguel Monteros single.Oh God, Lincecum said. I didnt think hed crow hop and throw him out. Im running to back up home plate and the ball already was there. I thought, 'Hey, thats one less out Ive got to get.'That thought didnt go through Lincecums mind when catcher Chris Stewart caught a foul pop to end the inning. Lincecum, thinking there were two outs, called for the ball.I got caught up, Lincecum said. You can obviously tell where my head is.Better than in a regular-season game, right?Or the first game of the World Series, replied Lincecum, in reference to his infamously self-described brain fart in 2010, when he ran Texas Michael Young back to third base without realizing it wasnt a force play.He can laugh about that now.Hindsight makes it a little easier, Lincecum said.

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

After Giants' first Coors Field sweep in 15 years, Bochy preaches urgency

DENVER — Bruce Bochy watched the first two games of this road trip from his home in San Diego and the final three from the top step of the dugout at Coors Field. He did not like what he saw, but at the moment he’s more concerned with what he might hear. 

“What you have to careful of — you can’t let any kind of complacency set in and say, ‘It’s early, we’ll be ok.’ I don’t want to hear that either,” Bochy said. “It’s the old adage that you come out with some sense of urgency. All these games are important. You’ve got to stay away from that attitude, too: ‘We’re not through April yet and have 140-something games left.’ That doesn’t work out.”

Three weeks into the season, nothing is working. The rotation has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the Majors. The lineup scored 10 runs over a five-game road trip and got shut out twice. The bullpen hasn’t been given many leads with which to make up for the first-week trouble. The defense has been uncharacteristically sloppy. 

It has added up to a 6-13 start, tied for the worst in club history. The Giants have lost six of seven and they’ll head home seven games out of first place. 

“Right now there’s nothing clicking,” Bochy said. “Let’s be honest, this has been a rough start and we’re not very good right now. I’m not saying we’re not very good. We are good, but we’ve got to find a way to come out of this. This was a tough way to end this series. We’ve been through it. I’ve got men out there and that’s when you find a way to get through this. They will.”

Perhaps Monday will bring some fresh blood for the roster. Drew Stubbs appears poised to give the Giants another veteran option should they cut bait with a struggling outfielder. Michael Morse could be an option in left field soon, and if he’s mostly relegated to first, the Giants can put Brandon Belt in the outfield. He looked fine there Sunday while playing both corner spots. 

Those are moves made around the edges of the roster, though. There is no magic bullet coming from the outside, not even Christian Arroyo, who continues to mash at Triple-A. This is a $200 million roster and much of that has been spent on the rotation. Through 13 games, it is the worst in the National League, and the ace was lost to an off-field accident. Sure, the starters have pitched at Chase Field and Coors Field, but on back-to-back days they were dominated by Rockies rookies who make a living here. 

Samardzija could not keep pace with left-hander Kyle Freeland, who sawed off a handful of bats while cruising through seven. Samardzjiza gave up a run early, two more in the fourth on a hanging splitter that was blasted to right, and five in the sixth.

Bochy challenged his starting staff to improve after Saturday’s game. He has not publicly done the same with the lineup, but subtle changes have been made here and there. It is a group that, outside of a couple of players, has lacked energy. Because they don’t hit for power, the Giants are reliant on stringing together rallies. For the fourth time in seven games, the lineup failed to put a runner on base the first time through the order. 

“Even in spring training we had our games where we had trouble getting something going early,” Bochy said. “It’s the fourth or fifth before a hit. Somehow, we’ve got to change that.”

The Giants played Sunday without Jarrett Parker (clavicle) and Denard Span (right shoulder sprain), but for the most part the lineup is healthy. Bochy said he has talked to hitting coach Hensley Meulens about possibly altering pre-game routines, but that seems a cosmetic fix. 

“We’ve talked and we’ve shaken up the lineup, but as you saw today, there’s only so much you can do,” he said. 

Bochy knows there is outside noise regarding the roster. His eyes bulged the other day when asked if Arroyo would get a call-up next week. The Giants do not feel he is quite ready, or that there is a spot for him on the infield. For all the potential bench options waiting at Triple-A, this team's core is set, and it’s not outrageously banged-up compared to the rest of the division. 

The Dodgers, who come into town Monday, have 10 players on the disabled list, including No. 2 starter Rich Hill, second baseman Logan Forsythe, and left fielder Andre Ethier. The Rockies, the best team in the NL West thus far, are off to this start without big offseason acquisition Ian Desmond and young slugger David Dahl. Jon Gray, their opening day starter, went on the DL after facing the Giants in San Francisco. Chad Bettis, a rotation member, is getting treatment for testicular cancer. 

This division is better than expected, and as the end of April approaches, the Giants are bringing up the rear. Bochy’s plea for urgency was one that would have fit right in with last season’s second half. Back then, the Giants could at least lean on a huge start that got them into the postseason. As they flew home Sunday, there was nothing to fall back on but a simple truth.

This is the team. It must play better.

“We have everything we need in this room,” Samardzija said. “Sometimes you need to go out on the field and prove it.”

 

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

Instant Replay: Giants' struggles continue in sweep from Rockies

BOX SCORE

DENVER — Bruce Bochy spent about 10 minutes before Sunday’s game talking about potential options in left field and center. The problems for this lineup, however, currently go much deeper than the outfield. 

A day after the Giants managed just four hits off Antonio Senzatela, the bats went completely limp against fellow Rockies rookie Kyle Freeland. The Giants were shut out 8-0, a rarity at Coors Field. They were blanked twice on the road trip and scored just 10 runs during a five-game swing through Kansas City and Denver. 

The sweep at Coors Field was the Giants' first since 2002. At 6-13, they have the worst record in the National League.

For the fourth time in seven games, and third time on this five-game road trip, the Giants went one time through the order without a baserunner. That puts added pressure on your starter, and Jeff Samardzija couldn’t keep it close. Charlie Blackmon hit a leadoff liner to right that was misplayed into a triple and he scored on a sacrifice fly. Gerardo Parra got a spinner down in the zone in the fourth and blasted a two-run shot to right. 

As they did Saturday night, the Rockies pulled away with a huge rally. Nolan Arenado’s infield single and a walk of Carlos Gonzalez set the table in the sixth. Gerardo Parra lined a single to center and all runners advanced when Gorkys Hernandez kicked it. Trevor Story’s single to right was bobbled by Hunter Pence and two more scored. Blackmon’s double made it 8-0.

Starting pitching report: Samardzija was charged with seven earned in 5 1/3 innings. He has a 7.40 ERA through four starts. The starting staff has a 5.02 ERA, the worst in the majors. That won’t play, not when you’ve spent most of your resources the last two years on starters. 

Bullpen report: Hunter Strickland's Mullet had a scoreless debut. 

At the plate: Nope. 

In the field: Brandon Belt’s first start in left this season was rather uneventful. He caught a liner right at him in the first and came up inches short on a diving attempt in foul territory. Belt moved to right in the seventh inning. He had one previous inning there in the big leagues but he actually prefers right because it’s the same angle as his normal position. Belt gloved a liner right at him in the eighth. 

Attendance: The Rockies announced a crowd of 42,011 human beings and one donkey, who was a menace. 

Up next: The first look at the Dodgers. The Giants will see Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and likely Julio Urias in the four-game series.