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.

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.”