Meulens challenges hitters to work smarter, not harder

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Meulens challenges hitters to work smarter, not harder

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. In his first year as theGiants hitting coach Hensley Meulens ended up in the World Series winnerscircle. In his second year, his horse finished dead last. In runs scored, the Giants ranked 16th out of 16 National League clubs. Their .173 average with two outs and runners in scoringposition (in more than 600 at-bats) was the worst by any major league club infour decades for which data is kept. It was agony and ecstasy,inverted. Its awake up call to myself, said Meulens, the former Yankee fromCuracao.
Itold (GM Brian Sabean and manager Bruce Bochy), Hey, I know I work hard. Butthe hard work has to show up in the field, and a lot of times it didnt. So Idont take anything for granted. Im glad theyre giving me the chance torectify a lot of the things that went wrong last year. That process began with a 9:30 a.m. meeting inthe batting cages Saturday that was attended by all the position players inmajor league camp. Bochy introduced Meulens, who delivered the main thrust ofthe message: Be focused and committed, recognize your role in situations andpractice smart in addition to hard. Hitting coordinator Joe Lefebvre spoke, as didspecial instructors J.T. Snow and Jeff Kent. Of all the other speeches, Kent,the 2000 NL MVP, went on the longest as he talked about preparation andfocus. We didnt wantto do this the first day, Meulens said. We wanted them to them get in and getsettled. We thought today was a good day to meet, just to make sure everybodygets on the same page. This will be a smooth running engine by the time weleave here in terms of focus and concentration. And be ready to hit the fastball. Thats a bigone, too especially with young players like Brandon Belt and BrandonCrawford, who struggled when they were rushed to the bigleagues. We had Beltmaking the team before his time, Meulens said. We had Crawford coming up fromA-ball. We had (Hector) Sanchez who began the year in A-ball. And also, (AubreyHuff) didnt have the year we thought he would have. (Andres) Torres didnt andCody Ross didnt, and yes, they were late on the fastball a lot because theirfoot wasnt getting down. Its hard to hit a quality major league fastball whenyour foots still in the air. Thats why we talked about having a linedrive and down mentality. When youre late on the fastball, thats when you hita lot of fly balls. If you neglect certain areas of your offense, itll show upat the end of the year. The Giants didnt struggle to put runs on theboard because they werent trying. In fact, all those extra swings in the cagefed into the problem, Meulens said. What I asked them to do is do less swingingand more quality swinging, he said. Just take a few swings, lock yourself inand preserve your energy for the game. Snow and Kent talked aboutthat. Theres a fewguys who do it well, but there are way too many guys who spend too much time inthe cage, way too much time watching video. You need those things, but at thesame time you have to know when enough is enough. So were going to minimize our time withvideo and the cage and concentrate on having a better plan at the plate.Because not only were we late on the fastballs, but we were fooled a lot whenwe were ahead in the count. They threw Huffy a lot of 1-0 changeups and hechased. You have to have a plan, knowing they will try to do that again untilyou make an adjustment. Part of that is trusting the hitter behindyou, Meulens said. Its a lesson that the 2010 team bought into as belief beganto surge. Its something that last years club never was able toestablish. Thatswhen youve got to be smarter and learn to pass the baton, Meulens said.Because if they dont want to pitch to you, the next guy can do thejob.Meulens said he is encouraged, and not only becauseBusterPosey is expected back or new additions AngelPagan andMelky Cabrera promise to provide more dynamicpresences. Itsbecause all of these guys are .270 hitters or better, Meulens said. Thatswho they are. I believe the numbers will go up. They have to be. They cant goany lower. And howdid the players respond during the 30-minute meeting? Thats whats intriguing, he said.Everybody right away said, We need to do this. Were much better than we werelast year. You look around at their faces and you see, Yeah, were hungry toget better at this. And all I ask is to have that 100 percentcommitment. Because if thats not there, its not going to happen. You cansense everybody is committed, is ready to turn the page, is ready to have ouroffense be talked about as just like they talk about out pitching in a goodway. Thats our goal-- not to worry about, Oh, we didnt score enough runs again. We told them,Hey, we didnt get a big bat. Theres a reason for that. We have the guys inthis room to put runs on the board. Lets just get focused and start doingthat. Meulens mightmiss a few early days in camp, though. He and his wife should welcome a newbaby any day now.

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.