No cooling down Posey even as Giants end August with loss


No cooling down Posey even as Giants end August with loss


CHICAGO Never mind the sleep deprivation Friday afternoon.Buster Posey couldnt believe how hot, humid and suffocatingly still the air felt at WrigleyField.

It was as high as Ive felt it this year, includingAtlanta, Philly and Washington, said Posey, after the Giants 6-4 loss to theCubs. I was probably sweating like crazy.

Did he use the cooling room?

Cooling room? Posey said.

Yeah. You know. The little room behind the dugout where you can get arefreshing blast of AC.

I didnt know about that, Posey said. Too bad you didnttell me about that before the game.

Well, apologies for whats coming next, but there was nocooling off Posey in August. He hit .371 in the month with six home runs and 21RBIs.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy planned to give Posey the day offFriday, after he caught nine innings on a hard-baked surface in a Thursdaynight game 1,000 miles away in Houston. But Posey sent his skipper a textmessage Friday morning: He was ready to catch another.

Then Posey went out and delivered a 3-for-3 performance witha walk, and knocked in a pair of runs.

Buster, its pretty impressive what he did today, saidBochy, who will put Posey at first base on Saturday and let Hector Sanchez takethe brunt of catching Tim Lincecum.

I will say this for the guys: It was a tough day.

NEWS: Giants promote Nady, five others

It was a tough month, too. The Giants played 17 of 28 gameson the road in August, and lest anyone forget, this is the month that steered apromising season onto the rocks a year ago. This year, despite finishing with aloss behind an unfocused Madison Bumgarner on Friday, the Giants went 18-11 inAugust to grab control of the NL West.

They maneuvered in front despite losing Melky Cabrera to aseason-ending drug suspension and watching the archrival Dodgers load up theirroster with high-cost reinforcements.

Last August, we couldnt get any runs on the board, Bochysaid. I think it starts with the job (Angel) Pagan has done in the leadoffspot, and (Marco) Scutaro behind him. Theyre the table setters, and of courseyou look at Posey and (Hunter) Pence and (Joaquin) Arias. Weve scored runsthis month where last year, we had a hard time.

The nagging hand injury to Carlos Beltran certainly crushedthem a year ago.

That hurt us, and Ive said that, Bochy said. He did agreat job for us, but when we lost him for 15 days, that hurt and itcomplicated our problems scoring runs.

Why were they unable to weather Beltran last year buttheyve been able to thrive without Cabrera, the major league leader in runsand hits when he got popped?

In a word: Buster.

Dont forget, he was just starting to put weight on hissurgically repaired ankle at this time a year ago.

There are still concessions to that awful collision May 25,2011. Posey does not camp out in front of the plate. He is instructed to standwell in front of it when he receives throws and reach back to make swipe tags.

Thats what he was trying to do in the third inning, butStarlin Castro knocked it out of his glove.

It didnt really stick in my pocket, said Posey, whoreceived the throw after Wellington Castillo hit a double that littered ivyfrom the left field wall. It was pinched, almost, and when I went to tag, heknocked it out.

Thats when it became apparent to everyone in the FriendlyConfines that Bumgarner wasnt backing up the plate. Castillo took third on thethrow, and scored easily.

Bumgarner was frustrated that he had two outs and the basesempty, then made a pair of 0-2 mistakes for hits (including Alfonso Sorianostwo-run home run), and he allowed himself to get distracted.

I was acting like a baby, getting stubborn with myself,said Bumgarner, who put the Giants in a 5-0 hole before leaving for a pinchhitter in the fifth. It cost us another run. So obviously, you never want todo that. Wont happen again.

Bumgarner will turn the page, as will everyone else asSeptember begins. By the time this weekend is over, the Giants will have played12 road games out of 16. And a Labor Day matinee looms Monday at AT&T Park,too which could be a bear if the remnants of Hurricane Isaac force delays oreven a doubleheader on Sunday.

The Giants are sure to be weary before they get their next break inthe schedule on Thursday. But this is no time to cool down.

I think were all playing with a lot of confidence rightnow, Posey said. This is the time you work so hard for. Its just a fun time.I feel like guys are coming to the ballpark excited each day and lookingforward to going out there and competing.

Posey said hell have enough in his tank to finish strong.

Good, I feel good, he said. Theres going to be thingsthat come up. Its a case of managing them and going out and competing.

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.”