Pence, amid RBI-free postseason: 'I'm the goat'

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Pence, amid RBI-free postseason: 'I'm the goat'

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS On a team with pandas and giraffes and even awater buffalo, Hunter Pence chose a less popular place in the menagerie.

Im the goat today, said Pence, who went 0 for 4 andfailed to advance or score any of the five runners on base during the Giants3-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS Wednesday night.

Pence has been the Giants motivational speaker, but the Rin RBI doesnt stand for rhetoric. The Giants No. 5 hitter hasnt driven in arun in eight postseason games. And thats especially troubling when Pence isthe hitter who is supposed to ensure that NL batting champion Buster Posey getspitches to hit.

RATTO: Protection for Posey key to Giants' chances

Posey was 1 for 2 with two walks one intentional.Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse said he wasnt going to let the presumptiveNL MVP be the player that beat him.

Pence is supposed to make Lohse regret that tact. He didnot.

I didnt get the job done, said Pence, who grounded into adouble play after Posey was intentionally walked in the third and struck out afterPablo Sandoval and Posey hit one-out singles in the seventh.

Ill learn from what happened, and come back tomorrow andbe hungry. Jim Thome said something I liked: when he has a bad game, he goeshome and it makes him better. Im going to get ready for (Game 4 starter Adam)Wainwright. Weve got a lot of series left.

Pence only hit .219 in 59 games as a Giant after coming overfrom the Phillies at the trade deadline, but he drove in 43 runs. Pence battedfourth or fifth in all but one of his starts since the trade.

But Bochy did not rule out dropping him in the order forGame 4.

We might talk about it, Bochy said. Again, these guys area big reason why were here. But Ill talk about the lineup (later Wednesdaynight).

Bochy doesnt have many other alternatives to protect Posey, even if he really starts sliding the pieces. (Gregor Blanco third, Pablo Sandoval fifth, and Pence oreven Xavier Nady seventh?) There is a difference, too, between a tinker and anoverhaul -- both in the deed itself and its effect on the clubhouse.

The cleaner fix might be to flip-flop Posey and Sandoval in the 3-4 spots.

But if Pence does find himself hitting lower in the order,he said hed have no issue with it.

Ill try to have a good approach and try to take what theygive me, Pence said. Just dont swing at balls. Swing at strikes and hit ithard.

In every respect, Pence has done the opposite while hitting.161 (5 for 31) in the postseason with no extra-base hits. He keeps tapping outon long-armed lunges at outside sliders.

Yet Pence said he does not lack for confidence at the plate,no matter what it looks like.

I always feel good with the bat in my hand, he said. Icome to hit. I feel pretty calm. I love to hit and tonight, it just didnthappen.

Calm?

If youve ever watched me hit, Im always moving, he said.Movement is rhythm.

So youre doing what youve always done?

I mean, I dont always get out every time he said, tolaughs that broke the clubhouse silence.

Pence only smiled for an instant. He did not laugh. He issupposed to be Poseys shield, and there is nothing funny about tin armor. Orbeing the goat.

Im in the 5-hole. Im supposed to be driving in runs, hesaid. Thats about execution, and when you dont get that run in, it hurts.

But every time I go up there, I feel like Im on fire and Imgoing to catch something.

Pence brings tongues of fire in the dugout before the first pitch. His sermons have become a ritual ever since Game 3 in Cincinnati. But perhaps someone will slip a pocket mirror into the scrum for the next gathering. It couldn't hurt for Pence to look into his own eyes.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.