Penny enjoys 'a pitcher's dream' in loss to Reds

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Penny enjoys 'a pitcher's dream' in loss to Reds

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SAN FRANCISCO Brad Penny has a theory about pitching inAT&T Park, and it goes something like this:

Good luck, chumps.

OK, maybe hes not quite that flippant. But here is whatPenny actually said after tossing 2 13 scoreless innings in his first appearanceas a Giant since 2009:

Let a right-handed hitter hit it the opposite way outthere. See how far it goes.

The usual answer: not far enough to hurt you.

The ballpark suited Penny. On a less convenient note for theGiants, it also suited Cincinnati Reds right-hander Mat Latos, who took aone-hit shutout into the ninth inning before slamming pinkies in car doors witha 2-1 victory Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park.

The Reds have thrown consecutive complete games to takecommand of this series. Prior to that, the Giants threw four consecutiveshutouts for the first time in club history.

Very, very good starting pitching is the key ingredienthere. But it helps that the Giants home yard is like using a CETI-sizedsatellite dish for a mixing bowl.

Or, as Mr. Penny summarized it:

I love playing here. For me, you cant build a betterstadium for a pitcher. These guys from Cincinnati, they pitch in that littleballpark and they come here and theyre in heaven. This is a pitchers dream.

Penny didnt just glean these truths in his seven-batterspan on Saturday. He was a Giant for a couple months at the end of the 2009season, when the Boston Red Sox heaved him and his 5.69 ERA off the loadingdock onto Lansdowne Street. He went to San Francisco, where he was 4-1 with a2.59 ERA in six starts.

It wasnt enough to squeeze the Giants into the postseason.But it got Penny a 7.5 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Now, after getting his fill of his affiliation with theSoftbank Hawks following just a month in Japan, Penny is back. Did he likeplaying for Bruce Bochy the first time? Well, sure, he said. But he made itclear that the real lure was the ballpark. And he couldnt be happier to be inthe major leagues again, even if hes coming out of the bullpen for the firsttime.

Its a relief, yeah, said Penny, not trying to be punny.I shouldve come here from the get-go. I had an opportunity to come in springtraining.

I dont listen to anyone 'till they tell me to go to Japan,and then I listened. I wasnt comfortable or happy over there. I wasnt goingto be any good for that team if Im not happy.

It was pointed out to Penny that the Giants were apitching-rich club the last time he was here. Other than those sparkly WorldSeries rings everyone seems to have, not much has changed.

Thats how its gonna be, he said. Youre not going toput a team together thats going to bash it out of the park. San Francisco willalways have good pitching. You can put the Yankees in this park and they wontscore runs.

The 2002 Giants, who are gathering for their 10-year reunionon Sunday, might disagree. They did a fair amount of bashing in their day. Ofcourse, that was a different era in baseball history.

Now its about chicks digging the hit-and-run, the stolenbase and the diving defensive play to keep the tying run from scoring. TheGiants have been very good in those areas with a more dynamic offense thisseason.

But when they need someone to pop one out of the park,especially at home, theyre usually going to disappoint the paying customers.Pablo Sandoval and Melky Cabrera own the only two home runs on this six-gamehomestand.

The Giants have just 14 home runs in 41 home games thefewest in the major leagues. (By sadistic comparison, the aforementionedYankees have hit 68 longballs in 40 home games.)

Buster Posey and Ryan Theriot both hit deep outs Saturday that might have cleared the fences elsewhere.

The Giants must accept their lot in life. But there are times it is harder than others. They needed someone to pop one out of the park against Latos in theninth, after Brandon Belt knocked a pinch-hit triple. Instead, they got an RBI groundout from Gregor Blanco and a strikeout from Theriot, who had to marvel as Dale Scotts suddenly ample strike zone grew faster than Aliceafter a slice of eat me cake.

A year ago, the Orange and Black masses would be frantic over two low-scoringlosses. This year, its easier for the Giants to tip their caps to the likes of Mike Leakeand Latos.

Weve got a great offense, said third baseman PabloSandoval, who had a highlight-stocked defensive game despite making an error. Wefaced tough guys. Leake made all his pitches and today, Latos, he finds hisway. He beat us because he mixed all his pitches. He comes right at you.

Sandoval said the Giants couldnt have done anythingdifferent, except maybe call timeout more often to disrupt Latos timing.

Hes working so fast, Sandoval said. We didnt take him outof his timing. Hes coming at us pitch after pitch."

Penny came atthe Reds with one pitch, essentially. He didnt have good command in thebullpen, so he threw all sinking, two-seam fastballs. That worked well enough.He struck out Ryan Ludwick on a backdoor two-seamer to strand two runners, thenestimated he threw maybe two or three four-seamers and the rest sinkers toretire the next six batters.

I cant remember the last time I entered a game withsomeone on base, said Penny, who was making just his fifth relief appearancein 320 career games. It was definitely different. Its something Ill have toget used to, and getting ready real quick.

Its going to be easier to focus for one, two or threeinnings than starting. It should be, anyway. I guess well see.

Penny offered one more thought on the Giants lineup:

In Cincinnati, you put this same lineup on the field andtheyre scoring runs left and right.

That might be true some nights. But against Latos at GreatAmerican Ball Park, the Giants managed just four hits in seven shutout innings.

In the final analysis, sometimes the ingredients are more important than the satellitedish.

Posey thrilled by WBC experience, says he would play again in 2021

Posey thrilled by WBC experience, says he would play again in 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before he left camp on March 6, Buster Posey was telling teammates and team officials that his involvement in the World Baseball Classic was a one-and-done deal. On Friday, Posey returned to camp with a new outlook.

"It's a great tournament," Posey said. "If you were able to do it in the actual Olympics, it would be even better. I just don't know how to do that other than shutting down the season. But after playing in this tournament, I would be up for that.

"If I had a chance to do it again, I think I would. If you had asked me that three weeks ago, I would have said I don't think I would. That's how much fun I had."

Posey, Brandon Crawford and Mark Melancon were greeted by one teammate after another Friday morning, many of them fellow Americans congratulating the group on helping lead Team USA to its first WBC title. Posey and Crawford, who missed most of March, had kept in touch with teammates via text, and some who reached out said they often got the same message back: "If you have a chance to do this, don't pass it up."

Posey and Crawford will be hitting their mid 30s the next time around. It's no lock that they're still in position to play, but they made the most of their experience this month. Crawford had 10 hits and played his usual stellar defense, earring new fans who don't watch his Gold Glove on a nightly basis. Posey hit a pair of long home runs in four starts. 

Most importantly, both of them returned healthy and ready to play Friday.

"I'm ready for some Cactus League!" Posey said, laughing.

Despite being gone for nearly three weeks, Posey hasn’t actually played that much this month. He started half of Team USA’s games but he was on the bench for the title game. He said that didn’t bother him. Manager Jim Leyland talked to Posey and Jonathan Lucroy before the tournament.

“Of course, as a competitor, you want to be in that game, but Lucroy is a great catcher and he did a great job with (Marcus) Stroman and the rest of the staff,” Posey said. “You can’t go wrong with having him out there.”

Asked if there was one player he enjoyed getting to know, Posey chose Lucroy, saying he has played against him for a long time but never really gotten to know him. He noted how sharp Luke Gregerson's two-seamer was from behind the plate and said he enjoyed catching Pat Neshek and Stroman. 

Team USA grew close over the course of the month, and got better and better as the tournament wore on. Posey said the foreign fans at the early games in Miami helped get the juices flowing, and once the action moved to San Diego, there were loud American fans joining the fray. Team USA defeated the Dominican Republic to get out of that round (Posey hugged Johnny Cueto on Friday morning and chanted “USA! USA!” as he walked off) and then beat Japan in the semis.

Wednesday night’s championship came via a blowout of Puerto Rico. Posey has won at every level, but the moment was not lost on him.

“It’s cliche but there is a certain amount of pride when you have your country’s name on your chest,” he said. “It’s a vibe you get. A lot of us come from different parts of the country and you get to go out and play the game the way you played as a child. It’s America’s pastime, and it was a fun tournament and experience. That made it fun to win it.”

Giants spring training Day 39: Nuñez receives pair of cortisone shots

Giants spring training Day 39: Nuñez receives pair of cortisone shots

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford will return to camp Thursday, show off their WBC championship medals, and then head to nearby Salt River Fields to take on the Colorado Rockies. It'll be a few more days, however, before the Giants have their full infield on the field. 

Eduardo Nuñez said he actually got two cortisone shots in his right shoulder, since an MRI this week showed “something” in two separate spots. Nuñez asked for the MRI because, while he was able to play and make strong throws, he felt pain on a daily basis. He might DH this weekend, but it'll be a few more days before he's cleared to begin throwing. 

The Giants are hopeful that the shots calm all this down, and Nuñez anticipated being ready for Opening Day. Still, it certainly sounds like this will be a close call. Conor Gillaspie, who is having a huge spring, could get plenty of early time at third. Manager Bruce Bochy doesn't anticipate Nuñez missing Opening Day.

"He should be ready," Bochy said. 

The Giants need all the good injury news they can get. It is expected that Will Smith will announce Friday that he's having Tommy John surgery. 

ICYMI: From this morning, a feature on George Kontos and his rise over the last few years. 

Also, one of the bench candidates, Gordon Beckham, asked for his release. The Giants will soon have to make decisions on Hill and David Hernandez, who have similar retention bonuses due March 28.

GAME RECAP: The Giants played one of their uglier games of the spring, losing 9-2 to King Felix and the Mariners … Matt Moore lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits, two walks, a balk and a wild pitch. It was the same old thing: Moore just all of a sudden lost his command, and because he got up past the 30-pitch mark in the second inning alone, the Giants cut it off. Moore went down to the bullpen and got up to around 80 pitches. He'll make one more start down here, Tuesday against the Cubs ... Joe Panik had a hard double, one of just four hits for the Giants … Chris Marrero hasn’t played a whole lot of left field this spring, and he didn’t show much to the coaches on a couple of opportunities to throw home. The left field situation remains a mystery. 

POSITION BATTLES: Kelby Tomlinson played six innings of left field in a minor league game, and he had to wait until the sixth to get his first and only fly ball. There seemed to be a lot of interest from decision-makers about how Tomlinson fared, and his action today opens up an intriguing possibility. There’s a roster permutation that has the Giants keeping just one reserve outfielder (Gorkys Hernandez) and three backup infielders: Conor Gillaspie, Aaron Hill and Kelby Tomlinson, with the latter two being options in left field. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Angel Pagan made it through the WBC healthy, and he apparently is drawing interest from the Phillies and Blue Jays. Giants people are confident Pagan will get a big league job somewhere over the coming week.