Pittsburgh-Giants: What to watch for

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Pittsburgh-Giants: What to watch for

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Get all your Saturday Giants coverage on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Giants Pregame Live starts the party at 5:30 p.m. Watch the Pirates and Giants game at 6:05 p.m. and Giants Postgame Live after the last out.

The Giants' uncharacteristic start to the 2012 season is picking up momentum. They've scored four or more runs in each of the first seven games, and their starting pitchers have thrown shutouts in two of the past four starts.One of those shutouts was authored by Barry Zito, who will take the mound tonight against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 2 of the three-game bayside set.Here are some things to watch for in the Saturday evening game:Fending doubt: Barry Zito silenced naysayers with his first shutout since 2003 on Monday. All 27 outs go out the window when he takes the mound tonight as the contract-elicited magnifying glass focuses on Zito's every start.When the 13-year veteran can effectively locate his pitches and carve the edges of the strike zone, he is still a dangerous pitcher. But 1,687 strikeouts in, his stuff isn't electric enough to miss.Zito, 33, has faced the Pirates three times over the past three years with an ERA of ... 3.00.Watch your Hips: Carlie Morton is making his first start of the season, and his return from hip surgery. Morton is coming off his best season as a big leaguer. He was 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA in 29 starts in 2011."I've been ready," Morton told the Pirates' official website. "I'm really eager to get back out there."He's especially eager to face the Giants, who he's owns a 0.64 ERA against in two starts.But the 2012 Giants have shown signs they're breaking free from the offensive shackles of years past.Whole Melky: There are a number of changes to the Giants' 2012 lineup, but none more impressive than the infusion of Melky Cabrera into its heart.Cabrera has hit safely in each of the first seven games, and he has hit safely twice in five of them.He barely got his chin over the 200-hit mark last season with the Royals -- getting hits 200 and 201 in the antepenultimate game. In his eighth full season and a contract year, Cabrera looks to be gunning for the mark.Bay Pirates: The Giants haven't exactly been able to keep Pirates from patrolling San Francisco Bay at their leisure; Pittsburgh has the third-best winning percentage at AT&T Park among NL opponents. NL Team Win Record
Dodgers .519 56-52
Cubs .512 22-21
Pirates .474 18-20McClutchen: Andrew McCutchen -- like batters 1-through-8 in the Pirates' order -- was a non-factor in Friday's game, but he's out to a hot start this year.The Bucs' center fielder is batting .360 in the first seven games, and he sees Zito well. He owns a 4-for-9 career mark against the Giants' lefty.

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. 

Giants reliever Will Smith leaning toward season-ending Tommy John surgery

Giants reliever Will Smith leaning toward season-ending Tommy John surgery

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Left-hander Will Smith, a key piece of a revamped bullpen, is leaning toward having Tommy John surgery, manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday night. 

Bochy said surgery was the recommendation of both doctors who examined Smith's elbow this week. Smith will talk to his agent before coming to a final decision on Friday. The procedure would keep Smith out the entire 2017 season and likely would cause him to miss the start of the 2018 season.

Smith, 27, missed the first month of camp because of pain in his throwing elbow. He returned March 17, but during a March 20 outing he again felt pain and called for a trainer. A second round of diagnostics revealed a strain and a sprain in the elbow. Smith saw team orthopedist Dr. Ken Akizuki in San Francisco and flew to Los Angeles this week to get a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlen-Jobe Clinic. 

"They had the same opinion," Bochy said. "There is a tear there. You can try to rehab it and if that doesn't work you're behind a couple of months ... It's not a definite he's going to have it done, but two doctors are in agreement on what this is."

Smith was expected to serve as the late lefty for the Giants, getting setup work in the seventh and eighth innings. With Smith out, the Giants will lean on young lefties Steven Okert, Josh Osich and Ty Blach. 

"We're going to have to have someone step up and help us in the seventh and eighth," Bochy said. "That was going to be will's role. He's a guy we were leaning on."

Smith was acquired from the Brewers at the deadline last season in exchange for right-hander Phil Bickford (who is currently serving a 50-game suspension) and catcher Andrew Susac (who is currently injured). After a shaky start, he finished the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances. 

The Giants have for the most part avoided Tommy John for 40-man roster pitchers. Hunter Strickland, Derek Law and Josh Osich have all had it during their time in the organization, along with outfielder Mac Williamson. Prospect Ian Gardeck is currently recovering from Tommy John. The last Giants pitcher who was likely headed for the roster before having Tommy John was left-hander Eric Surkamp. He had surgery in 2012.

The timetable is different for every pitcher, but the general consensus is that the procedure sidelines a pitcher for at least a year, and usually closer to 16 months. Matt Moore, Thursday night’s starter, had Tommy John on April 23, 2014. He did not return to a big league mound until July 2, 2015, and even then, he was under restrictions. 

Smith is under team control for two more seasons after this one.