Posey: 'I don't feel like it'll be a big issue at all'

833113.jpg

Posey: 'I don't feel like it'll be a big issue at all'

SAN FRANCISCO -- Coming off a 5-1 road trip, whichculminated in a three-game sweep of the archrival Dodgers in Los Angeles, youwouldnt expect much cause for concern in Giants-land.But whenever Buster Posey is out of the lineup due to an injury, all bets areoff. At least Poseys issue is with his hamstring, and not hissurgically-repaired ankle.I've been feeling it forprobably four or five games, and the second game in L.A. I probably felt it alittle bit more, Posey said. Fortunately, I really never felt my hamstring betight, but I don't feel like it'll be a big issue at all.If you trust Posey and his manager Bruce Bochy, theresnothing to worry about.I'm feeling better today,Posey said before Thursdays series opener against the Atlanta Braves. Justtalking to head trainer Dave Groeschner, he thinks it's the smartest thing todo with 38 games to go. I'm definitely feeling better today.Bochy reiterated that the decision to rest his cleanup-hittingcatcher was more a matter of caution than necessityThis was a close call, Bochy said. Hes available to pinch hit. If somethinghappened where we had to put him behind the plate, we could today. But we justfelt like its not 100, its not quite worth the risk, so hes going to getanother day. But were all optimistic that hell be back there tomorrow. Butits good to have him available tonight, where yesterday I wasnt going to usehim at all.The Giants did just fine without Posey in Wednesday 8-4 win over the Dodgers,but could use his .350 home batting average, which ranks fourth in the NationalLeague. However, Posey is 0-for-6 with a strikeout against Thursdays Bravesstarter Tommy Hanson. He expects to return to the lineup for game two of fouragainst Atlanta on Friday, with veteran right-hander Ben Sheets scheduled tostart.I'mhoping tomorrow, Posey said of when he expects to return. I don't see anyreason why not.Bochy is equally optimistic that Poseys hamstring will be healthy enough for aFriday start. He also said that the Giants will be extra careful with Posey.Even when he comes back, well make sure not that wellhave him steal bases or anything that he does take it easy to a point wherehes not going to risk it, Bochy said. This is being cautious right now. Ifwe were at the end of September and had to win this game, maybe he wouldcatch.Both Bochy and Posey said that catching was not the concern.Rather, its running the bases that can aggravate a hamstring injury. So dontexpect Posey to see more time at first base as a result. When Bochy deems himready to run the bases, Posey will be back in the squat as usual.

Pablo Sandovals sore hamstring led to an early exit fromWednesdays game, but hes back in the lineup Thursday.Bochy said that he wouldnt hesitate to do the same thing if Sandovalshamstring injury acts up again.We had to take him out yesterday so its obviously not 100,Bochy said. Its hard to quantify what percent hes at. Only he knows that. Hefelt it a little bit, thats why he came out of the game yesterday. But hesgood to go today and well have to just keep an eye on him and if it tightensup during the game, hell come out again tonight.

Santiago Casilla threw back-to-back dominant outings in LosAngeles, and while Bochy isnt ready to abandon his closer-by-committeeapproach, he certainly took notice of his former closers resurgence after afinger blister and control issues forced him from a regular role in the ninthinning.Very encouraged by how he threw the ball, Bochy said. Andyou could see a difference in his attitude. He feels really good about wherehes at with the finger. So hes going to help out in that role.

There was an Aubrey Huff sighting at AT&T Park beforeThursdays game. The oft-injured and oft-slumping first baseman has missed 71games while on the disabled list three times, twice for a right knee sprain andonce for an anxiety disorder.Bruce Bochy said that the Giants will make a decision on what to do with Huff,who was eligible to be re-instated from the disabled list on August 14, verysoon.Hes going to be evaluated today and well make a decisionwhat were going to do with him, Bochy said. But hes going to do all thebaseball activities. Then well see where hes at and what the next move is.

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

Reliable on the mound, Melancon seeks thrills off of it

SAN FRANCISCO — At his introductory press conference Friday, new Giant Mark Melancon was asked about the fearlessness it takes to be a big league closer. He looked down at the first row of seats, where his wife Mary Catherine was sitting in a brand new No. 41 jersey, smiling. 

“You should probably ask my wife that,” Melancon joked.

When the Melancons got married, Mary Catherine had a calligrapher write up an actual bucket list of things the two could do together and presented it to Mark as a wedding gift. 

“It’s framed and it’s in our bathroom,” Mark said during an interview with CSN Bay Area on Friday. “It’s literally in our bathroom and we look at it all the time and try to plan out what we’re going to get done. Because it is on paper and it’s a goal and all that, we’ve checked off probably 40 or 50 percent of it in six years.”

The check marks include biking down the world’s “most dangerous road” in Bolivia and diving with great white sharks near New Zealand. The Melancons have visited Dubai and gone on a safari and stayed in countless cities off the beaten path. They have gone underwater with manta rays and high in the air in a blimp. Some of the items are simple ones, like attending a Nascar race. 

“There are a few items we’ll have to wait for until after baseball,” Melancon said. “We try to keep it safe of course, but it’s just a lot of fun. It’s a way to kind of bring creativity and allow ourselves to do things you could easily say no to.”

The standard MLB contract prohibits quite a few “dangerous” activities, and with a four-year, $62 million deal that is currently the second-biggest ever for a reliever, Melancon will hold off on certain trips, like skiing the Swiss Alps. “Attend the Kentucky Derby” is on the bucket list, but because the Derby is in May, that one is saved for retirement. In his first year with the Giants, Melancon hopes to put a check mark next to “sit backstage at a concert.”

Melancon said the thrill-seeking has slowed down a bit because the couple now has three young children, two daughters and a son. The Giants are hoping the more relaxed vibe carries over into their ninth innings. Team officials have been told by past Melancon employers that they signed a closer who is “boring” on the mound, in a good way. With a cutter-heavy approach, Melancon tends to get his ninth-inning work done quickly and without drama. That’s a welcome change of pace for an organization that has grown accustomed to “torture” late in games. 

“He was our target and we’ve gotten to know him, and the more we’ve gotten to know him the better we’ve felt about the fact that he was really meant to be a Giant,” team president and CEO Larry Baer said. 

The Giants had Melancon as their top offseason choice — and only big offseason expenditure — all along. Team officials feel even better about that approach after watching Melancon tour the ballpark Friday morning and meet with season-ticket holders and team employees. The fit was an easy one, with one member of the front office saying Melancon is “practically straight out of Giants central casting.”

Melancon’s new teammates feel the same way. He said eight to 10 of them have reached out since the deal was announced Monday. The group includes the types of players who are on any free agent’s bucket list of potential teammates. A ground ball pitcher, Melancon is looking forward to working with a Gold Glove infield. 

“That’s kind of an attractive thing to have a couple of Gold Glovers (up the middle) and then being able to throw to Buster is icing on the cake,” he said. “When you put things together on paper and go ‘who do you want to throw to and back you up,’ this team stands out.”

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler leaves Cubs, signs $82.5 million deal with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler is headed from the World Series champions to their biggest rival.

After helping the Chicago Cubs end their long championship drought, he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Fowler fills the last big hole left in the Cardinals lineup after moves made earlier in the offseason to shore up the bullpen.

"It was an honor just to be considered to be in the Cardinals organization," said Fowler, who will wear No. 25 in honor of his mentor, Barry Bonds, because his usual 24 is retired by the Cardinals.

"You play against the Cardinals, I've been playing against them for eight years now," Fowler said, "and they always come out fighting. Always fighting. And then being with a rival, being the Cubs however many times we play them a year, you see them and - it's always good a winning team wants you."

Fowler was also a free agent a year ago, when he spurned a $33 million, three-year offer from Baltimore, who refused to offer an opt out after one year, and signed a $13 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He hit .276 with 13 homers and a career-best .393 on-base percentage that landed him in his first All-Star Game, then had a pair of home runs in helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

"Playing over there, and playing against the Cardinals, you see them and you saw that they weren't far away," Fowler said. "Obviously they beat up on us, we beat up on them. It was almost even. It was one day or another. I can't put my finger on one thing or another, but we're definitely close."

His new deal calls for a $10 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments each July 1 and Oct. 1 for the next five years, and annual salaries of $14.5 million.

He gets a full no-trade provision, $50,000 bonuses for making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove, a $25,000 bonus for a Silver Slugger, $100,000 for League Championship Series MVP and $150,000 for World Series MVP. He would get $250,000 for NL MVP, $150,000 for finishing second in voting and $100,000 for third through fifth. He would get $50,000 for Division Series MVP if the award is created.

One of the goals this offseason for St. Louis was to get more athletic, both defensively and on the base paths. Fowler was identified early in the process as someone who filled that role.

"He was always someone we were hoping to sign," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said, "but after this past week at winter meetings ... we certainly wanted to get this done. And we're excited we got this done."

The lanky 30-year-old from Atlanta is a .268 career hitter over nine seasons with Colorado, Houston and the Cubs. He's expected to slot into the Cardinals' leadoff spot, giving St. Louis a switch-hitter in front of lefty-hitting Matt Carpenter and righties Aledmys Diaz, Stephen Piscotty and Yadier Molina.

"You obviously have great presence at the top of the lineup," manager Mike Matheny said. "The athleticism, the excitement of bringing in a player that has all those physical attributes, I think it's been well-said, this is the guy we were hoping to be sitting up here with."

Fowler said negotiations with the Cardinals were easy with one notable exception.

"We were on a 2-hour time difference, and I guess he wanted to get in touch with me," Fowler said, "but I was in the dentist chair, so he couldn't get in touch."

So, Fowler sent his agent Casey Close a photo of him to pass along to Mozeliak - "That was a first for me, that kind of photo," the GM said - and everything proceeded smoothly after that.

The news of his signing started breaking while Fowler was on a plane to St. Louis, and that also created some problems: namely, with his sleep. People started coming up to him while he was trying to take a nap and asking him whether the news was true.

"I was like, 'Uh, you know, I don't know,'" Fowler said with a grin. "It was definitely funny."

Fowler is eager to help the Cardinals add their 12th World Series championship.

"This is a baseball city," said Fowler. "The fans, every time you come here, you see red everywhere. That's awesome to see. Even going through our parade (in Chicago), you saw Cardinals fans out there. They've won World Series (and) they're poised to be back in the World Series and win again. That was a big part of my decision."

The Cardinals were investigating the trade market for an outfielder during the winter meetings, but decided Fowler was their best option. Because Fowler did not accept Chicago's $17.2 million qualifying offer, St. Louis forfeits its top draft pick next June, No. 18 overall, and the Cubs get an extra selection after the first round as compensation

It was a sacrifice the Cardinals were willing to make to not only improve their lineup, but snag a piece away from their biggest rival in the NL Central.

"There's always the baseball angle in all decisions, but there's also the human element," Mozeliak said. "We think about him as a leader. He wants to have a voice in that clubhouse. When you think back to wanting to change the culture of what we have going on - we like what we have, but now it's even better."