Posey's durability likely to affect roster decisions

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Posey's durability likely to affect roster decisions

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Buster Posey continues to exceedexpectations this spring and it might be impacting how the Giants arrangetheir opening-day roster.

Posey started at first base Saturday afternoon, just a fewhours after a strenuous workload Friday night in Peoria. Against the San DiegoPadres, Posey had pushed himself hard on the basepaths and caught a completegame for the first time this spring. They were long innings, too.

He said he woke up with a normal amount of stiffness inhis surgically reconstructed left ankle.

Even when youre completely healthy, spring training is alot different than the regular season, Posey said. But Im really optimisticbecause Ive made a lot of progress this spring and I think its only gonna getbetter and better.

Most impressively, Posey scored from second base on asingle. He said yes, he thought about his ankle as he made the sharp turnaround third base.

Itll be something Ill think about for awhile, he said. Itssomething Ill get more and more comfortable with. I dont think that thinkingabout it is a bad thing.

Posey said hes pleased with how the spring has gone. Hehasnt had any apparent setbacks.

The training staff has done a great job of managing it,knowing when to push and when to pull back a little bit, Posey said. Imhappy.

Its a test for Posey to play a day game after a night game something the Giants will have in four of their first 10 contests, and 39 inall this season. His strong spring makes it more likely that manager BruceBochy will stick to his early pledge to carry just one additional catcher.

Yes, it could be Hector Sanchez instead of choosing betweenEli Whiteside and Chris Stewart.

Carrying just one catcher would allow the Giants one moreposition player; they face a tough choice between Joaquin Arias middle-infielddefense and Brett Pills right-handed power.

The coaching staff and front office also continues todiscuss Brandon Belt, where he should start the season and what his role shouldbe. Bochy has said he and GM Brian Sabean have taken their discussions lateinto the night in recent days a sign there is some healthy disagreement onthe roster construction.

Also today:

--Clay Hensley had an MRI on his calf that showed only a mildstrain. He expected to get back on a mound within a day or two.

--Ryan Vogelsong threw 55 pitches in three innings of aminor league game. He remained on course to start the season opener forTriple-A Fresno on Thursday. Hell make one more rehab start after that beforethe club activates him when they need a fifth starter April 15.

--Dan Otero is your Harry S. Jordan award winner as the mostimpressive player in his first big league camp. Otero hasnt walked a batterand has a bingo number for an ERA (0.90) in 10 appearances.

I didnt know what to expect, Otero said. The first timehere, it was overwhelming. Then you get acclimated and get a comfort level.Being here with the guys, you take it as any other day. Its baseball.

Otero, Steve Edlefsen and non-roster pitcher Jean Machi arecompeting for the final bullpen spot a temporary one, since the winner isexpected to go down when Vogelsong is ready.

Machi has a nasty splitter that has gotten the attention ofthe coaching staff, but Otero is a strike thrower.

Ive always tried not to walk guys because I know Ill giveup hits, Otero said. The fewer baserunners, the better.

Otero won a five-pack of 5 Starbucks cards. He doesn't drink coffee.

--Arias was in the early lineup but Bochy changed it and putRyan Theriot at second base, instead. Emmanuel Burriss got a rare start atshortstop, too. Although theres an excellent chance Arias will be on the teamas a backup middle infielder, if the Giants opted not to carry him, they likelywould go with todays alignment Theriot at second, Burriss at short againstsome left-handed pitchers. Theyre getting Reds lefty Jeff Francis today.

Also, it appears that Bochy is more or less set onflip-flopping Posey and Pablo Sandoval in the Nos. 3-4 spots againstleft-handers this season.

The lineup:

CF Pagan
LF Cabrera
1B Posey
3B Sandoval
2B Theriot
RF Schierholtz
SS Burriss
C Stewart
P Mota

Its a Johnny Wholestaff game today, and Mota didntexactly change his routine because he was starting. Players were dressed atnoon. Mota, as per his custom, strolled in at 11:44.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”