Reliever Otero has degrees in history, accuracy

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Reliever Otero has degrees in history, accuracy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Giants right-hander Dan Otero wants youto know something.When he plays golf, he brings two extra sleeves of balls. Hecold-tops his drives, skulls his chip shots and four-putts his way into theclubhouse.
Lies, all lies.Cmon, Otero said. You cant let everyone know.Oteros minor league coaches and teammates already know.I usually bet when I play golf, said Bert Bradley, theGiants organizational pitching instructor. I didnt bet with him.Yes, Otero is a scratch golfer. But its his accuracy on themound that could lead him to factor into the Giants plans at some point thisseason.
He throws strikes, Bradley said. His location is as goodas anybody Ive ever had.Otero turned 27 on the day the Giants held their firstworkout two weeks ago. So hes not exactly the young hotshot prospect in campthis spring. But his minor league numbers are dazzling enough:In five seasons, he has a 1.90 ERA. He has thrown 213innings and walked just 30 batters. Six of those were intentional.Everything he does is what you try to teach, Bradley said.He gets ahead. He changes speeds. He goes after people. He pitches inside. Hejust knows how to pitch, and he controls everything. He is a smart controlpitcher.How smart? Well, Otero played baseball at Duke University.When he decided to transfer to South Florida after his junior year, hedalready graduated. His degree is in history, with a concentration in Caribbeanstudies.The team wasnt very good, but being in the ACC, I got topitch against Ryan Zimmerman, Matt Wieters, Ryan Braun Otero said. Facingthose kinds of hitters helped me grow as a pitcher.The South Florida move turned out to be a smart play, too. Oterowasnt drafted as a junior but he pitched well for the Bulls and the Giantsspent a 21st-round pick on him in 2007. Otero dominated from theget-go and surprisingly took to the closer role when it was offered to him.In July of 09, he was cruising along with a 1.15 ERA in 39games for Double-A Connecticut no home runs allowed, either when he feltsomething pop in his elbow.I tried to throw another pitch and it went 50 feet, hesaid.Otero needed Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his medialcollateral ligament. He wasnt a first-round pick and he threw 87 mph. He wassmart enough to know the rest.Oh, absolutely, definitely, it goes through your mind thatthis is it, he said. But I did the rehab and I came back knowing Id have tostart all over again.It was tough. But it had its perks. I got my arm stronger.Now that were past 18 months, I can start to see extra life again.Otero is throwing at nearer to 90-91 mph and can hump up to92 when needed. Hes getting the sinking action back on his two-seam fastball.His cutter and changeup have become dependable pitches. And hes working withBradley to get more depth on a slider that he tries to throw at two speeds.After missing most of 2010, Otero posted a 1.42 ERA atDouble-A Richmond last season. Not only did he earn a promotion to Triple-AFresno, but he was used as the Grizzlies closer, too. Following the season, he wasa surprise addition to the 40-man roster a move designed to protect him frombeing taken in the Rule 5 draft.Being on the 40-man also clears the way for Otero to be calledup when the Giants need an extra arm. And manager Bruce Bochy likes pitcherswho throw strikes.I dont try to miss bats, Otero said. Just the barrel.Otero grew up on a golf course near Miami and spent plentyof afternoons sneaking in a few holes. He said swinging a golf club is similarto repeating a delivery, especially because of the way the hips trigger therest of the body.A few days ago, he got together a foursome with minor leaguepitchers Matt Yourkin, Heath Hembree and former Giants prospect Clayton Tanner,who is now in the Reds organization. They paid out for sand saves and played closest-to-the-pinon par 3s.But nothing straight up. The Giants know better than to betagainst Dan Otero.

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

Span clinches win for Giants and Gearrin, who had walk-off dreams of his own

SAN FRANCISCO — With the winning run on second and a bat in his hands, Cory Gearrin allowed himself to dream. He was a second baseman at Mercer University years ago and he entered the night with a 1.000 batting average in the big leagues. Why couldn’t this be his night on the mound and at the plate?

Gearrin stopped on the way to the plate and told Buster Posey that he was going to walk it off. He dug in against right-hander Chad Qualls and waited for the first sinker. He swung over the top of it, but he felt it was a quality hack. And then he missed the next sinker, and then the next. 

“I felt good going into that at-bat,” Gearrin said. “It was fun getting that opportunity. I’ve never faced a sinker like that. I felt like I missed it … by a lot.”

Gearrin can take solace in two facts. First, using his own sinker, he pitched three shutout innings, more than earning his keep, and he was a well-deserved winning pitcher in a 4-3 win over the Rockies that became official one minute after midnight.

Second, perhaps he gave the next hitter, Denard Span, a better view of an opposing pitcher’s repertoire. 

“Yeah ... he gave me a lot of information during that at-bat,” Span said as he laughed. 

Okay, so maybe Gearrin’s contributions were limited to the mound, but oh what a job he did against one of the best lineups in the National League. Span didn’t glean anything from Gearrin’s brief battle, but he didn’t need to. He spat on a changeup and then ripped a sinker into right, allowing Gorkys Hernandez to race home for a 14th-inning victory. 

Span, who is open about his distrust of birds, had spent nearly two hours standing under a circling flock of seagulls. Between pitches, he often dropped his hands onto his knees, looking more eager than anyone for the night to end. 

“Those birds were dropping stuff all around me,” he said. “I was like, you know what man, I don’t got time for this.”

The single gave the Giants back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. It validated so much good work, from the five relievers who got the ball to Gearrin, to the Brandons who turned a snazzy double play in the 11th, to Buster Posey, who twice threw out runners at second in extra innings. Gearrin shouted out the defense in his post game media session. 

“It’s not news to us that we’ve got gold glovers all over the field,” he said. 

The Giants trailed by a pair after Matt Cain hung a curveball to Mark Reynolds, but they chipped away. The Rockies were the jumpier team in extra innings, but every rally was cut down by stellar defense and quality pitches. Gearrin threw 34 of them. 

The veteran right-hander had never before recorded more than six outs in a big league game. He got nine outs Tuesday, giving Bochy one extension after another as he battled to make it through a game shorthanded. With Conor Gillaspie headed to the DL, the Giants had just three position players on the bench. That meant Ty Blach was used as a pinch-runner. Jeff Samardzija pinch-hit in the 11th. Bochy thought of using Matt Moore in the 14th when the pitcher’s spot came up. Hunter Strickland was warming up to pitch the 15th, but …

“I could have hit Moore — I probably should have,” Bochy said, smiling. “But Cory is a pretty good athlete and had a pretty good average going into that at-bat. The numbers swayed me.”

Gearrin got his first career at-bat last season and singled. He has not even taken batting practice since that day, but he was fired up when given the opportunity. He was still so fired up after the Giants chased Span into the outfield that he didn’t mind the fact that his shiny 1.000 batting average has been cut in half. 

“I got to use that line for a year,” he said. “But I’ll gladly sacrifice the 1.000 average for a walk-off win.”

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' 14-inning win over Rockies

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This, at long last, is a winning streak. A modest one, but still. 

Denard Span hit a walk-off single to right in the bottom of the 14th inning, giving the Giants a 4-3 win that became official one minute after midnight. The Giants have back-to-back wins for the first time since May 27-28. 

The Giants led early, fell behind on a three-run dinger, and then chipped away until the game went to extras. Buster Posey twice gunned runners down at second to help keep the score tied and the bullpen held tough, with Cory Gearrin throwing three scoreless innings. 

Gearrin had a chance to win it for himself in the 14th, but he struck out with Gorkys Hernandez on second. Span promptly singled. If you’re just waking up for work, here are five things to know from a night when the seagulls outnumbered the humans … 

--- Matt Cain needs an assist on the first run of the night. With Gorkys Hernandez on first, he got a sacrifice bunt down on a two-strike curveball that was headed for the dirt. Hernandez went to second and promptly scored on Denard Span’s single to right. The curveball wasn’t so kind in the sixth. With a runner on, the Giants intentionally walked lifelong nemesis Nolan Arenado to get to Mark Reynolds. Cain hung a curve and Reynolds crushed it to left for a three-run homer. 

--- The Giants got a run back in the sixth when Brandon Crawford’s deep fly allowed Buster Posey to trot in from third. Crawford leads the majors with nine sacrifice flies. He also turned a ridiculous double play that can’t adequately be described, except to say that he should expand his trophy case. 

--- Kelby Tomlinson came off the bench to tie it in the bottom of the eighth. His single to right brought Brandon Belt in from third. Tomlinson is 9 for 27 as a pinch-hitter this season. That’ll keep you on the chartered jets. 

--- Sam Dyson, with a fastball that reached 97 and an infield defense that was just as firm, pitched 1 2/3 shutout innings in extras. What a find. 

--- With the go-ahead run on first and no outs in the 13th, Nolan Arenado put down a sacrifice bunt. That's one of the five best moments of the Giants' season.