Righetti a coach, a counselor for Giants

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Righetti a coach, a counselor for Giants

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Melky Cabrera is the last reportee to arrive in Giants camp, which means that most of the other reasons why the Giants frustrated their fans so much in 2011 are already working toward a sunnier 2012.

This comes as a relief of sort for pitching coach Dave Righetti, who spent an awful lot of his energy last year monitoring for fires from his burdened pitching staff.

Thats not unusual, he lied a bit. Thats been a part of the thing since 2005 or so. The park we play in, the production we got, youre always looking to see if the pitchers are getting frustrated and maybe losing some of the focus they should have.

That much is true; since the end of 2004, the Giants have ranked 29th, 24th, 29th, 29th, 26th, 17th and 29th in run production. And the pitching has operated in a somewhat stark contrast; 17th, 22nd, 9th, 17th, 2nd, first and second in ERA.

But there was a difference in 2011. The Giants had just tasted glory, and had the headlight-sized rings to show for it. But injuries and stunning underproduction from the healthy caused them to score a hideous 570 runs, the ninth-worst in franchise history and the second-lowest in the 162-game era, while the pitchers allowed 578, the third-best in the 162-game era.

It went deeper than that. They were also 120th (out of 129 years) in on-base percentage, 124th in batting average, and 107th in OPS, 96th in walks drawn and third in strikeouts endured. The phrase profoundly inert leaps to mind.

Thus, knowing how good they could be, and how little help they were getting, the pitchers could have become spectacularly petulant. But with the exception of a few dugout snaps, they did not.

Timmy (Lincecum) had one, just a quick one, but the next day he was knocking on my door and apologizing, and he apologized to the team, too, Righetti said. I didnt tell him to, either. He just did it. There were a couple of others I remember, but mostly they were professionals about it.

That the strains could be managed as well as they were could be made a credit to Righetti, but as he typically does, he throws his hands back as though he was in the lead car of a roller coaster heading from the drop.

Hey, theres only so much you can do, he said. They either have that in them, or they dont. I mean, you can tell them, Hey, if youre gonna complain, you better not forget to cover a base, or back up a throw, or Nothing says you cant get a hit and help yourself now and then. I mean, Livan (Hernandez) saved himself a lot that way when he was here.

But ultimately, theres only so much you can do. Either they understand that theyre part of the team, or they dont, and these guys do. And I think it was that way even before we won the World Series.

The Series, though, is what both calmed and could have exacerbated the issue. Winning brings teams closer, and the frustrations of not winning again can tear them apart. Perhaps the knowledge that the injuries could not have been worse if theyd been hand-selected by the Rockies and Diamondbacks helped the pitchers understand the futility of protest.

But other than Pablo Sandoval, the offensive malaise among those who remained healthy was profound. Thus, Righetti did say he monitored a bit more closely, between what they did, how they stood and what they said.

You knew they were getting asked about it all the time, and that made it tougher, he said. Theyd have to figure out if they said I did my job, would that be taken the wrong way? Are you allowed to say that? Or did they have to say, I have to do better next time out, and then you hope they dont start pressing too much?

Plus, the year that (Bob) Gibson had his 1.12 ERA, he lost nine games or something. You think he didnt snap a few times?

Well, yes, Gibson did have that 1.12 ERA in 1968, and he was 22-9, and he could snap with the best players ever. But the Cardinals finished with 97 wins, finished seventh in runs scored, and reached the seventh game of the World Series. These Giants didnt reach the first game of the divisional playoffs.

Different era, maybe, Righetti said with a shrug. Back then, it was a rougher time all the way around, and youd get on a guy a lot harder than you do now. But you can get guys to start complaining and really turn it into a problem. I was proud that these guys pitched better than they did in 2010, and didnt complain about their results.

There is, though, the knowledge that they may have to do it again in 2012. After all, low runs, high angst is among the chapter headings in Bill Neukoms underpublished book, The Giants Way, available in no Giants dugout stores, Barnes and Nobles or anywhere else whatsoever.

In other words, complaining does not change the conditions under which the Giants pitchers will toil this time as opposed to last. They are who they keep saying they are, and its up to the pitching staff to endure what must be endured.

Unless they want to develop a batting champion among them in their spare time.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com.

Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

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Giants Notes: Marrero hopes to be back; Posey faces Romo

SAN FRANCISCO — About 45 minutes after the Giants announced that Chris Marrero had been designated for assignment, the left fielder walked up to the locker of one of the newcomers. Marrero patted Christian Arroyo on the back and shook his hand, congratulating him for his first call-up to the big leagues. 

“That’s my boy,” he said later. “I was really happy for him.”

The Arroyo promotion and the addition of Drew Stubbs signaled the end of Marrero’s April run in the lineup. He was cut and Aaron Hill was put on the disabled list, clearing two roster spots. Just as Arroyo forced his way up with three huge weeks in Triple-A, Marrero forced his way onto the opening day roster with a monster spring that included eight homers. He had just five hits in 38 at-bats before Monday’s moves.

“The team is struggling and we’ve got to make some moves,” Marrero said. “I believe in myself and I’ll go down and get back to how I felt in spring training. This is what I’ve worked for my whole life. I lost the feel that I had in the spring. Things were a little rushed. I came in and worked hard every day to try and find it. I’m going to keep working. I haven’t lost confidence in myself.”

Marrero was put in a bit of a tough spot. He played just about every day in Scottsdale because he was trying to win a job, and when he finally did make it, some Giants coaches felt he was a bit worn down. The team’s brutal start to the season put a glaring spotlight on left field, and this move became obvious over time.

Marrero said he likes it here, and that if he isn’t claimed, he will go to Triple-A Sacramento and try to find that spring swing and get back up here. Count Bruce Bochy among those hoping it goes down that way. 

“We thought a lot of him and still do,” Bochy said. “He’s a good hitter.”

--- Arroyo had a 4.4 GPA in high school, so the Giants knew he was smart. He’s savvy, too. There’s nothing like picking up the longest-tenured player on the team, literally. After snagging a ricochet in the fourth inning last night, Arroyo kept running and lifted Cain off the grass. They then chest-bumped. 

“That just kind of happened,” Arroyo said. “He hit it, I looked at Cain going down and saw the ball, went running and got it, instincts took over. I made a throw and got the guy. It was a fun play. In that moment, I was just pumped up. It’s one of those plays you get excited over.”

Arroyo said he heard Cain yelling and he thought he was hurt, so that’s why he ran over. Cain did have an X-ray on the foot that got hit but it came back negative. 

“Christian did a great job handling himself,” Cain said. “He picked me up big-time.”

The best part of the play came hours after it was made. As Cain talked to reporters, Brandon Crawford — who was in position to scoop the grounder in the fourth — was standing at his locker, a few feet away.

“Let it go through next time,” he said softly.

--- Denard Span was out on the field Monday afternoon, but he’ll miss another two to four days with that right shoulder injury. This will truly be a day-to-day situation. If at any point the Giants feel they need coverage, Span can be put on the 10-day DL. 

--- Hill apparently felt discomfort after playing long toss on the road trip. He can swing a bat but he was going to be kept from throwing for three to four days, so he was put on the DL.

--- This spring, Posey was asked about facing Sergio Romo. Here was his long tendencies-filled answer. Posey faced Romo in the eighth and flied out. 

"It was a little weird, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I caught him for so long. It's definitely interesting being in the batter's box instead of being the plate."

Was there a nod or "hey what's up" look between the two?

"I've caught him long enough to know you don't look at him," Posey said, smiling. 

--- If you missed it, the standing ovation for Romo was a very, very cool moment. Also, here's my story on Madison Bumgarner, who spoke for the first time since his injury. And here's the first story on Arroyo, with a fun anecdote about his mom. She'll be in the stands Tuesday. And finally, my game story from last night. 

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

On night Giants turn to youth, Matt Cain turns back the clock

SAN FRANCISCO — In the second inning Tuesday, as Christian Arroyo strapped on his gear and grabbed his bat, Buster Posey looked over at Matt Cain. 

“Goodness,” he said. “He looks really young.”

There was a time when that was said about Cain, now 32, and Posey, now 30. They broke in as fresh-faced kids, too, but these days they’re the grizzled vets, anchors of a clubhouse that got some fresh blood on Monday. Arroyo brought the energy to AT&T Park and Cain and Posey did the rest. 

The starter, in the midst of a surprising resurgence, threw six dominant innings against the visiting Dodgers. Posey threw one runner out at second to end the eighth and back-picked Justin Turner at second with two down in the ninth, clinching a 2-1 win that felt like a must-have in the clubhouse. 

“I mean, we needed it,” Posey said. “I don’t think you can underscore it. We definitely needed it.”

The front office sensed that after a sweep at Coors Field. After weeks of saying the Giants had to be patient with Arroyo, Bobby Evans pulled the trigger Monday morning. Drew Stubbs was also added to temporarily take over in center. The message was clear: A sense of urgency was needed throughout the organization, and the players responded with perhaps their cleanest game of the year. 

Cain did the heavy lifting, allowing just two hits and a walk before his right hamstring bit. He was pulled while warming up in the seventh, but he’s optimistic. Cain missed two weeks last year with the same injury, but he said it’s not as bad this time around. 

“Last year it was something that was definitely more on my mind when I did it,” he said. “I pushed too hard. I thought we were being a lot smarter today.”

The bullpen backed Cain, with Steven Okert, George Kontos, Derek Law (who allowed a run but shut down further damage) and Mark Melancon carrying it home. Melancon ran into some trouble in the ninth when Turner alertly took second on a spiked curveball. With Adrian Gonzalez up, the Dodgers were a single away from tying it up. Turner strayed too far off the bag and Posey gunned him down.

“It was just instinct,” he said. “He was anticipating a ball being put in play and took that one or two extra stutter steps. 

Melancon emphatically yelled on the mound. Cain watched the final out from the trainer’s room. The win was his first over the Dodgers in four seasons, and while on the mound, Cain lowered his ERA to a staff-best 2.42.

“He did a great job locating his fastball,” Cain said. “He threw his curveball for strikes, expanded the zone with his fastball, mixed some changeups in. He did a nice job.”

The approach looks sustainable, and the Giants need it. Madison Bumgarner had another MRI on Monday and while the Giants don’t have a firm timetable yet, manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged that it will “be a while.” 

In the meantime, the Giants will try to find a mix that works. Hunter Pence was moved up to leadoff Monday and he drove in a needed insurance run. The infield trio of Brandon Crawford, Arroyo and Joe Panik combined for the first run, with Crawford doubling, Arroyo moving him over, and Panik skying a ball deep enough for a sacrifice fly. 

Bochy praised Arroyo for his approach in that moment, and the rookie said he was focused hard on getting Crawford over. It was the kind of at-bat the Giants teach in the minors, and they hope more is on the way. The Triple-A squad is more talented than it’s been in years, and with big leaguers continuing to drop, the depth will be needed. 

As he got dressed Monday night, Arroyo rattled off facts from the night’s River Cats game and talked about how much he believes in the players there. He’s part of a wave that’s coming slowly, a group that includes Ty Blach, who faces a monumental task Tuesday. The young left-hander will go up against Clayton Kershaw as the Giants try to keep the momentum going.

“We’ve got our hands full tomorrow,” Bochy said. “We know it. I thought tonight was huge for us to stop things.”