Giants

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.

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

After Stratton leads way in Giants' shutout, what does his future hold?

SAN FRANCISCO — After the final out Monday night, a round table was carried into the corner of the home clubhouse at AT&T Park and surrounded by chairs. Eleven players were sitting, eating, drinking and laughing as Chris Stratton prepared to address the media. 

It was a rare sight for the Giants these days, a very rare sight. But then, so was Monday’s result. Stratton led the way in a 2-0 win over the Brewers that was the first home shutout of the season and motivated the joyous post-game scene. 

The shutout was just the second of the season for the staff. Ty Blach went the distance in the other one and Stratton, a fellow rookie, did the heavy lifting Monday, throwing six strong innings before giving way to the bullpen. Matt Cain pitched the seventh, Mark Melancon pitched the eighth while going back-to-back for the first time in three months, and Sam Dyson closed it out quickly. 

There’s a chance that Stratton joins that group in a few days. Johnny Cueto is scheduled to make a rehab start on Tuesday night in Sacramento and that could put him on track to return to the rotation a turn later. That would line up with Stratton’s next start, but Bruce Bochy wasn’t ready to kick the young righty out of the rotation, not after back-to-back scoreless starts against two of the better lineups in the league. A few days after striking out 10 Washington Nationals, Stratton cut through the Brewers. He has 12 2/3 scoreless innings over his past two appearances. 

“For how we’re using him, he’s really handled it well,” Bochy said. “We skipped him, moved him back three or four days, but he doesn’t let it faze him. This is an important time for these young players coming up, whether it’s (Ryder) Jones or (Jarrett) Parker or Stratton. They’re trying to show they belong in the Major Leagues.

“You’re hoping these guys show they’re ready to play here and we don’t have to do something else because we can do it internally.”

Bochy said he could use a six-man rotation when Cueto returns, or a starter could be skipped. That will all sort itself, but the manager made one thing clear. 

“We’d like to pitch him as much as we can,” Bochy said of Stratton.

That’s the same thing Bochy used to say of another right-hander, one he compared Stratton to before Monday’s game. Bochy was asked about Yusmeiro Petit, and he smiled and fondly stated, “He was so good. So good.” The Giants see some Petit in Stratton. He is unaffected by long layoffs and he’s capable of starting, relieving, or even pumping his fastball up a couple ticks for short outings. 

Petit was a mainstay in San Francisco for years, a key cog in a championship team. Bochy has been looking for that piece since Petit departed in free agency, and Stratton seems like he might be suited for the role. He will want more, of course, because all pitchers do. The Giants will give him five more weeks here to try and earn that. 

For the moment, Stratton’s focus is elsewhere. He turns 27 on Monday and the celebration started early. As Stratton answered questions, veterans at the table heckled him about striking out just one Brewer. 

“I left all the strikeouts in Washington, I guess,” Stratton said. 

Nick Hundley walked up with a TV remote and held it up between the cameras. 

“What was your thought on the punchout?” he asked. 

“I’m glad he swung,” Stratton said, smiling. “It was a ball.”

“Did you think about getting any more?” Hundley asked. 

With that, he smiled and ducked back behind the cameras to return to the celebration in the corner. A few minutes later, Stratton joined him.

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

Instant Analysis: Five takeaways from Giants' first home shutout of 2017

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Ty Blach has been a bright spot in this losing season, giving the Giants a young, cost-controlled lefty who can potentially fill a huge role next season. Chris Stratton is trying to do the same thing from the right side. 

The 26-year-old continued his August surge, throwing six dominant innings against the Brewers in a 2-0 win that was the staff's first shutout at AT&T Park this season. 

It was the kind of night that's been so familiar over the years. The Giants had six home shutouts last season. Here are five things to know from this year's first ... 

—- The Brewers are first in the league in homers and the Nationals are third, so Stratton had his work cut out for him the last two times out. His results: 12 2/3 innings, 9 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 11 strikeouts. That’s quite the statement. Stratton’s scoreless streak is the longest by a Giants rookie starter since Chris Heston threw 16 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings in July of 2015. 

—- Matt Cain was used as a short reliever to protect a two-run lead in the seventh. He had a 1-2-3 inning that ended with a strikeout. 

—- Mark Melancon pitched back-to-back games for the first time since May 19-20. He struck out Neil Walker and Ryan Braun in a perfect inning. 

—- Jarrett Parker reached base his first three times up. He’s hitting .385 at home this season but he’s just 4-for-35 (.114) on the road. Weird splits for a Giant slugger. 

—- Brandon Crawford is finally finding some traction. His double in the fourth was the big hit in a two-run frame that gave Stratton a lead to work with. Crawford is 7-for-17 on the home stand with three extra-base hits and four RBI.