Runzler hopes to be a smooth operator

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Runzler hopes to be a smooth operator

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. How snakebitten were theGiants by injuries last season? Even when they were three innings away from along winters nap, they couldnt stay healthy. Dan Runzler providedone final instance for trainers to rush onto the field. In the seventh inningof the 162nd game, he strained a lat muscle in his side while throwing apitch.But a symbolic moment in a season gone awry turned into a blessing for Runzler.After completing his rehab work and getting married, he spent most of Januaryworking at AT&T Park with pitching coach Dave Righetti to smooth outthe many kinks in his delivery. Runzler had what scouts calla segemented delivery. Righetti chuckled when hearing that word. Toocharitable, he said. OK, then. Herkyjerky?

Go with that, Righetti said. With him, it is anissue and it has been. He got to the big leagues throwing more sidearm with aslurvy breaking ball. But it got away from him. He had trouble going through lineups,seeing hitters second time around, and blah blah blah. So weve tried to smoothhim out. Hes leading with his front arm, which is a bigkey. Even a casual observer could watch Runzler throw inthe bullpen this spring and notice the difference. I get soexcited, Runzler said. My emotions take over and its like I cannot wait todeliver the pitch. I end up overanxious to throw and I go too fast. Now Imworking on getting my front shoulder out there more. It works. The ball comesout really well and the command is a lot better when youre smooth. I feel thisis something I can repeat. Righetti was glad to hear thosecomments. Hell shake his head and say he understands andall that when we tell him things, but the game speeds him up, Righetti said.No question, Ive been there. Left-handed short men who throws hard they allcome out trying to overdo it. And he hasnt been able to settle in either,right? So its part of the deal when you try to break your waythrough. But hes on a good path. People forget, thatinjury is not just a little thing. Hes in great shape and coming out of (eachsession) good. The Giants have been excited about Runzersince 2009, when he got promoted four times while zooming up the organizationalladder. He began the season in Low-A Augusta with pitching coach (and formerbig league lefty) Steve Kline, and ended it with a 1.04 ERA in 11 big leaguegames. His upper-90s fastball and slider dominated hitters. ButRunzler, 26, hasnt been a dependable strike thrower in subsequent seasons. TheGiants spent almost 10 million to bring back left-handers Jeremy Affeldt andJavier Lopez in part because they didnt have faith Runzler would be physicallyor mentally ready to step into a highly leveraged bullpenrole. With Guillermo Mota and Clay Hensley in camp, Runzlerstands just an outside shot of making the opening-day roster. So hes goingabout his business this spring with the goal to improve his craft, not to win ajob. Its tough to stick in this pen, said Runzler, whoshould be allowed to face hitters within a day or two. Weve got six out ofseven guys who are all sewn up. Its the third year Im trying to make theteam, but I cant try to do it with every single outing. Instead,he is practicing the way he plans to pitch. Every repcounts, he said. Fix it in one pitch instead of three pitches. Thats what youhave to do in a game, so you might as well do it that way on the side. Imreally concentrating on that mental part of the game. Runzlerhas something to build upon. Although he ended last season with a 6.26 ERA in31 games, he strung together his best outings in September. In his last 11appearances, he didnt allow an earned run and walked two while striking outfive over 5 13 innings. His workload increased after Affeldt stabbed his handwhile trying to separate frozen hamburger patties.Did wemention the Giants were snakebitten last season?Boch likesto throw the hot hand, Runzler said of manager Bruce Bochy. Hell ride you aslong as youre doing well. When Runzler got to Scottsdale, he shook his headwhen he saw where clubhouse manager Mike Murphy set up his locker. Hes rightnext to Affeldt, who immediately put down strips of athletic tape on the carpetas lines of demarcation. He says my stuff always gets inhis way, Runzler said, trying not to roll his eyes. Hopefullythat stuff doesnt include a set of steak knives.

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.