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.

Not a chicken-and-egg discussion: Three reasons why Giants are so boring

Not a chicken-and-egg discussion: Three reasons why Giants are so boring

To best understand what has happened to the San Francisco Giants, one must first decide whether or not they have abandoned hope, or just energy.

I mean, that is the new kneejerk position based on losing 18 of 22 games this month by an average margin of more than a run and a half per game, losing to the Phillies, Royals, Braves and Mets, falling five games behind the San Diego Padres and eight games behind the non-noisy neighbors in Oakland, and since the All-Star Break last year, they are 57-93, the equivalent of the third-worst record in franchise history.

Really, to see a happy thing in this team other than Buster Posey is an act of rankest delusion. What hope would you expend on this team?

But there’s a new element involved now, if you take Ken Rosenthal’s report for FoxSports.com on the team’s internal crises at face value.

Apparently the Giants are boring their own management.

According to Rosenthal, the almost stultifying quiet of the clubhouse has become a concern to general manager Bobby Evans and perhaps even to those to whom he reports.

In citing the contributions of such ‘edgy” personalities as Pat Burrell, Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff in 2010, Hunter Pence in ’12 and Pence, Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval (huh?) in ’14, Rosenthal suggested that the team is too staid – something that winning 38 percent of your games for an entire calendar year will do to you.

“I don’t think I can be definitive in my answers,” Evans was quoted by Rosenthal as saying, “but it’s not lost on us that we’re maybe a little quieter clubhouse than we’ve been in the past. I can’t answer that as being a factor or not.” He then followed up with the always circuitous they’d-be-louder-if-we-weren’t-such-a-tedious-watch argument, which seems self-evident but can’t really be proven one way or another.

But Rosenthal also credited “some with the Giants” as suggesting that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who allegedly help unite the clubhouse because so few of them liked him.

And now we’ve hit the motherlode of bizarre excuses. Angel Pagan is hurting the Giants far more by leaving them than by being with them. And this is, if you’ll pardon the expression, richly stupid.

Not Rosenthal, whom we can presume did his usual diligent work and correctly quoted “some with.” No, our problem is with the thinking that inspired “some with,” because you have to go a long way to make that explanation stick.

The Giants are playing terribly because, well, they are. Their pitching, which has to be in the top sixth of the league for this plan to work, is below average in many of the important metrics. Their offense is horrendous. Their outfield is a disaster. They are 27-51 purely on the merits.

That they are also boring is coincidence rather than causation, because nobody said they were boring after the All-Star Break last year, and nobody accused them of being boring in Game 4 of the National League Division Series with Chicago.

Boring is what you seize on when every other excuse, including the Mark Melancon-doesn’t-stretch-when-he’s-supposed-to straw man Rosenthal also threw up for chewing.

The truth is this, as much as anything. They are bad. They didn’t think they would be bad. They thought the second half of last year was an aberration rather than a harbinger, and they thought they could have gone to the World Series but for one hideous inning. And they are apparently shocked by this for some reason.

So, are they moping, or are they quitting? Do they need a clubhouse visit from Brian Sabean at his most pissed? What’s the thing that makes them fun guys again – other than, say, a five-way trade that gets them Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger and Nolan Arenado?

Because there’s your problem. Yes, they certainly are boring – downright stultifying, in fact. But this is not a chicken-and-egg discussion. They’re boring because they’ve been brutal, because they were slow to address their needs after misdiagnosing their problems, and because all their calculations from years gone by have gone badly wrong.

But if you really think boring is the issue, let’s have Bruce Bochy dress in a clown suit and Pence play outfield in just a sliding pants and a derby, and have one inning per game designated as the Wild Dingo Surprise Inning, in which wild dingoes are loosed upon the field to terrorize the players and/or fans.

See how many wins you get then.

What's wrong with Giants? 'There's no trust, there's no belief...'

What's wrong with Giants? 'There's no trust, there's no belief...'

The Giants have dropped 12 of their last 13 games and 21 of the last 26 en route to a NL West-worst 27-51 record.

Their play on the field is making it tough for one of their broadcasters to watch what's going on.

"It is unbelievably bad right now. It was hard to watch this weekend," Mike Krukow said on KNBR 680 on Monday morning. "They got beat every way that was possible. They got out hit, they got out hustled, they got out defended, they got out pitched."

So what is the problem with the team that just got swept by the Mets?

"There's no rhythm, there's no trust, there's no belief that if you don't get a hit, the guy behind you is going to pick you up. They set the table and day after day, they just don't get the hit. It has zapped them of all their strength. You get the sense they're searching, they're looking for an ignitor that just doesn't exist anymore," Krukow said.

The former Giants pitcher compared the feeling around the team to that of the 1985 Giants team that went 62-100.

"It is dismal, as low of a point in a Giants clubhouse and a confidence level that I've seen in a long time," Krukow said.

Krukow pointed out the most concerning part about what he's watching.

"It just doesn't feel like there's a belief that it can get better. And that's what is so concerning. These guys are proud," Krukow said.

Krukow had one lasting message for the Giants.

"They have to fight through this. They have to stay together. That's their only chance," Krukow said.