Schierholtz envisions no U-turns in 2012

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Schierholtz envisions no U-turns in 2012

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Nate Schierholtz spent the winterrunning with parachutes and pulling sleds, and no, he wasnt a contestant onThe Amazing Race."He does hope to be off to the races in 2012, though.By the time I leave here, I plan to make the stolen basepart of my game, said Schierholtz, the Giants incumbent right fielder.Definitely, I know its something Ill be comfortable doing.He hasnt been comfortable in the past, as his career stats illustrate. In parts of five seasons, the 28-year-old has stolen 17 bases and been caught12 times.Id always worry about making the out, he said.

His reticence to run included called plays from the bench.In one instance at Arizona in 2010, he entered as a pinch runner under ordersto steal second base and got picked off. (He later hit the game-winningtriple in extra innings, so all was forgotten that night.)This season, Schierholtz plans on following orders andexecuting them to success, too.Shoot, Im one of the slower guys in the outfield now,said Schierholtz, who figures to play alongside Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan.All of the sudden, the outfield is a pretty athletic group of guys. Id liketo show I can hang with em.I always felt I was pretty good at going first to third orsecond to home. But I need to steal bases, too, because this is a differentteam this year. Were built around speed and athleticism.Schierholtz is a major cage rat, but he spent time away fromhis bats this winter while working with newly promoted strength andconditioning coordinator Cark Kochan. Out came the parachutes and the sleds.Schierholtz also spent more time in the gym on exercises to strengthen his hipsand core.The key is getting a good jump, he said. Its all inthose first two to three steps.Schierholtz was one of many players on the basepaths morethan an hour before Tuesdays workout, practicing their leads and jumps. Duringthe workout, Kochan conducted a drill in which he shouted out various gamesituations such as sacrifice flies or doubles to the gap.Some easy trots wouldn't be bad, either. Although a fractured foot shortened his season, Schierholtz is coming off his best year at the plate; his nine home runs (in335 at-bats) equaled his career total from the previous four seasons combined(in 699 at-bats).Always labeled a power-hitting prospect in the minors,Schierholtz said there was a simple reason he was able to launch shotsinto McCovey Cove last season.In the past, coming off the bench as an extra outfielder, Iwas so concerned with getting my hits so Id get another opportunity to play,he said. I wasnt trying to drive the ball as much as make sure I got a hit. Everybody knows that if youre on thebench and your average doesnt look too good, youre not going to play.Last year, I learned to let it go a little bit. I figured Ididnt have anything to lose. I decided Id go out and play the way I want toplay. It worked out better than ever before.

Cody Ross joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

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AP

Cody Ross joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — While rehabbing an injury in 2014, Cody Ross played for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. When he walked to the plate, Ross got a standing ovation. 

“I absolutely didn’t expect that,” Ross said. “I really didn’t know that there was such a big Giants following there. It was pretty neat. I got teary-eyed. It was incredible.”

That experience, along with recent trips to Napa and Pebble Beach, showed Ross that his contributions to the 2010 title run will never be forgotten in Northern California, Nevada, or anywhere else you’ll find Giants fans. This season, Ross will once again be in front of an adoring fan base. The longtime Major League outfielder will work with NBC Sports Bay Area as an analyst on Giants pre- and post-game shows.

“I’ve always had some interest in doing that,” Ross said. “I can’t say that was the first thing that came to mind when I was a player, but now that I’m out of the game and looking for different avenues to stay in the game, TV is probably the next best thing besides being on the field.”

Ross, 36, actually has been on the field this spring. He has worked with the Giants as a camp instructor, paying particular attention to the outfielders, naturally. The Giants are hopeful that Ross can help a promising group of minor league outfielders, and he has spent much of his time this spring working with infielders — Aaron Hill, Jae-Gyun Hwang and others — who are trying to add left field to the resume.  

Getting back on the field was something Ross was eager to do, and the Giants were the perfect fit since they train near his home north of Scottsdale. Ross still is inundated with autograph seekers at Scottsdale Stadium, despite the fact that it’s been six years since he wore orange and black. When he visits San Francisco, the greetings tend to be the same. Fans constantly approach Ross to shake hands and simply say “thank you for what you did in 2010.”

“That means a lot,” Ross said. “They don’t have to do that. It just kind of goes to show how amazing the fan base is and how passionate they are. They don’t forget.”

It would be hard to. Ross joined the Giants on a waiver claim in August of 2010 and ended up as a key bat during the title run, hitting .294 in the playoffs with five homers and 10 RBI. He was the MVP of the NLCS. 

Ross played one more season with the Giants before stints with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and A’s. Throughout his career, he said, he would watch pregame shows to try and get updates on opposing teams. He'll get on the other side of the camera for the first time in late April. 

"I’m excited," Ross said. "It should be a fun experience, and it's going to be nice to be back in the Bay Area."

Javier Lopez joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

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AP

Javier Lopez joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Javier Lopez walked through the clubhouse the other day casually flipping a weighted ball into the air. He looked like a left-hander getting ready for another season, and Lopez will in fact spend plenty of time in San Francisco this year. He won’t be on the field, though. He’ll be watching it. 

Lopez will join NBC Sports Bay Area as a studio analyst this season, adding to a schedule that also will include a fair amount of time in the booth with Duane Kuiper. The transition is one Lopez has been thinking about for years, and he said he used to do mock broadcasts from the bullpen in order to mix it up and keep his attention on the game. 

[RELATED: Matt Williams joins NBC Sports Bay Area's Giants TV coverage]

“It’s something I definitely was considering toward the end of my career,” Lopez said. “Being recently retired and knowing a good amount of the guys that are on this team still, I think it’ll be a different perspective that I’ll be able to give.”

Lopez is the second left-handed reliever and Core Four member to jump into TV work in the first year of retirement. Jeremy Affeldt joined the network last season and the two will split the road games that Mike Krukow will miss this season, with Affeldt focusing primarily on NL Central series and Lopez handling most of the East Coast trips. 

To prepare, Lopez, who has had two stints in camp as an instructor, has been chatting with former teammates about the intricacies of playing other positions and taking at-bats. He has bounced ideas off players like Buster Posey, but he’s also looking forward to providing the unique perspective of a side-arming left-handed reliever

“Even with the pitching staff, I see things through a different lens than most people,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from everybody.”

Lopez was a clubhouse leader throughout his time with the Giants and he was a co-winner of the Willie Mac Award last season, his seventh in San Francisco. When the postseason was over, Lopez wasn’t sure he would be taking the TV step right away. He made a small list of contenders he would play for in 2017, with a focus on trying to win a fifth ring. 

“There were a couple of phases for me in particular,” he said. “I think I was thinking about knowing for sure that I wasn’t going to be a San Francisco Giant again. That was tough, but in another sense, this isn’t my first team that I’ve been on. I know how the business works. They have a lot of hard throwers as they’ve shown this spring and that’s the way that baseball is trending in the bullpen. We knew that the opportunity here wasn’t going to be there, and I was okay with that. 

“There were some teams I really wanted to go to and some places that I wanted to play, but ultimately those places started filling up pretty quickly with the relievers. The opportunities were available and I could have played — there were offers out there — but I didn’t see myself in those uniforms. If my heart’s not in it, that’s not a good way to go.”