Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4

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Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4

Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest, today at noon leading up to the first pitch of Game 3, and tune in again following the final out for highlights and interviews from St. Louis, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

ST. LOUIS -- The first pitch of Game 3 remains an iffy proposition to be lobbed on time, even if the horizontal rain hasn't arrived by the 1:07 (PDT) scheduled start.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny were in agreement: They don't want to start a game only to take cover after an inning or two, knocking out both Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse and turning this NLCS into a long-relief baton handoff. In fact, Bochy said he'd be surprised if the game started on time.

As the skies darkened over Busch Stadium, this much was clear: Bochy would not use the Merkin Valdez maneuver.

When the game starts, Cain will be on the mound. Bochy wouldn't try to outsmart the weather and start a relief pitcher, as he did a few years ago when a storm was approaching Dodger Stadium and Valdez started in place of Tim Lincecum.

(The Giants did win that day, but Bochy outsmarted himself. Valdez absolutely dealt in two quick innings, so Lincecum took the mound in the third -- and then the heavy rain arrived. The Giants brought back Lincecum after a long delay; then-Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who used the same gambit only to end up putting Chad Billingsley in the game, did not choose to heat up his starter again.)

There is a sense of urgency to get this game in, though. If the series is delayed and Saturday's travel day is wiped out, then the Giants wouldn't have the option to bring back a fully rested Cain to pitch a potential Game 7. The same would be true for the Cardinals and Kyle Lohse, who has been their best starting pitcher this season.

Bochy is not a fan of using pitchers on short rest -- and he confirmed he wouldn't ask that of Ryan Vogelsong for a possible Game 5 assignment. (Vogelsong is lined up for Game 6.)

Even though the Giants remain officially TBA for games 4 and 5, the pencil plan is for Tim Lincecum to take the ball Thursday as long as he isn't needed for emergency relief in Game 3.

Game 5 is a choice between Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, and as Bochy said about Bumgarner, "I don't think I'm concerned to the point where we don't play on using him. I'm not as concerned as you may think, because he's healthy. There's nothing going on with the arm. He's a big, strong guy. He's pressing more than anything and we've got to get his confidence back."

You can bank on this: There's no way the Giants would start both Bumgarner AND Zito in the remaining four games. The Cardinals posted the best batting average against left-handed pitching among NL teams. The Giants want to limit the Cards' exposure to lefties as much as possible.

Bumgarner and Zito both threw side session on Tuesday, so both are almost certainly unavailable to be used in relief in Game 3, Bochy said.

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Marco Scutaro didn't look like Brandon Phillips at second base while taking grounders, but his lack of mobility wasn't concerning enough for Bochy to scratch him from the lineup.

Scutaro said he hadn't spoken Wednesday with Matt Holliday, whose controversial takeout slide sent the veteran infielder to the MRI chamber Monday night.

Scutaro told me his hip felt much better with another day of rest, but his left knee soreness was about the same.

Bochy was 80 percent sure Scutaro would start when the team boarded their flight Tuesday morning; he upgraded the Chance of Scutaro to 100 percent after watching Tuesday's workout.

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Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly said he still had a couple of last-minute tests to pass before he'd be cleared to return to the coaches' box, but it hadn't been ruled out for Game 3. Hitting assistant Joe Lefebvre coached first base the previous two games after Kelly was struck on the head by a line drive in batting practice Saturday.

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A shirtless Brian Wilson ducked his bearded head into Bochy's office during his session with the beat reporters and made a declaration.

"Activate me," Wilson said. "First toss Friday, big league game. Write it."

Friday marks the six-month mark from Wilson's reconstructive elbow surgery. He'll be cleared to start tossing on that day. He offered advice on how reporters should cover it.

"Make me a left-hander," he said. "Spice it up."

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The Toronto Blue Jays claimed Scott Cousins off waivers. Wonder if the Maple Leafs will add him to their goon squad, too.

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

Crawford leads off in first Giants game of 2017

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants have put a focus this spring on getting Brandon Crawford ready for the World Baseball Classic, which meant a slight surprise for the first lineup of the new year. Crawford is hitting leadoff in Friday's exhibition opener so he can potentially get extra at-bats. Crawford and Buster Posey will leave camp in early March to represent the United States in the WBC. 

Manager Bruce Bochy went heavy on the regulars in the exhibition opener. Crawford is one of six likely opening day starters to play right away:

Crawford SS
Panik 2B
Belt 1B
Pence RF
Morse DH
Parker LF
Gillaspie 3B
Hundley C
Hernandez CF

Madison Bumgarner is scheduled to pitch an inning Friday against the visiting Reds, followed by Clayton Blackburn, Steven Okert, Derek Law, Cory Gearrin and others. The opener is meaningful to a couple of players fighting for spots. Michael Morse, the DH, is trying to make the team as a left fielder/first baseman. Jarrett Parker is trying to beat out Morse, Mac Williamson and others for the starting spot in left. 

The Giants are facing a Reds team full of prospects, including the starter, right-hander Rookie Davis, who was acquired in the Aroldis Chapman deal. Former Giant Adam Duvall is hitting fourth for Cincinnati. 

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

Giants spring training Day 11: Could Ty Blach open season in bullpen?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bruce Bochy announced a slight tweak to the spring schedule on Thursday: Matt Cain won't follow Madison Bumgarner on the mound in the opener; he'll likely start the second game, with Ty Blach backing him up.

The Giants have made no secret of the fact that Cain is the perfect-world pick to be the fifth starter this season. Is there a world where Blach could still be in the big leagues?

"Sure, I could see that," manager Bruce Bochy said.

Bochy called Blach a potentially good "swing guy." If he can't crack the rotation this season, Blach may see time as a long reliever or even a short-stint lefty. With Will Smith (elbow) on a tight timeline to get ready for opening day, the lefty help could be needed.

"He's confident, he's a strike-thrower, he has really good command and he's a good athlete," Bochy said, noting the traits that allow Blach to be versatile.

The 26-year-old had already proven to be flexible. A week after he threw eight shutout innings against the Dodgers, Blach came out of the bullpen at Wrigley Field and threw 1 1/3 hitless innings. Two days later he threw two more scorleless innings out of the bullpen. 

Blach said he was at first a little worried about the transition, but he talked to Cain, Jake Peavy, Chris Heston and Chris Stratton about the best ways to adjust to a switch to the bullpen. He ultimately didn't have any problems warming up quickly as a reliever.

"It was pretty similar, you just try to go out there the same way and execute pitches," Blach said.

Blach made the quick transition look easy, and that might have opened up a second path to a roster spot. 

Elsewhere on the final day before the games start ...

STOCK WATCH: Tyler Beede will pitch Sunday, and there are going to be a lot of eyes on him. Beede is probably the No. 7 starter at this point, and when you're in that spot, you're just about guaranteed a decent chunk of starts. Injuries will open doors.

"He's looked real sharp this spring," Bochy said. "He's coming off a great year. He's got great stuff, great makeup. He’s a smart pitcher along with having good command of all of his pitches. He knows what he’s doing out there. He’s one of those guys on a fast pace.”

ICYMI: Speaking of guys on a fast pace, here’s my feature on Christian Arroyo

SPRING OPENER: Buster Posey won’t catch Bumgarner on Friday, but Brandon Crawford will be behind him. Crawford is going to get plenty of time early on to prepare for the WBC. Posey makes his spring debut Saturday.

LIGHTER SIDE: Just about every day, a rookie has to get up in front of the team and do something embarrassing. Thursday’s entertainment: Jae-gyun Hwang, the Korean third baseman, dancing to “Gangnam Style.”

QUOTABLE: I think Mike Morse was the best podcast guest so far. We talked about his wedding negotiations with Bobby Evans, his friendship with Hunter Pence, the photo he took with a trophy right after the World Series, why it’s SF-or-bust, and much more. You can stream it here or download it on iTunes here. 

The last question for Morse: Will he use “Take on Me” this year?

“If this is going to be the last time I play baseball, I’m going to have that song every at-bat,” he said.