Scutaro talks continue; Giants weigh LF options

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Scutaro talks continue; Giants weigh LF options

NASHVILLE -- The Giants replaced Angel Pagan with Angel Pagan, and didn't that work out neatly for all parties?

But they still have to figure a plan for left field, and let's not forget that Canadian defector Melky Cabrera led the major leagues in hits and runs when he was suspended for testosterone on Aug. 15.

As of now, the plan is the same as the day Cabrera got popped: Gregor Blanco.

"He did a great job for us so he'll be a part of this club and could be our left fielder," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "I can't tell you what's going to happen. Right now, he'll get a lot of playing time in left field."

The Giants are looking for a right-handed complement, and they've checked in with the agent for Scott Hairston. But Hairston reportedly has a two-year offer from Detroit.

Regardless, it's a back-burner issue for the Giants until they reach a result with second baseman Marco Scutaro. Despite all predictions that Scutaro would sign before Pagan, the Giants still find themselves without an agreement with the NLCS MVP -- and the Yankees might have entered the picture now that third baseman Alex Rodriguez is out until at least June because of hip surgery.

Asked to characterize the Scutaro negotiations, Giants VP Bobby Evans said he has been discussing "various offers and considerations from the beginning. Any time you've had the year he had, it'll make clubs look long and hard at how he can help you."

Scutaro hit .362 in 61 games after joining the Giants in the trade that sent minor leaguer Charlie Culberson to the Colorado Rockies. Then Scutaro became unconscious while going 14 for 28 and lifting the Giants to a seven-game NLCS comeback series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Evans said he wouldn't rule out Scutaro, 37, getting a three-year offer on the open market.

"He can play multiple positions and is coming off a great year," Evans said. "The disadvantage is he has a little more age on him."

Evans acknowledged there is a much smaller pool of backup options at second base than there was in center field, if they had been unable to re-sign Pagan. (His four-year, 40 million contract is pending a physical.) Internally, Nick Noonan is the closest second baseman to the big leagues but is seen as more of a utility presence. The best infield prospect in the system, Joe Panik, is another year away.

The Giants have not discussed moving first baseman Brandon Belt to left field or anywhere else, Evans said.

If the Giants are unable to re-sign Scutaro, they might be able to divert some of those funds to the outfield. But they already spent more than they had planned to bring back Pagan, even crossing the bridge of offering a fourth year to a player who has exceeded 123 games in a season just twice in his career.

Evans acknowledged that B.J. Upton's five-year pact with the Atlanta Braves might have reshaped the market for Pagan. The Giants are banking that Pagan's athleticism will allow him to age well.

"You have to respond to the market at some level or be prepared to settle for a secondary option," said Evans, who might have been forced to overpay for Shane Victorino if the club didn't strike a deal with Pagan.

The last time the Giants overpaid for a former Philies outfielder in Nashville, they took home Aaron Rowand for five years and 60 million.

So Bochy was ecstatic to have Pagan back for 2013.

"It's a huge advantage," Bochy said. "You take away a lot of the unknown factors of a player playing in our ballpark. He had a great time here, I know the fans love Angel and there's chemistry with his teammates. He's a big fit for us.

"That's a pretty big need when you need a center fielder and a leadoff hitter, and we took care of both."

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.

 

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.