Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

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Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

GOODYEAR, Ariz. Eric Surkamp won an ERA title in Double-Alast season, he enjoyed the thrill of his major league debut and he got dousedwith the celebratory beer shower that accompanies your first major league win.

All good things.

But last season ended on the worst possible note.

In his second to last start, he didnt survive the firstinning at Arizonas Chase Field. And the Diamondbacks destroyed the Giants15-2. Surkamp faced eight batters and retired just one of them. It was fourwalks, two singles, a double, three stolen bases and an early shower.

It was a smoldering wreck of an outing. And it was the night thatArizona clinched the NL West title.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti told Surkamp to forgetthat night and take only the positives out of what otherwise was a startlinglygood season. But when Surkamp went to work out at Fischer Sports in the Phoenixarea, the reminders were all around him.

J.J. Putz, Miguel Montero those guys were there everyday, Surkamp said. A lot of Diamondbacks players train there. But it wasgood. It motivated me.

Surkamp didnt lack for motivation over the winter. Perhapsno Giants player made a bigger improvement in terms of fitness andconditioning. But Surkamp needed to improve his mind, too especially afterhis first Cactus League outing was another rough one.

The first outings, I was pretty tense, knowing I didnt endthe season so great last year, Surkamp said. When you struggle in your firstouting, you get down on yourself.

Thats where Tim Lincecum stepped in. Surkamp said he was runningwith the two-time Cy Young Award winner one day when he received a piece ofadvice.

He helped to take the pressure off, Surkamp said. Its justhave the mindset going into games, like, Maybe the weight of the world isnton you. So stay calm. That was the gist of it. Coming from a guy like him,facing No.1s all the time, it says a lot about him and the composure he pitcheswith.

Surkamp has looked more calm and composed with every outing,winning the confidence of manager Bruce Bochy and making himself into a solidoption whenever the club has a vacancy in the rotation. He got close to 90pitches in five innings of a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesdayat Goodyear Ballpark.

The only runs he allowed came on Shelley Duncans two-runhome run in the fourth inning. Surkamp didnt let it faze him, settling backdown and throwing strikes to retire the next three hitters.

I think the kids had a nice spring, Bochy said. Hesbetter with experience. It seems his confidence is growing. He threw 90 pitchestoday and thats a good effort. He seems to be commanding his pitches better,and when he gets out of sync, he seems to be regrouping out there.

Hes got a calmness about him that you like.

Surkamp said he began incorporating his slider in hisprevious start and started throwing it to right-handers on Wednesday. He stillchastised himself for getting lazy on a few pitches in the early innings, whenhe was leaving a few balls armside.

Ive got to eliminate the pitches I leave up and over theplate, he said. The home run was a wakeup call, almost. Ive got to learn tobe locked in. It shouldnt take a home run for that to happen.

Even if Ryan Vogelsong must start the year on the disabledlist, the Giants wont need a fifth starter until April 15 the ninth game ofthe season. So Surkamp probably wont be needed in the near term.

But if Barry Zito struggles mightily, Vogelsong needs moretime or an injury befalls the rotation, Surkamp wants to leave the clearimpression that hell be ready for anything even if a division title is onthe line.

Its hard because you want to go out there and prove it to Giantsfans and everybody else, Surkamp said. Really, you just need to prove it toyourself. Just know you belong up here and its the same game.

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

Giants spring training day 8: Melancon, Hundley go way back

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A couple of days before he signed a four-year deal, Mark Melancon fired off a midnight text to Nick Hundley. 

“Call me,” Melancon wrote.

When Hundley called, he found out his college teammate had chosen the Giants, ending a free agency process the two spoke about often. Two months later, it was Hundley’s turn to reach out. 

“I asked him if he wanted to play together again,” Hundley said. “He said, ‘You better not be messing with me.’”

The Giants signed just two free agents who are guaranteed of being on the opening day roster. In an odd twist, the new closer and new backup catcher have known each other for over a decade. Hundley was a second-round pick in 2005 out of the University of Arizona. A year later, his college teammate Melancon was a ninth-round pick. The two have stayed close throughout the pro ball journey. They were groomsmen in each other’s weddings and their wives and children hang out together. 

“We always talked about playing together,” Hundley said, adding that the odds were long in a 30-team sport.

The friends have crossed off a good chunk of them. Melancon has played for the Yankees, Astros, Red Sox, Pirates and Nationals. Hundley has played for the Padres, Orioles and Rockies. Finally, the two have hooked on to the same team, and the Giants are excited to have them both. Hundley will be the veteran catcher the team has missed in recent years, and the Giants are hopeful that he’s a pinch-hit threat, too. Melancon, of course, was brought in to fix the glaring problem in the ninth. Hundley is confident he’ll do it.

“I’ve caught him since 2005,” he said smiling, “And he’s always been nasty.”

NEW FACE: It’s hard to take much away from drills, but Orlando Calixte certainly impressed. As the Giants worked out on the field for the first time in three days, I asked GM Bobby Evans what Calixte showed the team’s scouts. “Just his athleticism, his tools, they stand out,” Evans said. They certainly do. Calixte is smooth out there, and he showed quickness at short that might differentiate him from the pack of infield options. 

Calixte has also played second, third and the outfield in the minors, and while the Giants intend on keeping five outfielders, that versatility could come into play. The Giants plucked Calixte from Kansas City’s system and put him on the 40-man roster when it became apparent that other offers were out there. They thought he could provide more versatility than Ehire Adrianza, and it helps that he has an option remaining. Calixte has to beat out a bunch of guys to win a roster spot, but given his glove and his status on the 40-man, it would be a surprise if we don’t see him at some point this season. 

ICYMI: Bruce Bochy said he’ll call Johnny Cueto to talk about his preparation for the World Baseball Classic. 

POSITION BATTLE: Matt Cain, the clear frontrunner for the No. 5 spot, faced hitters on the main field. Bochy liked what he saw. “He’s gotten more time away from that surgery and he’s throwing the ball well,” Bochy said. “Buster said the same thing. It’s coming out good.”

NOTEWORTHY: The Giants are serious about making Trevor Brown a more versatile option. He fielded grounders at short today and also spent plenty of time at second. 

QUOTABLE: “Just a good day. We (the coaches) were talking about how it’s changed a little bit. We’re not even in March yet and guys are letting it go.” — Bochy on the first day of live BP sessions. The pitchers were certainly well ahead of the hitters today. 

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

Will Cueto be ready for the WBC? 'That’s the question we have to answer'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Jeff Samardzija whirled and fired a strike to Eduardo Nuñez shortly after 11:30 a.m. on Monday. With that, the Giants took another step back toward actual baseball.

Monday was the first day of live batting practice sessions, but the most important one took place thousands of miles east of Scottsdale Stadium. Johnny Cueto faced teenage prospects at the club’s facility in Santo Domingo, and Bruce Bochy said he would call Cueto to check in on his progress. 

The Giants are not concerned that Cueto — who is tending to his ill father — is missing so much of spring training. They know him well enough by now to know that Cueto paces himself and takes care of his body. They are, however, starting to get a little concerned about Cueto missing so much camp and then going straight to the World Baseball Classic. 

“The spring started early so he’s got plenty of time to get ready for (opening day),” manager Bruce Bochy said. “The question will be will he be ready for the WBC. That’s the question we have to answer.”

Bochy said he would like to see Cueto in the 50-60 pitch range before he goes off to compete for the Dominican Republic. The Dominican team opens play March 9 at Marlins Park. 

“We’re going to talk about a lot of things,” Bochy said. “We’ll see where he’s at, see where he’s at mentally, and see how his father is doing.”

Bochy noted that Nolan Ryan used to show up to camp on March 1 and throw 80 mph, working his way up from there. The Giants view Cueto the same way, but at some point there will be a breaking point where the WBC participation becomes a real concern. At the very least, Bochy said, Cueto might be asked to join the DR team later in the tournament.