Theriot is quick with a line - and on bases, too


Theriot is quick with a line - and on bases, too

SAN FRANCISCO Brandon Crawford is fighting to competeagainst major league pitching, as the Giants anticipated, and some days areeasier to handle than others.

The gifted shortstop recalled a time last week when he gotparticularly upset after a pitcher jammed him and he hit a dribbler back to themound.

I was pretty frustrated when I came back to the dugout,said Crawford, who was intercepted by second baseman Ryan Theriot.

He says, Oh man, I thought you got that one, saidCrawford, smiling at the memory. How can you be in a bad mood after that?

Theriot is making obvious contributions in the two-plusweeks since he came off the disabled list. Theres his .345 average in 15games. Theres his eight RBIs, mostly on two-out hits. Theres his ability torip an inside pitch into left field or shoot one to the right side to move arunner.

Theres even four surprising stolen bases, and a fifthattempt, too, in which he got a tremendous jump but was tagged out after he overslid the bag.

Theres the peace of mind hes given to Giants manager BruceBochy, who had been spackling second base together with Emmanuel Burriss andJoaquin Arias. (With Theriot emerging as the second baseman and everyday No.2hitter, at least now Bochy can narrow his focus to finding some kind of productionat first base.)

Theres more.

With Theriots role on the team expanding, so too is hispersonality. The Baton Rouge native wears Western shirts that couldve beenstolen from the wardrobe department at Hee-Haw. He has a pair of white muckboots instead of shower shoes. His irreverent sensibilities fit well on a teamthat is younger from the position-player side and didnt have an outspokenpresence.

(And truth be told, Theriot is not even the biggestentertainer in his family. His young son, Houston, is a born showman whoroutinely cracks up players in the clubhouse.)

Baseball is a game of certain failure. For young playerslike Crawford and Brandon Belt, who are prone to overanalyzing every bad at-bat ormissed opportunity, Theriot is there with a quick line to relieve the pressure.

Hes a good guy to play with because hes never really in abad mood, Crawford said. He keeps you in a good mood no matter what.

Its been just 15 games since Theriot took over as thesecond baseman. Nobody is expecting the 32-year-old veteran, who arrived on aminor league contract, to hit .345 the rest of the way. He isnt coming off his best season,either even if it ended with a World Series ring with the St. LouisCardinals.

But perhaps his game is a better fit in this lineup, and at this ballpark.

Last year for me was my worst running-wise, said Theriot,who was thrown out in six of 10 attempts. The way the lineup was set up,youve got the best hitter whos ever played the game behind you. Youre notgoing to take any chances with Albert Pujols coming up, and I didnt.

Im not going to run into outs. Im not going to go just togo. Youll get thrown out and thats part of it. But its about picking goodtimes, and if youre not going to hit home runs as a team, youd better get inscoring position.

Especially at home, where the Giants home run drought isreaching levels seldom seen in the last half-century.

Unbelievably, the Giants havent hit a home run in 506at-bats at home. Their streak of 16 consecutive home games without a homer isthe longest by a major league club in 22 years. (The 1990 Houston Astros, stillplaying at the Astrodome, also failed to homer in 16 consecutive home games.)

If the Giants dont hit one out Tuesday night in the series opener against the Astros, their streak will match the longest by an NL teamsince the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1946.

Yet the Giants are 10-6 over their stretch of homerlessgames at home because theyve embraced who they are. Players on last yearsroster like Cody Ross and Aaron Rowand would mutter about the ballpark uponreturning to the dugout or try to solve their problems by swinging harder. But thiscurrent, athletic roster is letting the park suit their game. Despite beingshut out twice by the Texas Rangers over the weekend, their first shutouts ofthe season, theyve done what Bochy and GM Brian Sabean envisioned in thespring: Hitting doubles and triples and moving runners on the basepaths.

Everyone expected Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera to be a partof that. Theriot is proving hes still capable, too.

Hes my guy, said Pagan, who played alongside Theriot withthe Chicago Cubs. Ive gotta mess with him sometimes. But Im never worriedabout him. He knows how to prepare himself. Both of us started slow but you seethe momentum he has right now. Its better to finish strong, right?

Theriots key on the bases has been to get tremendous jumps. Pagan notedthe way that Theriot read the Padres Jason Marquis last week at Petco Park,knowing the pitcher's tendency is not to throw over to first base. Giants third basecoach Tim Flannery likes that Theriot is a peeker and doesnt just run withhis head down. Considering the Giants are more often in run-and-hit thanstraight steal mode, its important that their baserunners know where the ballis at all times.

The ball is the only thing that can get you out, Flannerysaid.

Does Theriot have a constant green light? Well, hed like tothink so.

Oh, we hold him, said Bochy. But hes smart about it. Ifthey give it to him, hell take it.

Reading pitchers, playing to the scoreboard, picking certaincounts when he might get a breaking ball a lot goes into Theriots philosophyon when to run.

And yes, the comedian can talk like a philosopher at times.

Theres a lot of different ways to win ballgames, he said.But really, the only way is to score more runs than the other team. Now, wellhave to hit a few home runs but when we dont, it just means weve gotta doother things better than everybody else.

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

Vin Scully on Dodgers Opening Day: ‘I’ll probably have things to do’

WASHINGTON -- On Monday, the Dodgers will play their first opening day since 1950 without Vin Scully calling their games. He won't be in the stands. He won't make a point of watching on TV, either.

"It's a day game. I'll probably have things to do," the famed 89-year-old announcer told The Associated Press from his home in Hidden Hills, California. "I might catch a piece of it."

Not that Scully has any regrets since retiring after last season. He says he's grateful for every minute he spent with the Dodgers, the franchise he joined 67 years ago in Brooklyn and followed to Los Angeles eight years later. He feels blessed to have worked as long as he did covering the game he fell in love with as a boy.

But he's learned that after a lifetime in the broadcast booth, watching a game as a fan holds little appeal.

"During the World Series back around '77 or '78, there was a game at Dodger Stadium with the Yankees, and I went to the game as a spectator. Now, I hadn't been as a spectator in a long, long time, and I felt somewhat restless that I wasn't broadcasting," Scully recalled Tuesday.

"I did not have the challenge of trying to describe, accurately and quickly, the way it should be done. I just sat there, and I was not happy, I'll be honest. So I realized that although I love the game, what I loved more was broadcasting it," he said.

Scully spoke to the AP because the Library of Congress has announced it will preserve his call of a 1957 game between the Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds, the final time they played at the hallowed old stadium. Both teams moved to California after that season, opening up the West Coast to Major League Baseball.

Scully's call of Sandy Koufax's 1965 perfect game is more famous. But that game at the Polo Grounds meant more to him personally, because he grew up going to games there, cheering for the Giants and dreaming of watching from the press box.

"It was so meaningful to me. I'm not sure what it really means to baseball fans anymore," Scully said. "The sands of time have washed over the Polo Grounds. But for me, it was one of the more memorable games I was ever involved in."

During that broadcast, Scully implored the players to take their time before there franchises left town: "Let's take it easy, we just want to take one last lingering look at both of you." The Library of Congress called it "a masterful example of the artistry that great sports announcers bring to their work, as well as their empathy for players and fans."

Six decades later, Scully is having an easier time letting go. So no plans to keep track Monday when Los Angeles plays the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

"All summer long, I expect to get feelings of nostalgia, wistfulness, whatever the word may be, but no, I am comfortable, I do know in my heart and soul I am where I should be, and that really is all I need," he said.

"Sure, after 67 years, you'll bet I'll miss it," he added. "But heck, I miss the guys I hung out with when I was in school."

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

Giants spring training Day 44: Marrero caps huge spring with eighth homer

MESA, Ariz. — The Giants went 0-62 last season when trailing after eight innings. Chris Marrero wasn’t around for any of that, but it’s a stat that could help Marrero as he tries to lock up a bench spot. 

The first baseman/left fielder crushed a three-run shot in the ninth inning Tuesday, wiping out a two-run deficit against the Cubs. Marrero also has two walk-off homers this spring. 

“This kid, you see it when he goes up there. He’s got great focus,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “It’s intensity and determination. From day one, you could see it in his at-bats. Late in the game, he seems very comfortable. He wants to go up there.”

Tuesday’s homer, which shot out to right-center, was the eighth of the spring for Marrero. That ties him with a guy named Bryce Harper for the MLB lead, and the vast majority of Marrero’s bombs were no-doubters. 

“It’s been a great spring for him,” Bochy said. “The last game here, it seems fitting that he would do something like that. He’s already done it a couple of times. This kid has done all he can. I love his swing and the work that he’s put in.”

With Michael Morse down, Marrero is the best remaining option as a power right-handed bat off the bench, a glaring need a year ago. Justin Ruggiano, another one in the mix, followed Marrero’s shot with one of his own. The homer was Ruggiano’s second of the spring. 

Ruggiano is a better fit defensively in the outfield, but Marrero has been solid at first and Bochy said he’s fine with what he’s seen in left field. “He’s still working on it,” Bochy said, noting that Marrero will play left field during the Bay Bridge Series. 

LEADING OFF: Denard Span saw a wild pitch bounce off the bricks behind home plate, and he never slowed down. Span sped around third in the second inning and slid in ahead of the throw. The notable part of the play wasn’t that a quirky bounce allowed Span to take 180 feet on a wild pitch. It was that his legs did. The 33-year-old has been a different guy in his second spring with the Giants. Last year, Span was coming off hip surgery. This spring, his old game has returned.

“I’ve just been able to do the things I’ve always been able to do,” Span said. “I have more control of my body. I’m stronger. I had a full offseason and a full spring training to get my legs up under me. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt much better and more confident.”

A healthy and spry Span would be a big boost to a lineup that often looked flat in the second half last season Span showed off every aspect of his game Tuesday. He blasted a leadoff homer on Jake Arrieta’s second pitch, and during their second matchup, he put a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Span stole second easily before his race home. 

“He’s playing terrific baseball and he’s been a real inspiration, being our leadoff hitter,” Bochy said. “That’s what we needed — energy at the top of the order.”

TRAINER’S ROOM: Eduardo Nuñez (shoulder) is feeling much better, and Bochy said he’ll play third base during the games at AT&T Park before getting four or five innings at shortstop on Saturday. Joe Panik (drilled in the back on Monday) said he’s feeling fine. 

POSITION BATTLES: Here’s the latest on Matt Cain, and here’s an update on Aaron Hill and Jimmy Rollins. 

ICYMI: Big news today from NBC Bay Area. Matt Williams, Javier Lopez and Cody Ross have joined out pre- and post-game shows. You can find stories about those guys on our homepage here. Those shows will also now be an hour long on both ends of the game, adding an extra hour of Giants coverage to your day. Which is good. 

That’s all on the way during the regular season. If you missed any of our spring coverage, you can find a bunch of features here, and podcasts here (spring pods included Mike Morse, Matt Cain, Mac Williamson, Jimmy Rollins and others, with one more coming this week). And in case you’re new to our coverage, the Twitter account is here and the Facebook page is here. Next stop, San Francisco …