Vogelsong 'letting it go' in return to mound

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Vogelsong 'letting it go' in return to mound

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Ryan Vogelsong hadnt stepped on a moundsince he strained his lower back in the weight room a month ago. As he toed therubber Thursday morning, you couldnt blame him for wanting to take it easy.

No, really. You couldnt blame him.

I was letting it go, said Vogelsong, after his 25-pitchsession. I threw everything. I dont dial back in bullpens, ever. I dontduring the season. I never have, never will.

I throw my bullpens like Im pitching in a game. I want toget after it. Thats the way I pitch.

Almost halfway through spring training, Vogelsong isstarting from scratch. Any more setbacks would make it difficult for him to be readyfor the season-opening rotation.

Although Vogelsong was confident enough in his lower back tothrow at full intensity, he isnt making any pronouncements about being readyfor the season.

I quit asking, he said. Im not making the schedule. Ivetried not to be a pain in the butt, always asking, Whats next? Whats next? Justshow up, do what Im supposed to do and take it from there.

Vogelsong doesnt expect any more setbacks, though.

I wasnt too concerned about it, to be honest, aftereverything weve done, said Vogelsong, who did so many core and rotationalexercises that he probably had dreams about them. Weve tested it pretty good.

I was more curious about how my pitches were going to comeout, and it was better than I thought it would be, but not by a lot. Thelocation was pretty good for not throwing off a mound for a month.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has said Vogelsong could buildarm strength quickly, since he did plenty of throwing before his back went outwhile doing power squats. The injury was significant enough to warrant an anti-inflammatory injection, but Vogelsong hasn't required any follow-up shots.

Vogelsong, 34, was an inspirational first-time All-Star lastseason. His 2.71 ERA led the Giants rotation and ranked fourth in the NationalLeague. His return to form is critical for a team expected to win behind its pitching and defense.

If Vogelsong isnt ready to open as the No.4 starter, theGiants could turn to left-handers Brian Burres or Eric Surkamp. Since thatwould give the club left-handers in the Nos. 3-5 slots, the club would move upleft-hander Madison Bumgarner into the No.2 slot between Tim Lincecum and MattCain.

The Giants open April 6 at Arizona, but a fifth starterwouldnt be absolutely necessary until April 15.

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

Early offense, six strong from Cueto lift Giants past Braves in finale

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO -- The blisters on Johnny Cueto's middle and index fingers that limited his effectiveness in his last few starts haven't yet completely healed.

But the two-time All-Star is learning to pitch with them.

Cueto threw six strong innings and Brandon Crawford drove in three runs as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves 7-1 on Sunday.

Cueto (5-4) bounced back from his roughest stretch as a Giant. He was 0-3 with a 4.33 ERA in his previous four starts.

"They're not bothering me like they were before," Cueto said through a translator. "I'm just getting used to it but I have to continue pitching until they get better."

The Giants won their third straight home series and posted their 11th victory in 18 games overall.

Crawford's two-run single highlighted a four-run second against R.A. Dickey (3-4) that made it 6-0.

Matt Kemp had three hits for Atlanta. But the Braves couldn't get much going against Cueto, who allowed one run on six hits and a walk. Cueto struck out eight, including five in a row at one point.

"He did what he needed to do to get us out," Kemp said. "We had chances to score runs and we didn't. I think in this series we really didn't do a good score of scoring runs."

Dickey allowed a season-high seven runs (six earned) on six hits and five walks in six innings.

"This can be a challenging place to throw because of the wind because it swirls so much," Dickey said.

Eduardo Nunez and Gorkys Hernandez each had two hits for the Giants. Joe Panik tripled to start the second-inning burst.

Cueto had two productive at-bats, bunting a runner to second in the second inning and driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the third.

"It's always nice to have a lead and I thought Johnny was the sharpest he'd been this year," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Hopefully it's something he can build on. The changeup was working really well and his command of the fastball was really good."

Posey was 0 for 2 with two walks. He hasn't struck out in 55 consecutive plate appearances.

FUN FACTOR:
The Giants scored the game's first run when Nunez came around from third when a knuckleball glanced off catcher Kurt Suzuki glove in the bottom of the first. The play was ruled a passed ball. Asked if he had any empathy for the plight of his counterpart, Posey said "Yes, no question. It's not fun to hit, it doesn't look fun to catch, either."

FANCY FIELDING:
Hernandez made a diving catch in the gap in left-center robbing Emilio Bonifacio of an extra-base hit with one out in the seventh inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM:
Braves: 2B Brandon Phillips left in the fifth for pinch-hitter Jace Peterson. Phillips fouled a ball off his foot in his last at-bat in the third.

Giants: LHP Madison Bumgarner will start his throwing program on Friday, manager Bruce Bochy said. Bumgarner will start out playing catch and make five rehab starts. The 2014 World Series MVP suffered a separated left shoulder in a dirt biking accident. "The progress is happening," Bochy said. "I think he sees light at the end of the tunnel." ... Slumping rookie INF Christian Arroyo was out of the lineup on Sunday and his playing status appears uncertain. Arroyo, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is 0 for 19 in his last five games. "I'll talk to him, about what his situation is," Bochy said. "I'm definitely planning on giving him a couple of days" off.

UP NEXT:
Braves: RHP Julio Teheran will make his first career start against the Angels in Anaheim on Monday. He is 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 15 career interleague starts.

Giants: LHP Matt Moore will face the Nationals for the second time in his career. He was with Tampa Bay when he gave up two runs in five innings against Washington in 2012.

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

Giants lineup: Posey catching, Nunez at third base against Braves

The Giants look to win two straight against the Braves and Bruce Bochy has made a few changes to the lineup Sunday.

Atlanta Braves (21-26)

1. Ender Inciarte (L) CF
2. Brandon Phillips (R) 2B
3. Nick Markakis (L) RF
4. Matt Kemp (R) LF
5. Matt Adams (L) 1B
6. Kurt Suzuki (R) C
7. Rio Ruiz (L) 3B
8. Dansby Swanson (R) SS
9. R.A. Dickey (R) P

San Francisco Giants (21-30)

1. Denard Span (L) CF
2. Eduardo Nunez (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
6. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
7. Joe Panik (L) 2B
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) LF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P