Whiteside aims to instill confidence again

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Whiteside aims to instill confidence again

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Eli Whiteside will never beconfused with Buster Posey, nor should he be. Whiteside is a backupcatcher, an organizational asset and a member of the supporting cast. He isalso the only Giant in nearly four decades to catch ano-hitter. And like Posey, he hopes to be much healthierthis season. Coming out of last spring, we felt we couldmanage it, said Whiteside, glancing down at his right elbow. We could get bybecause I wasnt playing every day. Then Buster got hurt and well, it hungaround a little bit.

There is no comparing Poseyscatastrophic lower leg injury in May with Whitesides grinding, chronicallysore elbow. But in one respect, Whiteside had it worse. Although obviouslycompromised, he still had to go out and compete. Manynights, he couldnt throw to second base without short-hopping it. And scoutswere watching. It was pretty obvious teams saw I wasntthrowing the ball that great, Whiteside said. Theyre taking off every chancethey got. Mentally, its not a comfortable feeling. Especiallywhen you are the backup catcher. Your job isnt to hit home runs or play everyday. Its to provide continuity to the pitching staff on the days you start.Its to imbue the pitchers with confidence. Its to be someone they trust andwant to throw to. Although the pitchers were too gracious tosay anything, Whiteside knew with every ailing throw that some of theirconfidence must be draining away. (It became especially obvious that Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy didnt want to pair Whiteside with Tim Lincecum, whoalready had trouble holding runners.) By the Giantsaccounting, Whiteside threw out only 13 of 71 attempted base stealers -- an18.3 percent success rate that ranked far below the league average. ChrisStewart, who largely outplayed Whiteside behind the plate, threw out 22 runners(39.2 percent) despite catching almost 120 fewer innings. Throwingwell is something I always took pride in, Whiteside said. (The elbow) wasnothing that I felt was going to keep me off the field, but it was hard to havea lot of confidence. Sometimes it felt good. Sometimes it didnt, but I didntwant to let that keep me out of the lineup. After theseason, Whiteside had another MRI and traveled to Pensacola, Fla.,to have noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews take a look at the films. Andrewsdiagnosed Whiteside with medial epicondylitis, which sounds worse than it is.Another name for it: Golfers elbow. Whiteside didntrequire surgery. Instead, he had a series of procedures to inject plasma-enrichedblood into his elbow. He had three treatments roughly a month apart, with thelast one in December. It helped, Whiteside said. From thefirst treatment on, it was getting better. Now it feels good. Im getting mystrength up to where it was in the past. Although theGiants did not offer Whiteside a contract through arbitration, the two partiescame to terms for 600,000 and he remained on the 40-man roster. Hell competewith Stewart for what should be one backup job, assuming Poseys ankle has nosetbacks this spring. Young switch hitter Hector Sanchez is likely to start atTriple-A Fresno, but club officials are remaining open-minded while evaluatinghim as well. Based on last season, it would seem an easychoice to take Stewart over Whiteside. But its no secret that Whiteside hasendeared himself to Bochy, a former backup catcher in his playing days whomight see something of himself in the gray-haired, soft-spoken man fromMississippi. Nobody in black and orange has forgotten how,just a few days after the Posey collision at the plate, Whiteside stood hisground -- became the aggressor, actually -- when Prince Fielder tried tosteamroll him in Milwaukee. It was a "we're not taking this lyingdown" moment that inspired the whole team. Then camethe day in August, when Ramon Ramirez hit Shane Victorino with a pitch and itbecame obvious a brawl would ensue. Whiteside bunny hopped like a tennis playerawaiting a 150-mph serve. It wasn't an act to incite violence. He wanted to beready to react and protect his teammates from whichever direction dangercame. If theres such a thing as an incumbent backupcatcher, Whiteside qualifies. Ive been here three yearswith these guys, Whiteside said. This is the fourth. This is where I want tobe. Its one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and its been a lot of funcatching them the last three years. I want to be that guythe pitchers want to see back there behind the plate. I want to be what theyneed back there.

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

Regulars in lineup continue to scuffle, Giants end up with series split

SAN FRANCISCO — The momentum generated by Christian Arroyo and Michael Morse late Wednesday night lasted just a few hours. By the end of this four-game series, the Giants were left with a harsh reality: Even with two injections of new blood, they are not hitting. 

Arroyo drove in another run Thursday, but that was it for a lineup that couldn’t support Matt Moore’s effort. The bullpen, which had kept Bruce Bochy’s guys in close games all series, finally broke in the 10th. The Dodgers walked away with a 5-1 win and a split of a series that was rather uninspiring for both sides. 

After scoring 10 runs on the last road trip, the Giants scored just eight during the four games against the Dodgers. Three of those RBI came from Arroyo, called up Monday. A fourth came from Morse, called up Wednesday.

“We’ve got to get this offense going,” Bochy said. “It’s a better offense than what we’re doing right now. You need to find a way to put a few runs on the board. We had our chances, we just couldn’t find ways to get the big hit.”

With Denard Span out for at least another week, Bochy moved Hunter Pence to the top of the lineup. His temporary No. 3 hitter against lefties, Eduardo Nuñez, has one hit in his last 20 at-bats. Buster Posey, the cleanup hitter, is batting .357, but he has driven in just three runs this month. With two on and one out in the eighth, he bounced into a double play. The production closer to the bottom of the order has been nonexistent, leading to constant shuffling that has moved Nuñez and Belt to left at times. Bochy said the staff will continue to search of a lineup that works. 

“You talk about it and do thing to adjust, and it will get better, but right now we’ve got some guys who aren’t swinging the bat well, to be honest,” he said. “You look at the order and we don’t have a lot of guys swinging well.”

The list does not include Arroyo, the rookie who will eventually have to deal with adjustments from pitchers. It doesn’t appear that’ll be a problem. Arroyo has been making adjustments from at-bat to at-bat. He did so against Sergio Romo for his first career homer and said he learned about the depth of Julio Urias’ curveball during their first two battles Thursday. In the sixth, the 21-year-old Arroyo drove in the game-tying run against the 20-year-old Urias. The lefty had walked Posey to face Arroyo, who singled up the middle. 

“He handles himself so well,” Bochy said. “They walked Buster and he smokes the ball. This kid has shown he’s not in awe. The upper deck, the bright lights, he comes to play.”

Arroyo’s effort briefly backed Moore, who was sharp in seven innings. Moore struck out eight, six of them looking, but he didn’t get much help and the bullpen fell apart in the 10th with a series of walks.

Bochy challenged his starters on Saturday at Coors Field and they responded with a strong series back home. The bullpen was tested during the first week but — Thursday’s result aside — it has settled down. The Giants are not as worried about their pitching as they were as they flew back from Denver. They know, however, that this team is going nowhere if two runs per game continues to be the nightly output. 

“We’ll tweak it again,” Bochy said of his lineup. “We'll see if we can get this thing right.”

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

Instant Replay: Moore tosses gem, but Giants lose to Dodgers in extras

BOX SCORE

SAN FRANCISCO — Quietly over the past couple of weeks, Bruce Bochy’s bullpen had started to settle. Bochy praised the group before Thursday’s game, noting that roles were being defined by pitchers who entered the series finale with the Dodgers with a 0.94 collective ERA this season. That changed in the 10th inning Thursday.

Three relievers combined to give up four runs on four walks and three singles. The implosion ended with a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers and a split of this four-game series. 

For most of the game, this was a day when youth shined. Corey Seager celebrated his 23rd birthday with a solo homer in the first on a two-strike pitch from Matt Moore that caught the heart of the plate. The Giants will be dealing with Seager for years, and if all goes according to plan, there will be years of Julio Urias vs. Christian Arroyo battles, too. 

The 21-year-old third baseman won the first matchup, lining a single to center. Arroyo flew out in his second at-bat against the 20-year-old Urias, but they faced off a third time in a big spot. Brandon Belt drew a one-out walk in the sixth and went to third when a pickoff throw skipped down the line. After an intentional walk of Buster Posey, Arroyo lined another one back up the middle. Urias stuck his glove up but it ticked off and into center for a game-tying single. 

Arroyo ended the young lefty’s day. Moore was done after seven sparkling innings. He struck out eight, six of them looking. 

The game went to extras, and Cory Gearrin walked pinch-hitter Adrian Gonzalez to lead off the 10th. Chase Utley was called up to bunt but he couldn’t get it down. Instead, he hit an infield single off Steven Okert that stayed true to the third-base line. After a walk of Yasmani Grandal, the third straight pinch-hitter, Andrew Toles lined a single to center to give the Dodgers a lead and the wheels soon came off. 

Utley alertly tagged up and scored on a pop-up to foul territory. Justin Turner’s single extended the lead to three and Hunter Strickland’s four-pitch walk of Chris Taylor pushed another across. 

Starting pitching report: Moore gave up 19 hits and 11 earned runs in his two previous starts, but the Dodgers had just two hits, the Seager homer and a Chris Taylor single. Taylor reached third with one out, but Moore got Scott Van Slyke and Cody Bellinger to go down looking. 

Bullpen report: Mark Melancon came on in a non-save situation for a second straight day and pitched a scoreless ninth. 

At the plate: Buster Posey’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. He twice bounced into double plays.

In the field: Posey chased a high pop-up down the right field line in the fourth, but he was going to come up short. Kelby Tomlinson came out of nowhere with the helping hand, making a running catch near the visiting bullpen. Posey smiled and shook his head as Tomlinson whipped the ball back to the infield. 

Attendance: The Giants said they sold out a 500th consecutive game.

Up next: The Giants have a three-city road trip coming up, so it’s time to take advantage of a weekend at home against the Padres. Jeff Samardzija and Luis Perdomo get the opener.