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.

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

Giants spring training Day 9: Bumgarner, Melancon face hitters

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner aims to get all 27 outs every time he takes the mound, but on Tuesday the coaching staff gave the ace a nice view of the man who will help out if his nights are cut short. 

Bumgarner threw his first live batting practice session of the spring on the main field at Scottsdale Stadium. Mark Melancon, the new closer, followed him. Both players said they felt good. Both also found things to work on in advance of opening day. 

“Strength-wise I felt pretty good, really good, actually,” Bumgarner said. “My command up in the zone was right where I want it. I’m pretty happy with that. My cutter was pretty straight, but that usually comes around pretty quick.”

Melancon didn’t even throw his go-to cutter, saying he usually pockets it until later in camp. He’s getting the feel for his curveball back because he doesn’t throw it until he reports. Like Bumgarner, Melancon said he’s where he needs to be physically.

“I feel really good,” he said. “In years past there has been some slowness but I don’t feel that this year. I’m right where I want to be.”

The Giants have not finalized a Cactus League rotation, but Bumgarner will likely throw an inning in Friday’s opener. Melancon could follow him, as he’ll throw in the early innings until late March. He said he’ll talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about closing a game or two over the final days of camp so he can start locking his routine down. It’s probably a lock that he’ll close out that first Bay Bridge Series game back at AT&T Park. 

ICYMI: Here’s actual (shaky) footage of Bumgarner throwing today. At one point, he gave Denard Span a hard time for missing a slider that he was told was coming. Span had a good reason. “I didn't understand him when he said it because of his accent,” he said. 

ICYMI, PART II: The latest podcast is a couple of interviews with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Law explained how he ordered 800 chicken nuggets for his wedding. 

CUETO UPDATE: The Giants now expect Johnny Cueto to join camp this weekend. His status for the WBC is up in the air. Speaking of the WBC, trainer Dave Groeschner will be leaving camp on Feb. 27 to work with manager Hensley Meulens and the Netherlands. Bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu is also working with the team, which opens play in Seoul. Anthony Reyes will be head trainer while Groeschner is gone.

PROSPECT WATCH: Bruce Bochy said right-hander Ray Black was a standout during early live BP sessions. “He had a hell of an outing yesterday,” Bochy said. “They said he was really good.”   Black, 26, still throws 100-plus. He still has command issues, though, with 32 walks in 31 1/3 innings last year. If he can get over that hump and stay healthy, he might rocket to the big leagues.

QUOTABLE: After just about every start last season — most of which were dominant — Bumgarner said he wasn’t happy with his mechanics. He said Tuesday that he’s still searching for the perfect feeling. “I was being a perfectionist,” he said. “If you’re being a perfectionist, I really haven’t had (my mechanics) where I wanted the last couple of years. It’s not like it’s too far off, obviously.”

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

Johnny Cueto hopes to join Giants camp this weekend

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have been watching high-quality clips of Johnny Cueto all spring, even though the co-ace has remained in the Dominican Republic. On Monday, manager Bruce Bochy finally managed to get face-to-face with Cueto. Kind of. 

Cueto spoke to Bochy, trainer Dave Groeschner and others via FaceTime, and all involved finally managed to hammer out a schedule for Cueto’s arrival. Cueto has been in the Dominican Republic tending to his ill father, Domingo, but he is expected to arrive in Scottsdale this weekend. Cueto is working to secure a visa for his father, who will travel with him.

Bochy wanted to have a long discussion with Cueto to get a sense of how ready he’ll be for the World Baseball Classic. Cueto’s participation is still up in the air, and not just because he has missed the first week of camp. There is a chance, Bochy said, that Cueto will choose to stay in Scottsdale to continue taking care of his father. The Dominican Republic opens play in Miami on March 9.

“He said he knows he’s got to make a decision real soon regarding what he does,” Bochy said. “Pitching or not pitching, he’s got to let them know as soon as possible.”

Cueto has been throwing to hitters at a facility in Boca Chica. He threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.