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 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

Giants spring training Day 42: Blach still in the fifth starter mix

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ty Blach is the young one in the race to be the fifth starter, but on Sunday he sounded like a veteran. Asked if he has gotten a hint one way or the other about his opening day role, Blach smiled.

“I’m just taking it day-by-day and trying to get better,” Blach said. “I’m enjoying the process and having fun.”

Smooth. 

Those days are adding up to a nice spring for Blach, the left-hander trying to unseat Matt Cain. While Bruce Bochy didn’t shed any additional light on the current lean, team officials hinted Sunday that this is not as open-and-shut as it seems. Matt Cain, who will start Tuesday, looked like a lock to be the fifth starter a week ago, but the Giants are considering all options because they have an off day during the first week and two more shortly thereafter. 

“We’ve had discussions every day,” Bochy said. “We’ve got some tough calls.”

The Giants are expected to announce their official rotation when they return home for the Bay Bridge Series. Whether he’s starting, long-relieving, or pitching in a completely new role, Blach has certainly done all he can to make sure he’s in the big leagues on April 2. He gave up two runs over six innings Sunday, walking one and striking out one while giving up seven hits. Blach has allowed 10 runs in 20 1/3 innings this spring, but four of those came when he was ambushed coming out of the bullpen one day.

“Wherever I’ll be, I know I’ll be in a good spot,” Blach said. “I’m just looking forward to getting the season rolling.

After pitching out of the bullpen most of the spring, Blach got his pitch count up to 85 on Sunday. 

“We’ve gotten him stretched out,” Bochy said. “That’s a solid, solid job. We’ve got guys stretched out where you want them. We’ve got some flexibility. We’ll see as we get close here which way we’ll go.”

POSITION BATTLES: The Giants will carry a backup for Denard Span, and for about a month it looked like Gorkys Hernandez would be that guy. But Hernandez has slumped so badly this spring that he went over the minor league facility Sunday to get a ton of extra at-bats, and Justin Ruggiano has emerged, reaching base in nine of his last 16 plate appearances. The plan a few days back was for Ruggiano to go to Sacramento and get 50 or so at-bats to see where he’s at, but this is another race that could change in the coming week. 

Cory Gearrin has done his part to hold off any charging relievers, throwing two sharp innings while going back-to-back for the first time this spring. 

FAMILIAR FACES: A rough day for a couple of longtime Giants. Ehire Adrianza and Gregor Blanco both have oblique injuries, hurting their odds of breaking with the Twins and Diamondbacks, respectively. Elsewhere, David Hernandez showed that he made a smart decision asking for his release. He was signed by the Braves. 

AROUND CAMP: Hunter Pence really does do all he can to make every single teammate feel welcome in the clubhouse. He spent some time with young right-hander Roberto Gomez on Sunday morning, learning a few Spanish phrases. When the players went out to warm up, Pence threw with Jae-Gyun Hwang. These are small gestures, but for the new guys, they matter. 

BARRY’S BACK: We all knew Barry Bonds would step into the cage at some point, and on a quiet Sunday morning, there he was. Bonds, 52, took about five or six easy hacks before crushing one out to deep right. He’s still got it. The other day, reporters asked Bonds if he could suit up in the WBC if asked. He said he can absolutely still hit, but he would need to DH and he would need a day or two off before games. Being a big league hitter is not easy, even if he always made it look that way.

 

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

Bonds dusts off swing, cracks home run during BP in Giants' camp

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants knew Barry Bonds would step back into the box at some point. It happened Sunday, with Bonds taking a few cracks at BP pitches from Gary Davenport.

Bonds warmed up with a couple of lighter swings and then blasted a homer to deep right. That was enough, as the 52-year-old walked away with a big smile on his face. 

Bonds is in camp as a special instructor, and he still picks his spots to show off his legendary swing. When he was the Marlins' hitting coach last season, he beat slugger Giancarlo Stanton in an impromptu home run derby.