Urban: Bay Ball -- The Hot Stove is still lit


Urban: Bay Ball -- The Hot Stove is still lit

Dec. 21, 2010


Mychael Urban

TheGiants were very busy early, tending to Aubrey Huff, Miguel Tejada andPat Burrell. The As have been fairly busy throughout, adding DavidDeJesus, Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham. The Hot Stove of baseballsoffseason is always on, though, and both teams have plenty of time tocontinue shaping what each hopes will be a 2011 contender.

Andwith Christmas but four days away, what better time to hop onto aspeedboat modified to look like Santas sleigh and criss-cross the Bay?From the shores of McCovey Cove to Jack London Square we go On Tuesday the As landed Rich Harden, formerly known to someOaklanders as King Richard. A king no more, Harden is a low-risksigning at 1.5 million, and hes apparently going to get a chance towin the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. If hes healthy, hell winit. But starting pitchers are asked to go more than five innings maybetwice all spring, and the much safer play for the As would be to turnHarden into a seventh- or eighth-inning guy. Way more bang for the buckthat way.
NEWS: A's deal for Harden finalized
You can stop hyperventilating about those Aaron Rowand-for-KosukeFukudome trade rumors, Giants fans. A Giants source tells me itshighly unlikely to happen for the same reason Rowand-for-Raul Ibaneznever could. Rowand has two years left on his horrible contract, at 12mil a season. Fukudome, like the Phillies Ibanez, has one year left ona bad deal. Oh, and in case you missed it, the Giants and Phils nevertalked about a Rowand trade. Brian Sabean made that clear at the wintermeetings.The one pro to consider -- and surely the As have and are --regarding Harden as a potential starter: If hes healthy enough tomake, say, 15 solid starts, they could flip him before the inevitabletrip to the DL to a team desperate for rotation help. By that time,Josh Outman, who has missed the past season and a half while recoveringfrom Tommy John surgery, should be more than ready to step in. SoOakland would be getting 15 solid starts and a couple of prospects forabout 750,000 without suffering any sort of dropoff when Outman jumpsin.As predicted, Edgar Renterias agent claims his client was misquotedabout being insulted by the Giants offer to pay him 1 million to beTejadas backup. Good for Giants VP of baseball ops Bobby Evans foressentially calling B.S. Theres no way the reporter, ESPNdeportesEnrique Rojas, who is well-respected and highly trusted among Latinballers, makes a mistake like that.
REWIND: Renteria says Giants' offer shows 'lack of respect'
Remember when Billy Beane announced, for the first time as OaklandsGM, that he was going to blow it all up and rebuild? That was beforethe 2008 season, and he said he hoped to have a stable, sustainable,competitive team by 2010. He did. He does. If the 2010 As are healthy,theyre battling the Rangers to the wire. If the 2011 As are healthy,theyve got a good shot at winning the AL West. And while Matsui andWillingham are free agents after this season, with the pitching in handand the restored depth of the farm system, Beane and his crew should becommended for nailing the plan.
NEWS: A's signing of Matsui official
Based on the responses generated via Twitter to last weeks columnbashing Renteria, its been suggested that the Giants might have a PRproblem on their hands if they end up bringing him back. Hard toimagine any ill will lingering past the World Series ring presentationceremony in April, though. Willing it all -- and hitting the home runthat clinched it -- buys that much forgiveness.Forget about the ballpark mess for a moment, and whatever you think ofthe ownership group. Focus on the baseball. The As are a team thatcounts the Pirates, Indians and Royals among their revenuepayrollpeers, yet in Beanes 14 years at the helm, the As have the sixth-bestrecord in all of baseball. Pretty good stuff.
Ratto: Oakland still in game for new A's stadium
Nice to see Tim Lincecum starting to get recognized for what truly wasa sensational year. The further away we get from those rough times inAugust, the easier it is to put the whole picture in perspective. Hewas dominant when he needed to be, and thats the true measure ofgreatness in sports.And finally, dont hold your breath on Adrian Beltre, As fans. Theteam hasnt spoken to Beltres agent, Scott Boras, for a while, andBeane likes his holidays quiet. Maybe things heat up quickly, but fornow that section of the stove is cool to the touch.Thatsall for which we have time, gang. Rides over, and the year is endingsoon, too. Your MLB Insider will never be far away, however, and comenext week we present the Top 10 Stories in Bay Ball 2010. Until then,peace, peppermint bark and Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt -- always gowith the orchestral original whenever possible on holiday tunes -- toall.

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

With Bumgarner sidelined, Blach 'taking full advantage' of opportunity

SAN FRANCISCO -- At some point over the next four days, Madison Bumgarner will pick up a baseball, stand a few feet across from a member of the training staff, and simply play catch. It'll be a huge step in Bumgarner's rehab, and should it go well, a boost to the psyche of a struggling team.

In the meantime, another lefty is making sure the Giants don't suffer too much without their ace, as improbable as that first seemed.

Ty Blach took a shutout into the eighth Saturday night and in true Bumgarner fashion, he added a pair of hits and an RBI. The Giants beat the Braves 6-3. They've won Blach's past three starts, and even with a 10-run outing in Cincinnati mixed in, he has a 3.71 ERA since taking the spot left open by a dirt bike accident.

"Because of what happened he's in the rotation," manager Bruce Bochy said, "And he's taking full advantage."

Blach has shown that long term, he might be a big part of this rotation. It's been years since the Giants locked a young, cost-controlled starter in, and Blach has backed up his big cameo last year. It's possible -- likely even -- that at some point the Giants will need to trade a veteran, perhaps Johnny Cueto, for young bats. Blach provides needed insurance. 

Short term, he's providing a huge boost to a team that doesn't have much going right. Blach has thrown at least seven innings in his past four starts. He has allowed just eight earned runs in four starts since the one in Cincinnati, throwing 28 2/3 innings. 

"I feel good," Blach said. "I've always been a starter, so it's been a pretty easy transition to make. I feel comfortable."

The Giants are comfortable behind him, as evidenced by a half-dozen strong defensive plays Saturday. 

"He's been consistent and he works quickly," first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He's just a great guy to play behind."

Blach even joined in at the plate. He had an RBI single in his first at-bat -- his first big league hit off Not Clayton Kershaw -- and later roped another single. Blach even showed off his wheels, busting it from first to third on Denard Span's ball to the corner before Phil Nevin held him up. 

"I worked into some good counts and I was able to get fastballs," Blach said of his night at the plate. "It's definitely a big confidence booster when your spot comes up and you're able to drive in runs."

The night was straight out of Bumgarner's playbook, and it was needed. The Giants had dropped five of six, but Blach was backed by homers from Nick Hundley and Brandon Belt. It got a little hairy late, but the bullpen held on, clinching Blach's third win of the season. He looks poised for many more, and Bochy is happy to keep running him out there.

"I'm not surprised by what he's doing," the manager said.


Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid

Instant Analysis: Blach does it all vs Braves, Giants snap skid


SAN FRANCISCO — This spot in the rotation is the one reserved for the stopper, the pitcher who takes a game by the throat when his team really needs it. 

Ty Blach took the mound Saturday for a team that had lost five of six, and just as Madison Bumgarner often has, Blach ended the skid. The young lefty was dominant into the eighth and the bats finally provided enough support. The Giants won 6-3, tying this weekend series with the Braves.

Here are five things to know from a night we were reminded that Emilio Bonifacio is in the big leagues … 

--- Blach pitched 7 2/3 innings. He has thrown at least seven innings in his last four starts, and five of seven starts overall. Jeff Samardzija (6) is the only Giants starter who has gone that deep more often. Blach is tied with Johnny Cueto for second-most seven-inning starts on staff, and Cueto has made three additional starts. 

--- Blach’s RBI single in the fourth was -- at the time -- the fourth hit of his career, and the first against a pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw. The ball had an exit velocity of 101 mph. Blach tried to score from first on Denard Span’s double, but Phil Nevin held him. Still, the way he was moving, it makes you wonder if Samardzija really is Bruce Bochy’s best pitcher-pinch-running option. In the seventh, Blach picked up a second single. 

--- Blach’s only bad start has been the one he made in Cincinnati, where the Giants played like a Double-A team. If you take that one out, Blach has a 2.21 ERA since taking over Bumgarner’s rotation spot. 

--- Even though he gave up just two earned in 7 2/3, Blach’s home ERA actually went up. It’s 1.75, which ranks seventh in the National League. The sellout crowd gave Blach a standing ovation when he was pulled in the eighth. 

--- Blach had a season-high five strikeouts. When he got Nick Markakis to end the first, Blach ended a streak of 37 left-handers faced without a strikeout. He later struck out another lefty, Matt Adams. The new Braves first baseman came up as the tying run in the eighth but Derek Law got him to ground out to first. 

--- Bonus sixth “thing to know” ... on Blach of course: His first name is Tyson, not Tyler. It’s Tyson Michael Blach.