Urban: Padres might be in Giants' heads

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Urban: Padres might be in Giants' heads

July 5, 2011

URBAN ARCHIVE
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Mychael Urban
CSNBayArea.com

Not long after Heath Bell did a brilliant impression of fellow All-Star closer Brian Wilson, giving the opposition all kinds of hope in the ninth inning before turning nasty with a three-pitch punchout and a dramatic, protracted battle that ended with a bat of Brandon Crawford breaking loudly, Andres Torres provided a fairly easy-to-decode hint of something to which the Giants would surely never admit.The Padres are in their dome again.Or is it still?

Hey, don't think winning the National League West and the NL pennant and the World Series erased all memories of how hard the Padres made the Giants work last season. Or how thoroughly dominant the Padres were over the Giants until very late in the season.Or how freaking impossible it seems to score off that parade of filthy relievers.The latter point was underscored Tuesday in front of the 39th consecutive sellout of the season, and if Wednesday mirrors it, that streak could very well end with Barry Zito trying to stave off a four-game sweep Thursday.Usually it's Luke Gregerson in the seventh, Mike Adams in the eighth and Bell, of course, in the ninth. Lately, as was the case Tuesday, it's been Chad Qualls in the seventh, subbing in for Gregerson, whose Slider From Hell had been on the disabled list since early June until he was activated Tuesday.Qualls, Gregerson, whatever. Nasty is nasty, and Qualls is nasty enough to have been the Diamondbacks' closer not too long ago. Adams is nastier still, with a two-seam fastball that hits the mid-90's on the radar gun and avoids the barrel of bats with cartoonish movement. Then Bell brings the high-90's heat and some wicked secondary stuff. When Gregerson reclaims his seventh-inning role, the Padres will be able to further shorten games to five-inning affairs. They'll need it, too, because their starters are a spotty lot, a far cry from last year's sturdy bunch. "Five and dive" seems like a solid strategy for San Diego at this point, though, because as good and deep and versatile as is the Giants' bullpen, the Padres 'pen has more clearly defined roles and is, quite simply, a bitch of a matchup for San Francisco's offense -- especially in these days of every run seeming like it needed congressional approval.No way the Giants don't feel that, and it was Torres, whose rag-to-riches story of 2010 was on par with 2011's Ryan Vogelsong heart-warmer, who inadvertently made it seem obvious.Torres was ticked that Qualls, after tagging out Torres on a dust-bowl banger at the plate that followed a wild pitch from Qualls and a perfect feed from catcher Nick Hundley, punctuated the play with some shouting and an emphatic spike of the baseball before walking off the field.Torres felt he'd been shown up, noting that as someone who's had to work so hard to get where he now is, he'd never disrespect another player and expects that professional courtesy extended back.Qualls, by the way, has been through some rough times, too. He lost his closer's role in Arizona and posted an 8.29 ERA last season before being shipped to the Rays, where he wasn't much better. So he knows of struggle, and you had to believe him when he said he meant not an ounce of malice toward Torres.In essence, he said, "Hey, it was a huge play at the time. I was pumped. Lost my marbles there a little. No diss intended, dawg."Much ado about nothing, really, but interesting nonetheless. A sports psychologist could probably have a field day with allegations of disrespect perhaps masking feelings of inferiority.Why would the Giants feel inferior to the Padres when they're the reigning world champs? Maybe they don't.But based on San Diego's 12-6 record head-to-head last year, a 3-1 mark thus far in 2011 and that lights-out bullpen to handle anything the Giants' warm-water pistol of an offense can fire at them, would you blame them if they did?

Giants spring training Day 39: Nuñez receives pair of cortisone shots

Giants spring training Day 39: Nuñez receives pair of cortisone shots

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford will return to camp Thursday, show off their WBC championship medals, and then head to nearby Salt River Fields to take on the Colorado Rockies. It'll be a few more days, however, before the Giants have their full infield on the field. 

Eduardo Nuñez said he actually got two cortisone shots in his right shoulder, since an MRI this week showed “something” in two separate spots. Nuñez asked for the MRI because, while he was able to play and make strong throws, he felt pain on a daily basis. He might DH this weekend, but it'll be a few more days before he's cleared to begin throwing. 

The Giants are hopeful that the shots calm all this down, and Nuñez anticipated being ready for Opening Day. Still, it certainly sounds like this will be a close call. Conor Gillaspie, who is having a huge spring, could get plenty of early time at third. Manager Bruce Bochy doesn't anticipate Nuñez missing Opening Day.

"He should be ready," Bochy said. 

The Giants need all the good injury news they can get. It is expected that Will Smith will announce Friday that he's having Tommy John surgery. 

ICYMI: From this morning, a feature on George Kontos and his rise over the last few years. 

Also, one of the bench candidates, Gordon Beckham, asked for his release. The Giants will soon have to make decisions on Hill and David Hernandez, who have similar retention bonuses due March 28.

GAME RECAP: The Giants played one of their uglier games of the spring, losing 9-2 to King Felix and the Mariners … Matt Moore lasted just 1 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on four hits, two walks, a balk and a wild pitch. It was the same old thing: Moore just all of a sudden lost his command, and because he got up past the 30-pitch mark in the second inning alone, the Giants cut it off. Moore went down to the bullpen and got up to around 80 pitches. He'll make one more start down here, Tuesday against the Cubs ... Joe Panik had a hard double, one of just four hits for the Giants … Chris Marrero hasn’t played a whole lot of left field this spring, and he didn’t show much to the coaches on a couple of opportunities to throw home. The left field situation remains a mystery. 

POSITION BATTLES: Kelby Tomlinson played six innings of left field in a minor league game, and he had to wait until the sixth to get his first and only fly ball. There seemed to be a lot of interest from decision-makers about how Tomlinson fared, and his action today opens up an intriguing possibility. There’s a roster permutation that has the Giants keeping just one reserve outfielder (Gorkys Hernandez) and three backup infielders: Conor Gillaspie, Aaron Hill and Kelby Tomlinson, with the latter two being options in left field. 

FAMILIAR FACE: Angel Pagan made it through the WBC healthy, and he apparently is drawing interest from the Phillies and Blue Jays. Giants people are confident Pagan will get a big league job somewhere over the coming week. 

Giants reliever Will Smith leaning toward season-ending Tommy John surgery

Giants reliever Will Smith leaning toward season-ending Tommy John surgery

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Left-hander Will Smith, a key piece of a revamped bullpen, is leaning toward having Tommy John surgery, manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday night. 

Bochy said surgery was the recommendation of both doctors who examined Smith's elbow this week. Smith will talk to his agent before coming to a final decision on Friday. The procedure would keep Smith out the entire 2017 season and likely would cause him to miss the start of the 2018 season.

Smith, 27, missed the first month of camp because of pain in his throwing elbow. He returned March 17, but during a March 20 outing he again felt pain and called for a trainer. A second round of diagnostics revealed a strain and a sprain in the elbow. Smith saw team orthopedist Dr. Ken Akizuki in San Francisco and flew to Los Angeles this week to get a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache of the Kerlen-Jobe Clinic. 

"They had the same opinion," Bochy said. "There is a tear there. You can try to rehab it and if that doesn't work you're behind a couple of months ... It's not a definite he's going to have it done, but two doctors are in agreement on what this is."

Smith was expected to serve as the late lefty for the Giants, getting setup work in the seventh and eighth innings. With Smith out, the Giants will lean on young lefties Steven Okert, Josh Osich and Ty Blach. 

"We're going to have to have someone step up and help us in the seventh and eighth," Bochy said. "That was going to be will's role. He's a guy we were leaning on."

Smith was acquired from the Brewers at the deadline last season in exchange for right-hander Phil Bickford (who is currently serving a 50-game suspension) and catcher Andrew Susac (who is currently injured). After a shaky start, he finished the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances. 

The Giants have for the most part avoided Tommy John for 40-man roster pitchers. Hunter Strickland, Derek Law and Josh Osich have all had it during their time in the organization, along with outfielder Mac Williamson. Prospect Ian Gardeck is currently recovering from Tommy John. The last Giants pitcher who was likely headed for the roster before having Tommy John was left-hander Eric Surkamp. He had surgery in 2012.

The timetable is different for every pitcher, but the general consensus is that the procedure sidelines a pitcher for at least a year, and usually closer to 16 months. Matt Moore, Thursday night’s starter, had Tommy John on April 23, 2014. He did not return to a big league mound until July 2, 2015, and even then, he was under restrictions. 

Smith is under team control for two more seasons after this one.