SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Try as they might, the Giants finished a few feet short of their fourth consecutive Cactus League tie.
Non-roster outfielder Cole Gillespie, who has impressed thus far while trying to win a spot on the Opening Day roster, lifted a deep drive into the left field corner with two outs in the ninth inning. It wasn’t quite high enough and ended up as an RBI double -– and Gary Brown flied out as the Giants lost 4-3 to the Seattle Mariners at Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday.
Bochy smiled as he watched his players run the bases after the loss.
“These guys are going to have to start tying games so they don’t have to run,” the manager joked.
You might have assumed Bochy was bent on a victory, given his “A” lineup – the closest facsimile to the group expected to play on opening day. The manager said it wasn’t important that he play the regulars together once before Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval leave Saturday for the World Baseball Classic – they have plenty of time to gain familiarity after the tournament ends March 19 – but it was nice to assemble all the pieces just once for the fans.
Matt Cain, the Opening Day starter, gave up three doubles and a home run while allowing three runs in three innings. But Pagan dropped one of those doubles on the warning track, and more importantly, Cain said he felt no ill effects from the bruise on his right knee that came courtesy of an Alfonso Soriano line drive four days earlier.
“We were starting to wonder if I’d put the L screen out there when I pitched,” Cain said. “They did a good job of treating it.”
Cain joked that he likes to get all his beatings and beanings out of the way in the spring. He acknowledged he sometimes “holds a pitch or two in your pocket” for the regular season and doesn’t throw his slider much in the spring, because he’d rather work on fastball command and getting a feel for his curve.
He said he turned down Team USA because of last season’s workload and stated his biggest goal now is to throw “more innings than last year.” That’ll be tough, since his combined total of 249 1/3 innings was the most by a Giant since Vida Blue and Bob Knepper in 1978.
I also asked Cain if he had the goal to finish with the most hits among starting pitchers. Ryan Vogelsong's bad back kept him from getting off to a better start last year. Cain said he just wanted to have fewer strikeouts than Vogelsong. They actually had a few good laughs over their inability to hit with two strikes, and both plan to be better at it this season.
Well, it's true: Barry Zito doesn't strike out as often. He's pretty good at massaging the ball for those 4-3 outs.
"More like 6-3," Cain said, smiling. "You're asking a lot for Z to pull the ball."
Brandon Belt had a good day at the plate. He singled to left field and hit a home run over the right field fence. Bochy said he liked Belt’s at-bats the past few days. Earlier this spring, Bochy said he was growing concerned over passive at-bats by Belt and some of the other younger players in camp.
If there’s one thing Bochy hates more than his pitcher throwing ball one, it’s one of his hitters taking strike three.
Jose Mijares is going for an MRI exam on his left elbow. The preliminary diagnosis is a posterior elbow impingement –- essentially, an inability to straighten the arm at the elbow without pain. Sometimes in these cases, pitchers need arthroscopic surgery to clean out loose bodies. Could that be the case with Mijares? We’ll know more after the club sees the MRI results.
Say this for the Giants: Mijares has a lot of time to get ready. And Dan Runzler might be throwing the ball better than any reliever in camp right now.
Infield prospect Joe Panik has been held out of games so far because of a tight hamstring. The team is being cautious with him. He’s day-to-day.
Kensuke Tanaka, who has been followed by a sizable Japanese media contingent all spring, finally got his first hit -– and there was only one reporter from Japan here to ask Bochy about it.
Apparently, there were several Japanese pitchers scheduled to appear in the A’s game, so most reporters went there.
During our postgame session, it was remarked that the reporter from Japan had the story all to himself.
“Very exclusive,” he said, laughing.
I’m headed home for a week, with Rael Enteen ably minding the store in the interim. Follow him on Twitter at @RaelEnteenCSN and I hope you’ll checking the site for updates. Be excellent to each other!