SAN DIEGO – Whenever possible, Giants manager Bruce Bochy tries to get his players involved when they suit up in their hometown.
He planned to throw a start to local boy Nick Noonan on Sunday, while resting slumping second baseman Marco Scutaro in a day game following a night game.
But Scutaro went into Bochy’s office and told the skipper he wanted to play. Catcher Buster Posey, who often rests in these quick-turn games, didn’t beg off, either. So Bochy relented.
“He said he wanted to go,” Bochy said. “There are times you don’t give them a choice. But today, let them play.”
Scutaro contributed only a walk while going 0 for 4, dropping his average to .215 and his on-base percentage to .260. He didn’t look good while trying to turn a double play, either.
Bochy revealed that the 37-year-old continues to battle with intermittent back tightness, which first cropped up in the spring. But the manager liked his at-bats Saturday, when he singled twice.
“He was letting it go,” Bochy said. “His back was a little sore a couple days ago and he was hesitant. He’s better. That’s why he wants to be out there.”
Bochy gives his veterans a lot of rope, as we know, and Scutaro is in no danger of having his playing time curtailed. The manager did say he would make sure to start Noonan at least once in the three-game series at Arizona that begins on Monday, though.
And if Scutaro continues to struggle, whether it’s because of his back or any other reason, Bochy will be in a tough position. It’s hard to hide a .529 OPS in your lineup. It’s even harder when it’s your No. 2 hitter.
You wonder if Scutaro is putting pressure on himself because of his three-year, $20 million contract. No, it’s not exactly the richest deal in history. But everyone knows he’ll be 40 at the end of that contract, and the Giants were paying, first and foremost, for the production Scutaro would provide this year.
So far, he hasn’t produced much of anything.
I asked Posey if he and Scutaro insisted on playing Sunday because that’s how badly they wanted to be a part of breaking this losing streak.
“I don’t sense any tension or anybody overly frustrated,” Posey said. “It’s more of a drive or a willingness to want to work to get back on track.”
Ryan Vogelsong had a chance to even his record for the first time in his major league career Sunday. Instead, he took the loss and fell to 38-40 in 186 appearances (97 starts).
Jean Machi showed more than a 95 mph fastball and a nasty splitter in his three shutout innings Saturday night. He also showed he’s a pretty incredible athlete, and not just for his size.
Machi had one heck of a fast pickoff move. And he nearly made a play on Chris Denorfia’s swinging bunt, which looked to be an easy infield single off the bat
Word is, Machi routinely dusted the rest of the pitchers in agility drills during the spring.
“He could be a salsa dancer,” said Javier Lopez, who is athletic in his own right. “For a pitcher, it’s not about being fast. It’s all about being quick.”
I mentioned to Lopez that he blazed it to cover first base Saturday night on a 3-6-1 double play.
“You ever seen a 3-2-1 double play?” he asked me.
Bases loaded. Dribbler to the first baseman. Catcher throws to first base with the pitcher covering. Nope, I can’t say I recall that one. Did Lopez ever participate in one of those?
“Stuff of legend,” he said. “I’ve done it twice, definitely. One I remember in Triple-A.”
But never in the big leagues. There’s always tomorrow.
Bochy on Machi:
“He definitely showed he’s a major league pitcher.”
It sure wouldn’t surprise me if the Giants decide to go with 13 pitchers, at least for a few days, if Jeremy Affeldt rejoins the club as expected on Tuesday. Catcher Hector Sanchez could stand to benefit from playing every day after missing so much time this spring with his shoulder injury.
One more thing about Machi’s pickoff move: When I asked him if he’s always had that in his back pocket, Pablo Sandoval piped up from an adjoining locker.
“Always,” Sandoval said. “I played with him in winter ball.”
Machi pitched the seventh and eighth innings for Magallanes in the Venezuelan League championship game this past winter.
What happened in Saturday’s game when Chad Gaudin swung away and Brandon Crawford was thrown out at second base? A missed sign, perhaps?
“A little miscommunication,” Bochy said. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Bochy isn’t going to be fully forthcoming when asked a question like this, but …
I asked him if it’s puzzling to him that Sandoval appears to be making the plays at third base, showing pretty good first-step quickness, when he’s obviously slowed down on the basepaths.
“He probably has (slowed) just a hair,” Bochy said. “I’ll say this: He’s getting pretty close to where we want to get him (on the scale). When we get him there, I think you’ll see that pick up.”
Another baseball person explained it to me this way: Fatigue and stamina are factors for Sandoval again. He’s able to sprint 90 feet, but he’s a lot slower over the next 90, and beyond.
On the flipside, Sandoval does seem capable of having quality at-bats late in ballgames. That was an issue in 2010, when he became fatigued down the stretch. He demonstrated a crisp stroke by matching his career high with four hits Sunday, including knocks in the eighth and ninth innings.
Arizona shortstop Didi Gregorius landed on the 7-day disabled list with a concussion after getting hit on the helmet by a pitch. So he won’t be available for the Diamondbacks when the Giants arrive Monday to begin a three-game series at Chase Field.
Giants outfielders can breathe easier. Gregorius took advantage of lapses by Andres Torres and Angel Pagan to stretch doubles, and both were key plays as the Diamondbacks took a pair of extra-inning victories last week.
There are no better scoreboard operators than here in San Diego. Most parks give you some obvious factoid or weird stat under a player’s mugshot when they’re up to bat. Here, I even learn new things about the players I cover every day.
For example … did you know that Gregor Blanco has brothers named Gregory and Gregsman?
Neither did I.
On a related note, I wish Blanco hadn’t been taken out on a double switch. We were deprived of a Gregor-Gregerson matchup in the eighth inning.