EXTRA BAGGS: Vogelsong for Cy?

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EXTRA BAGGS: Vogelsong for Cy?

ST. LOUIS Ryan Vogelsong adheres to the same philosophy every time he kicks and deals:

I just try to pitch like its 0-0 all the time, he said.

He needed to use his imagination in the latter stages ofthe Giants 15-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

The offense, and Marco Scutaros seven RBIs, will make the 3Dleap off the boxscore. But Vogelsong provided the base of the pyramid yetagain. Its been astounding how consistent hes been all season. Its now 19out of 21 quality starts, and he hasnt failed to complete six innings once.

What do you think? From All-Star snub to Cy Young Awardwinner?

Im not sure if Vogelsong could be considered a favorite atthe moment, although he does own the lowest ERA in the NL among qualifiedstarters, at 2.27. There are some who will argue Aroldis Chapman and CraigKimbrel merit serious attention, and they have a case.

I, for one, would preferto vote for a worthy starting pitcher. But Im not opposed to relievers winningthe award if they are having a truly dominant, impact season.

Chapman hit a bump or two in July, but his numbers are justso ridiculous, and the Reds are playing so well by shortening the game to sixinnings, essentially, that I think he might be my choice if I had to fill out aballot right now.

But Vogelsong man, you look up after a start likeWednesday night tough lineup, on the road, only three strikeouts in seveninnings and you wonder how he kept the Cardinals off the board. How did hekeep them from doing any damage?

Here's one big reason: Vogelsong has held opponents to a .143 averagewith runners in scoring position. Hes allowed just 15 hits with a runner atsecond or third all season.

But the Cardinals didnt even get many opportunitiesWednesday.

So what went right?

Well, I felt we had a really good game plan going in and Iwas able to execute, he said. I was able to make pitches, and on the fewmistakes, I got lucky. They were either fouled off or they took them.

Then there was Brandon Crawfords play in the fourth inning.Its hard to argue that one defensive play saved the game when the final scorewas 15-0. But at minimum, Crawford kept the Cardinals from making it a 2-1score. And if he doesnt make that play, Vogelsongs inning goes fromtroublesome to taxing. Maybe the whole game changes based on that play.

And what a play it was: Crawford made a diving stop of David Freeses grounder tohis right, scampered quickly to his feet and delivered an alarmingly firm throwto first base. He didnt try for the short force. Thats how much confidenceCrawford had in his arm.

It was hit pretty quick, so I didnt really have time tothink whether it would get through, Vogelsong said. It was definitely a playIve seen him make a lot, so for him to make that play wasnt a great shock. Heplays a great shortstop. And the way we swung the bats, I just felt like I wasalong for the ride again.

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More on Crawford: He had 11 total chances, and tallied sixassists and five putouts. As mentioned in the Instant Replay story: Following arough start that included a dozen errors in the first two months, Crawford has committedjust one error in his last 39 games.

That game he had defensively is one of the better gamesIve seen at shortstop, both going to his left and his right, Giants managerBruce Bochy said. And that play, thats a big out right there. That gives apitcher so much more confidence. That lifted Vogey, really. He was starting tolabor.

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Even after taking a 15-0 thrashing, the Cardinals 99 rundifferential remains the best in the major leagues.

That must be small consolation after the Giants handed theCards the worst shutout defeat in history between the two longstandingfranchises. The loss was also the worst shutout defeat by a defending WorldSeries champion since the 1926 Pittsburgh Pirates were beaten 16-0.

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The Giants flip-flopped Marco Scutaro and Ryan Theriot, withTheriot moving down from second to seventh in the order.

Seeing how Scutaro had seven RBIs, that was a move thatworked OK.

Bochy said he talked to Theriot, who is in a bit of alull.

Theriot hit .307 in June, .282 in July and was batting .192in six games this month. Hes been playing as much as anyone on the club notnamed Melky Cabrera, and its fair to assume the Giants will be able to resthim more often once Pablo Sandoval returns in a few days.

Theriot said his elbow has felt mostly good and he hasntrequired any follow-up cortisone injections since he had one in late April.

Scutaro is hitting .347 in a dozen games since joining theGiants.

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Sandoval remains on track to start his rehab assignment forSingle-A San Jose, likely on Friday. He ran the bases aggressively and lookedunencumbered as he busted it from home to third.

A shirtless Bochy raced alongside him for awhile beforebench coach Ron Wotus reminded him that MLB Network cameras were on the field,and its always open season for pregame footage on the irreverent IntentionalTalk show.

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Dont look now, but Brandon Belt has three consecutivemulti-hit games for the first time in his career.

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Jose Mijares will be used as a one-inning pitcher and notstrictly as a left-handed specialist, Bochy said.

Thats OK with Mijares, who sounded gleeful to escape KansasCity and join a first-place club that includes several fellow Venezuelans. Hesaid he knew Pablo Sandoval and played against Gregor Blanco and Marco Scutaro.

Its a good group in here, said Mijares, who speaks prettygood English.

Mijares said he likes to throw his slider to left-handers.As for his overall pitching philosophy?

Strike, strike, strike, he said.

He said he wasnt able to make his scheduled flight from KansasCity on Tuesday night, but caught another and was in the ballpark at the firstpitch. He admitted he was a little nervous when he warmed up in the sixthinning.

No stretching, no nothing, he said.

He ended up not being used. His break-in outing came a nightlater, and in a 15-0 game. If it were any more of a low-pressure situation, hedhave been weightless. (Which I can assure you is NOT the case.)

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Santiago Casilla threw 15 pitches off a bullpen moundWednesday afternoon and was available, Bochy said. In case you were wondering.

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What a great night for Giants pitching prospects. Lefty MikeKickham threw seven no-hit innngs for Double-A Richmond against Harrisburg.With 105 pitches, the game was turned over to the bullpen and the combined no-nobid got busted up in the eighth.

Meanwhile, Kyle Crick looks every bit like the high-ceilingarm the Giants envisioned when they drafted him last year. He struck out 10while allowing three hits and a walk in 6 23 innings for Low-A Augusta. The19-year-old Texan has 97 strikeouts in 87 13 innings.

And last I looked, Joe Panik was 4 for 4 and had hits inseven consecutive at-bats for Single-A San Jose as its game went to extrainnings Wednesday night.

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

Giants spring training Day 7: Rule change should help Bochy

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — On one of the many nights last season when his bullpen imploded, Bruce Bochy nearly put a catcher on the mound. Trevor Brown ended up playing an inning of third base on June 28 as the Giants gave up eight runs over the final two innings in a brutal loss to the A’s, and he said this week that he was told he was the next man up on the mound. 

That night was an odd one, as a tired bullpen was waiting for Sergio Romo to get activated off a rehab assignment and trying to get by without long reliever Chris Stratton, who had thrown 57 pitches out of the ‘pen the night before. The bench was also short because Joe Panik was about to be put on the concussion DL.

Bochy hopes he doesn’t have to deal with such a situation this season, and not just because the bullpen should be much improved. The disabled list lasts 10 days now, not 15, and Bochy is thrilled with the new rule.

“The DL thing, I really like it,” he said. “You get caught in that gray area so often.” 

Bochy met with league officials on Saturday to go over some of the rule changes. DL stints can now be made retroactive just three days, but it’s still a vast improvement overall. 

“With (position) players and pitchers it’s going to make it easier to DL guys,” Bochy said. “If you’re looking at (starting) pitchers, they could miss just one start.”

The Giants have often played a man or more short, trying to get by day-by-day to give a position player or starter time to heal. Around camp, this could be called the Angel Pagan Rule, as the former Giants outfielder often missed a week or so before officially going on the DL. At times, Bochy has been patient with players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence, knowing that even if they missed a week, keeping them off the DL could still earn the Giants seven or eight games with a big bat back in the lineup. If a future diagnosis is that a player will miss a week, it’ll be much easier to swallow putting him on the 10-day DL than it was for the 15-day. Likewise, the Giants will take advantage of the change if a pitcher will have to miss a start. 

Bochy has said often that he would like every reliever to go on the DL during the season to freshen up. That’ll make more sense now, and it should keep the Giants from having to play as many games where the bullpen is gassed and a backup catcher is preparing to pitch. For guys like Stratton — a versatile pitcher on the 40-man roster — it should also lead to increased trips up to the big leagues to fill gaps. 

INJURY UPDATE: Pence (side muscle) took 25 swings during a live BP session in the cage and Bochy said he’s doing much better. That was about the only significant activity Sunday. Once again, the workout was rained out. Bochy said the Giants have enough time to get guys ready for the Cactus League opener on Feb. 24, but they’ll likely hold some big-name pitchers out of the early games. Brandon Crawford and Posey will get plenty of early starts to prepare for the WBC. 

PROSPECT WATCH: If the early games are turned over to prospects, Dan Slania will be an interesting guy to watch. Slania is listed at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, so he always had the look of an imposing reliever. But his greatest success last season came after a surprise move to the rotation. 

Slania, a 2013 fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame, got a call on his 24th birthday telling him to prepare to start because of an injury in Richmond’s rotation. He had not started a game since high school, but his four-pitch mix worked. He had a 5.32 ERA out of the bullpen but it dropped to 1.48 in 10 starts for the Flying Squirrels. In two Triple-A starts, he struck out 14 over 13 innings while allowing just eight hits and two runs. The Giants put him on their 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 

“He had a great year last year,” Bochy said. “He’s in camp for a reason. He’s got great stuff and a good makeup.”

RULE CHANGE: One more thing that came out of that rules meeting: Managers who are out of challenges now have to wait until the eighth inning to ask an umpire to look at a play.

QUOTABLE: “We know he’s better off taking some days. We talked about it (with him). He agrees that it’ll help him.” Bochy on Pence’s workload. The right fielder is coming off two injury-marred seasons, and the Giants have no intention of even trying to get him back to his Iron Man days. 

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

Tomlinson still a fit as Giants put bench together

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The “options game” can be a cruel one. It can also be one of the most important parts of spring training. 

If two players are relatively even at the end of camp but only one can be optioned to the minors, he’s usually the man left out. Giants officials have already made reference to this several times in discussing left field, where Jarrett Parker — who is out of options — would surely be claimed off waivers if the Giants try to sneak him back to the minors before Opening Day. Mac Williamson, on the other hand, can be shuttled back and forth. 

The same holds true for Kelby Tomlinson, and while it was easy during the first week of camp to see him as the odd man out, manager Bruce Bochy said that’s not the case. What do all the veteran infielders mean for the young one already in-house?

“It hasn’t affected anything for Kelby, really,” Bochy said. “It’s all about competition for spots on this team.”

Tomlinson played 54 games in 2015 and 52 a year ago, but the Giants put a clear emphasis this offseason on finding backup infielders. Jimmy Rollins, Jae-gyun Hwang, Orlando Calixte and Gordon Beckham were among those brought in before camp, and Aaron Hill arrived on the fourth day. Sure, Ehire Adrianza — who was seemingly perpetually out of options — is no longer around, but if the Giants carry just two backup infielders, one of them will almost certainly be Conor Gillaspie. 

Tomlinson isn’t bothered by the offseason of additions. He said he can take knowledge away from six weeks spent with guys he grew up watching.

“Rollins’ prime was right in my later high school years,” he said, smiling. “I’ve got a lot of guys to learn from and watch. It’s a little of both (a competition and learning experience). We’re all fighting for the same job, but we’re still on the same team and we’re all trying to learn from each other and help each other.”

Tomlinson is the incumbent, and the Giants certainly know all about his speed and ability to play all over the field (he continued to take fly balls this winter, just in case). They also now know that Tomlinson adds something that’s needed on any bench. Last season, he emerged as one of Bochy’s most reliable pinch-hitters. 

Tomlinson’s seven pinch-hits were tied for second on the team after Gillaspie’s 11. He was 7-for-17 in a pinch, adding three walks. Tomlinson’s simple swing and up-the-middle approach have proven perfect for important spots. He’s a .315 career hitter with runners in scoring position, a .373 hitter in situations baseball-reference deems “late and close,” and a .367 hitter in “high leverage” spots.

“I’m just trying to compete up there every at-bat, especially in that pinch-hitting role,” Tomlinson said. “It’s a grind, but that makes it fun when you give the team a quality at-bat. Even if it’s not a hit, you go up there and try to see five pitches and have a good at-bat.”

Tomlinson has given the Giants plenty of them over parts of two seasons. With Brandon Crawford headed for the World Baseball Classic, he is sure to see increased time this spring, and while the options game or non-roster list might catch up to him, the Giants haven’t forgotten what they already have. 

“He gives us versatility,” Bochy said, “So he’s in the mix, too.”