SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Brian Wilson hasnt blown one cutfastball past a major league hitter. So its too early to say hes back to hisold self on the mound.But after another promising bullpen session Monday morning,Wilson sure sounded like his old, confident and quirky self while meeting withreporters.And he left no doubt: Hell be ready to burst through thatbullpen gate on April 6.I know theres speculation, but if theres a saveopportunity on opening day, Ill be saving the game, he said. Im ready.This was not the evasive, gloomy Wilson who didnt giveinterviews in August and September when he couldnt pitch because of a soreright elbow. It wasnt even the clipped, somewhat standoffish Wilson whoreported to camp a week ago.He was back to his glib self, smirking as he offeredone-liners. And he made it clear his spirits match the way he feels on themound.I started the season on the DL and I ended the season(injured). I know theres much concern, Wilson said. Im just letting you knowthere wont be any concern once the season starts. Everybodys excited because Im pitching pain-free, but to me it was another bullpen. Thats how I pitch. Im not going to be surprised when I do well. Im going to take the mound and dominate. Any pitcher should feel like that. I know Ill pitchpain-free and Ill get the same three outs Ive always gotten.He paused as he stared me down, stifling a smile.And it will be exciting, Baggs.Wilson plans to throw another bullpen session in two days,then throw live batting practice. Hes on schedule to make his Cactus Leagueappearance March 11 or 12, and said he should be able to get in 10 to 11innings before the Giants open the season at Arizonas Chase Field.Thats good enough, Wilson said.Giants manager Bruce Bochy confirmed Wilsons timetable, andcalled Mondays session his best of the spring for the All-Star closer.Hes got his velocity back and his cutter, said Bochy, whoreceived reports from pitching coach Dave Righetti and trainer Dave Groeschner.Theres doubts that will creep into every pitcher or hitters mind after beingoff for several months. But hes got to feel good with where hes at rightnow.Wilson said he's able to stride a half-step further than the previous year, when his hip and back forced him to stiffen up his delivery. The elbow soreness probably came from compensating for the back. Wilson said he's learning to pitch with the longer stride length, but he didn't believe it would be a major adjustment.He worked with bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu to simulate pitches to right-handed and left-handed batters, taking extra time between pitches as he tried to lock in his location. The session was more than just a pitcher gripping and ripping.Tim Lincecum watched Wilson throw and also came awayencouraged. As Lincecum spoke to reporters, Wilson came over and offered him achocolate chip cookie.Its delicious, Wilson said.Lincecum laughed.Thats the way everybody wants Willie light and full ofenergy, he said. Its tough to see him when hes not like that. To see himhealthy and worry free is good for us and good for the team.Lincecum understood why Wilson went into a shell. Thetwo-time Cy Young Award winner felt the same way when he went 0-5 in August,2010.It changes a player to the point where hes not himself,Lincecum said. When I was going through that August, it was probably awkwardfor people to be around me. It was similar with Wilson. I feel hes back tobeing himself this year. Hes like, I feel good. My pens are going good. Youget excited about that on a day-to-day basis. I saw his bullpen. I saw him lift. Hes back to beingWilson.The Giants dont just feed off Wilsons ability to savegames. They also feed off his special brand of confidence and mirth. Thosequalities are beginning to reemerge along with his stuff.Weve got some fast baseball players, some veteranhitters, Wilson said. Thats all we need. Weve got cats who keep it loosehere. Weve got (Aubrey) Huff. I dont know about the Rally Thong. He mightbring it back.If we play the way we did in 2010, not talent-wise but as ateam, well do fine.One more important question: Wheres the Machine?I dont know, Wilson said. Thats a good question. Canthe Machine retire? I dont think thats possible.Wilson wouldnt confirm the secret identity of thatmysteriously masked mascot from 2010, largely believed to be Pat Burrell.Instead, Wilson deadpanned that there was a Machine bobblehead giveaway day inthe works.Guaranteed sellout, he said.Wilson looks ready for that sellout-crowd stage again.There were times he was miserable, when he didnt feel heshould be shut down, Bochy said. Now that hes back, its got to be better.Hes right on schedule and hell get enough innings, go back-to-back days, allthe boxes we need to check off with him.Wilson said he didnt think of himself as a rehabbing playerany longer.Its a different type of confidence, he said. I know whoI am and what Im capable of doing. My mechanics are right. I dont have thefeeling in my arm or my hip that I did last year. I know there are checklists,Is Brian progressing? But Im not looking at it that way. I plan on going outthere every day and being ready.This is an awesome team and were looking forward toanother journey. Weve got this pitching staff back together and were ready torock.Another long pause.And thats going to be fun to write about, Baggs.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Madison Bumgarner aims to get all 27 outs every time he takes the mound, but on Tuesday the coaching staff gave the ace a nice view of the man who will help out if his nights are cut short.
Bumgarner threw his first live batting practice session of the spring on the main field at Scottsdale Stadium. Mark Melancon, the new closer, followed him. Both players said they felt good. Both also found things to work on in advance of opening day.
“Strength-wise I felt pretty good, really good, actually,” Bumgarner said. “My command up in the zone was right where I want it. I’m pretty happy with that. My cutter was pretty straight, but that usually comes around pretty quick.”
Melancon didn’t even throw his go-to cutter, saying he usually pockets it until later in camp. He’s getting the feel for his curveball back because he doesn’t throw it until he reports. Like Bumgarner, Melancon said he’s where he needs to be physically.
“I feel really good,” he said. “In years past there has been some slowness but I don’t feel that this year. I’m right where I want to be.”
The Giants have not finalized a Cactus League rotation, but Bumgarner will likely throw an inning in Friday’s opener. Melancon could follow him, as he’ll throw in the early innings until late March. He said he’ll talk to pitching coach Dave Righetti about closing a game or two over the final days of camp so he can start locking his routine down. It’s probably a lock that he’ll close out that first Bay Bridge Series game back at AT&T Park.
ICYMI: Here’s actual (shaky) footage of Bumgarner throwing today. At one point, he gave Denard Span a hard time for missing a slider that he was told was coming. Span had a good reason. “I didn't understand him when he said it because of his accent,” he said.
ICYMI, PART II: The latest podcast is a couple of interviews with Derek Law and Josh Osich. Law explained how he ordered 800 chicken nuggets for his wedding.
CUETO UPDATE: The Giants now expect Johnny Cueto to join camp this weekend. His status for the WBC is up in the air. Speaking of the WBC, trainer Dave Groeschner will be leaving camp on Feb. 27 to work with manager Hensley Meulens and the Netherlands. Bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu is also working with the team, which opens play in Seoul. Anthony Reyes will be head trainer while Groeschner is gone.
PROSPECT WATCH: Bruce Bochy said right-hander Ray Black was a standout during early live BP sessions. “He had a hell of an outing yesterday,” Bochy said. “They said he was really good.” Black, 26, still throws 100-plus. He still has command issues, though, with 32 walks in 31 1/3 innings last year. If he can get over that hump and stay healthy, he might rocket to the big leagues.
QUOTABLE: After just about every start last season — most of which were dominant — Bumgarner said he wasn’t happy with his mechanics. He said Tuesday that he’s still searching for the perfect feeling. “I was being a perfectionist,” he said. “If you’re being a perfectionist, I really haven’t had (my mechanics) where I wanted the last couple of years. It’s not like it’s too far off, obviously.”
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Giants have been watching high-quality clips of Johnny Cueto all spring, even though the co-ace has remained in the Dominican Republic. On Monday, manager Bruce Bochy finally managed to get face-to-face with Cueto. Kind of.
Cueto spoke to Bochy, trainer Dave Groeschner and others via FaceTime, and all involved finally managed to hammer out a schedule for Cueto’s arrival. Cueto has been in the Dominican Republic tending to his ill father, Domingo, but he is expected to arrive in Scottsdale this weekend. Cueto is working to secure a visa for his father, who will travel with him.
Bochy wanted to have a long discussion with Cueto to get a sense of how ready he’ll be for the World Baseball Classic. Cueto’s participation is still up in the air, and not just because he has missed the first week of camp. There is a chance, Bochy said, that Cueto will choose to stay in Scottsdale to continue taking care of his father. The Dominican Republic opens play in Miami on March 9.
“He said he knows he’s got to make a decision real soon regarding what he does,” Bochy said. “Pitching or not pitching, he’s got to let them know as soon as possible.”
Cueto has been throwing to hitters at a facility in Boca Chica. He threw a 45-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.