Tag:San Francisco Giants
Posted on: July 12, 2010 8:28 pm
Edited on: July 12, 2010 8:32 pm
 

Will young power arms finally shift tide to NL?

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- How long has it been since the National League has won a freakin' All-Star Game?

Let's just say this: Last time the NL won, 1996 in Philadelphia, Bob Dole was running for president.

It's weird, it's bizarre, it's ugly and it's a subject the National Leaguers get tired of answering. Current count: The AL's unbeaten streak has reached 13 years, including winning the past seven in a row (since the humiliating 2002 tie in Milwaukee).

Yet silly as this sounds, there is a very real sense that the tide might be beginning to shift away from Junior Circuit dominance in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Reasons?

Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez. Florida's Josh Johnson. San Francisco's Tim Lincecum. Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo. All All-Stars this year. And, Washington's Stephen Strasburg, and San Diego's Mat Latos, who very well could debut as All-Stars next summer when the game hits Phoenix.

You know about Strasburg. And Latos was the next pitcher NL manager Charlie Manuel would have chosen in the event of one more injury scratch.

"It needs to turn for us, the way it's been going," says San Diego manager Bud Black, a coach on Manuel's NL staff this week. "There are some fine young power arms in the National League.

"Hey, the American League's no slouch either, with David Price and CC Sabathia. And Felix Hernandez can probably throw it as hard as he wants to."

No question. But there is more sizzle in the NL's pitching this summer -- especially given all the incredibly talented young arms -- than there has been in quite some time.

"Just looking at our staff, I know I wouldn't want to be a hitter on the other side," says Mets third baseman David Wright, who has been in the NL clubhouse for the past four losses. "We have some power arms, really, top to bottom. Just seeing their age and the ability and the upside and what they've accomplished already is amazing.

"I know how I feel with a bat in my hands in the box against these guys. Then when you string together the depth that the NL has with their young power arms, it's pretty impressive."

Jimenez comes into the game with 15 wins, a no-hitter against Atlanta this year and a 33-inning scoreless streak compiled during one especially torrid stretch in May and June.

Johnson leads the majors with a 1.70 ERA and has allowed no more than one earned run in 10 of his past 11 starts.

Lincecum has won back-to-back Cy Young awards, Strasburg is showing signs of having Cy Young stuff ... the list goes on.

"I know you've got Strasburg, Jimenez, Josh Johnson ... those guys throw hard," Angels outfielder Torii Hunter says. "They're filthy. I've been watching them on television."

In the NL, Wright has been watching most of them from the batter's box.

"You know that it's going to be a rough day when you're battling to draw a walk," Wright says. "Or you're battling to plate one guy and you know you have to be perfect as far as situational hitting just to plate a run, that you're not going to have that big inning where you can put up some crooked numbers.

"Where you have to battle and grind and fight and almost hope that the other team makes a mistake. You know what an uncomfortable at-bat it is. You know what they're capable of doing."

Add Philadelphia's veteran ace Roy Halladay, who will pitch for the NL for the first time following six All-Star appearances for the AL, and Atlanta's cagey Tim Hudson, who is making his NL debut Tuesday following Tommy John ligament transfer surgery (and two All-Star selections when he was pitching in the AL), and it's not an easy staff to face.

As for Jimenez and Johnson, the NL's two most dominant pitchers in the first half and the ones many AL hitters will see for the first time on Tuesday night, well, Wright says his least favorite to face is. ...

"Neither. We've been fortunate in that we've missed Josh Johnson the last few times we've played the Marlins, but it's no fun having him in the division.

"When you go in for a series in Miami, you always know which day Josh is pitching. You know you'd better win the game before that or the game after that or the other games because you're likely not going to win that one."

Whether the same will hold true for the All-Star Game, well ... it's got to turn one of these years, doesn't it?

Posted on: June 30, 2010 11:45 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2010 6:31 pm
 

Rangers acquire Bengie Molina from SF

Playing for keeps with their AL West lead, the Texas Rangers struck a deal Wednesday night to acquire catcher Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants, beefing up an already solid offense and filling an area of need behind the plate.

The deal was formalized Thursday. The move not only solidifies the Rangers, who entered Wednesday night's game in Anaheim with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Angels, it also positions San Francisco for another move after a disappointing series in which the Giants were swept by the Dodgers.

The Giants, who will receive reliever Chris Ray and a minor-league right-hander named Michael Main, will turn catching duties over to rookie Buster Posey and are expected to seek a bat to power their lineup at first base. Speculation has centered on Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, headed for free agency after the 2011 season. The Chicago Cubs' Derrek Lee is another possibility.

Molina was hitting .257 with three homers and 17 RBI in 61 games for the Giants this season. A past All-Star and a solid all-around player, Molina has been something of a frustration at times to San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy and his staff.

Though he produced more than could have been expected batting out-of-position last summer -- often in the fourth slot in a weak-hitting lineup, he hit .265 with 20 homers and 80 RBI -- he appeared to be running on empty down the stretch. This year, Molina often hit sixth, but as he's struggled at the plate he was hitting eighth and he clearly was not happy being bounced around the lineup.

Molina, who turns 36 on July 20, should find Texas' ballpark more conducive to hitting. And he will give the Rangers stability behind the plate. Texas catchers this season have combined to bat .212 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs.

The two catchers with whom they opened the season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden, both were optioned to the minors on April 27. Among other things, Saltalamacchia is battling a throwing problem in which he's having serious difficulty consistently returning the ball to the pitcher.

Journeyman Matt Treanor has been handling most of the catching duties.

Molina has picked it up some offensively recently: He leaves San Francisco hitting .286 over his past 15 games with a homer and five RBIs.

Posted on: May 20, 2010 2:49 pm
 

Kaz, we hardly knew ye ... but for one loooong AB

Scuffling badly and sinking quickly, the Astros on Tuesday bid farewell to infielder Kaz Matsui, releasing him into the great beyond.

Matusi's Astros legacy?

Well, he said hello in the spring of 2008 by missing several days after being unforgettably diagnosed with, and it pains me to type this, an anal fissure.

He essentially said goodbye last Saturday in San Francisco with a memorable 15-pitch battle with Giants closer Brian Wilson.

It was the longest at-bat in the majors since last July 16, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, when Luis Rodriguez, then of San Diego, battled Colorado's Matt Daley for 16 pitches.

It also was a duel that Wilson, who eventually got Matsui to fly to left with two out and the bases loaded to nail down the save in a 2-1 Giants win, will not soon forget. Even as Matsui fades away and searches for his next job.

"It was definitely the longest at-bat I've gone through at any level," Wilson said. "I've probably gone eight or nine pitches a few times, but to have someone foul off eight pitches in a row. ..."

The at-bat also was a textbook illustration of how, while starting pitchers need three or four pitches to work through lineups, relievers -- closers especially -- usually work with just one or two pitches. Wilson threw 14 fastballs to Matsui, mixing in just one other pitch: A slider at 2 and 2 for the eighth pitch of the at-bat.

I talked with Wilson the other day about the at-bat and we ran through it:

"I went to 0 and 2 right away with fastballs up and away," Wilson said. "Then I threw another fastball up for a ball, and then another up for a ball."

Three of those fastballs were clocked at 98 m.p.h., the fourth was 97.

Wilson's strategy was simple: Blow the ball by the light-hitting (.141) Matsui.

However ... Wilson pumped three more 98 m.p.h. fastballs, and Matsui fought off all three with foul balls.

After the first foul on the 2 and 2 count. ...

"When he fouled that off, I kind of laughed," Wilson said. "I was like, 'OK, let's put it in play.'"

Little did he know.

Seven fastballs into the at-bat, the count still 2 and 2, Wilson changed gears: His eighth pitch was a slider.

"I was going to try and sneak back door and try and catch him off guard," Wilson said. "I'm pretty sure I did. But he still got a piece of it."

Next pitch, back to the fastball, a 98 m.p.h. heater that missed for ball three.

That was it for any semblance of creativity: The next seven pitches were all fastballs between 96 and 98.

The thinking there?

When the slider missed for ball three, Wilson felt he was too close to the edge of the cliff to chance throwing another slider.

"I'm not going to walk in the tying run with a slider," he said. "No."

So with the runners going, Matsui fouled off four more fastballs.

Finally, he flied to left. Ballgame.

"It was fun," said Wilson, whose enjoyment of the moment undoubtedly was directly related to his success.

Funny thing was, very next day, the two staged an encore. Matsui came back to the plate as a pinch-hitter with two on in the ninth, two out and Wilson trying to preserve the Giants' 4-3 lead.

This time, he fanned Matsui on seven pitches.

"Of course he'd come to the plate against the next day," Wilson said, chuckling. "That's how it works, isn't it?"

Matsui was hitting .141 with just one extra-base hit in 78 plate appearances when the Astros released him. Chances are, Wilson will remember him far longer than Houston fans.

Likes: This look at Bryce Harper, the probable No. 1 pick in the draft this summer, from Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. ... The Pepsi commercial, geared around the "Refresh" campaign, featuring "conversations" between major leaguers, such as Yankees ace CC Sabathia and pitching coach Dave Eiland meeting at the mound during a game. Sabathia suggests putting an organic garden in the bullpen, while Eiland counters with a suggestion of arranging a group hug for all New Yorkers. ... Throwback Pepsi and Throwback Mountain Dew. Real sugar, like the old days, instead of corn syrup. A far cleaner drink with no filmy aftertaste. I dig each of them and wish they would be permanently available in the grocery stores instead of just temporarily. ... The Rolling Stones re-issue of Exile on Main St. Haven't picked it up yet, but with special packaging and 10 bonus songs, it's gotta be cool. Will pick it up soon. ... Long bicycle rides.

Dislikes: Still not thrilled with interleague play, and here it comes again this weekend. ... Can't believe I haven't been to In-N-Out burgers since I've been home from spring training. That's so weak. ...

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Stacy, do you remember when I mowed your lawn?
"Your mom came out with just a towel on
"I could tell she liked me from the way she stared
"And the way she said, 'You missed a spot over there'"

-- Fountains of Wayne, Stacy's Mom

 

Posted on: May 18, 2010 7:00 pm
 

They're not Giants against San Diego

As two pitching phenoms, San Diego's Mat Latos and San Francisco's Jonathan Sanchez, prepare to tee it up later tonight in the Padres' Petco Park, a few numbers regarding what might be the oddest season series so far in all of baseball:

-- The Padres, first in the NL West, are 7-0 against the second-place Giants. The Giants have not held one lead -- not one! -- in any game so far and have not scored more than two runs in any game against the Padres.

-- The Giants' 0-7 run ties for the second-longest losing streak against an opponent to begin a season in franchise history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the 1977 Giants started 0-8 against the Chicago Cubs. After that, four other Giants' teams have started 0-7 vs. an opponent: 1933 (when the Giants were in New York, against St. Louis), 1980 (against the Dodgers), 1995 (Braves) and 2003 (Expos).

-- The Giants have mustered only 10 total runs in the seven games.

-- The Padres have outscored the Giants 21-9.

-- San Francisco is hitting just .197 against Padres pitching this year and averaging 1.3 runs per game.

-- Giants pitchers have held San Diego batters to a .229 average yet are 0-7.

-- The Giants are 21-9 against everybody they've played NOT wearing a San Diego uniform this year.

-- Remove their games against the Giants, and the Padres are 16-15 against everybody else.

-- With runners in scoring position in the seven games against San Diego, the Giants are hitting .096 (5 for 52).

-- With runners in scoring position in the seven games against the Giants, Padres batters are hitting just .182 (10 for 55).

-- Talk about the epitome of frustration: Sanchez is 0-2 against the Padres this season despite holding them to just two earned runs and four hits in 15 innings.

-- Entering Tuesday's start, Sanchez ranks fourth in the NL in worst run support, with the Giants scoring an average of 2.45 runs when he's on the mound (Houston's Felipe Paulino and Roy Oswalt ranks 1-2, with St. Louis' Brad Penny third).

-- The Giants have lost 11 of their past 13 games in Petco Park.

Likes: Carlos Zambrano. Bless his little Cubbie heart for at least trying to help the team and do what has been asked of him. ... That the Dodgers have won seven in a row entering Tuesday night's game without injured shortstop Rafael Furcal and without Andre Ethier for the past three games should make NL West opponents really nervous. ... I'm officially changing my mind. I've eased up and now find that in the right frame of mind, White Sox television broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson can be enjoyable. I will not change my opinion of Yankees' radio voice John Sterling, however. If evil folks are forced to listen to a play-by-play man as they burn in eternal flames, I'm sure it will be Sterling to whom they're listening.

Dislikes: How are we going to get through Tuesday night with no Stephen Strasburg updates? Alas, his Triple-A start in Rochester was rained out. Hang with 'em for another day. ... By the way, do yourself a favor and don't even rent Pirate Radio. I was looking forward to that flick last summer, or whenever it was in the theaters, but was scared off by reviews. Turns out, the negative reviews were so dead on it's not even worth renting. Great idea for a movie, and very, very poorly executed. And what a waste of good actors like Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
"None but ourselves can free our minds
"Have no fear for atomic energy
"'Cause none of them can stop the time
"How long shall they kill our prophets
"While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
"Some say it's just a part of it
"We've got to fullfil the book"

-- Bob Marley, Redemption Song

 

Posted on: April 29, 2010 12:17 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2010 1:37 pm
 

U2, the DH and the baseball schedule

Don't know whether or not Bono favors the designated hitter rule, but based on U2's summer concert tour, they're definitely American Leaguers.

The band is playing Angels Stadium (June 6-7), the Oakland Coliseum (June 16) and Toronto's Rogers Center (July 3) before, finally, landing in NL Florida's Landshark Stadium (or whatever they're calling it now, on July 9).

And it wreaked havoc with the 2010 schedule.

"They've become my least-favorite band -- which has nothing to do with their songs, talent or anything else," jokes Katy Feeney, the longtime National League media specialist who now helps handles major league baseball's club relations and scheduling issues.

Putting together the major-league schedule is always a chore because it has an incredible number of moving parts, and this year's was even more difficult based on the band from Ireland.

Because of the magnitude of the tour and sheer size of the stage, Feeney says, "they require 10 days to set up the concert and then break it down. That's an unusually long period of time [compared to other concerts].

"And that means a team has to be on the road for three series' over a week-and-a-half."

The problems, for example, didn't necessarily occur with sending the Angels on the road for a 14-game trip from May 31-June 14 to make room for U2, or with sending the A's on a nine-game trip from June 11-21 to accommodate Bono and the boys.

"Unfortunately, everything has a ripple effect," Feeney says. "And the number of actual teams hosting the concert, other than those 10 days, may not feel as many consequences as some other clubs."

It could have gotten more dicey. St. Louis initially asked to hold dates for U2, but for whatever reason, the band didn't fit Busch Stadium into its itinerary. And while the band is playing major-league cities Denver (June 12), Seattle (June 20), Minneapolis (June 27) and Chicago (July 6), those concerts are all in football stadiums.

"It wasn't as bad as the year the Republican National Convention was in Houston," Feeney says of the 1992 gathering. "The Astros had to be on the road for a month that year.

"Every year has something. Hopefully, everybody enjoys the U2 concerts in baseball stadiums. And hopefully, the stadiums will be full."

Maybe Bono will write about it in one of his New York Times Op-Ed columns.

Likes: Colleague Mike Freeman's column lobbying baseball to consider moving 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona if the state does not change its new immigration law. ... Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo, the game's next superstar. ... Baltimore wins two in a row this week! ... Former Indians pitching coach Carl Willis as the roving pitching coordinator for the Mariners' minor-league system. He'll be back in the bigs soon. ... First three episodes of HBO's Treme have been solid. Very promising New Orleans-based show right there. From David Simon, who did Homicide: Life on the Street and The Wire. ... New release from The Hold Steady next week. ... New DVD coming in June from Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band, London Calling. ... Finally started reading Nick Hornby's Juliet, Naked. Not too far in yet, but anytime I'm reading a Hornby book, it's good with me.

Dislikes: The Giants' ninth inning Wednesday following Tim Lincecum. ... The Brewers' ninth inning Wednesday with Trevor Hoffman. ... The Royals' eighth and ninth innings Tuesday following Zack Greinke. ... Regarding the above on David Simon, I still haven't caught up with The Wire, which I hear is superb. It's on my list.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"The more you see the less you know
"The less you find out as you go
"I knew much more then, than I do now
"Neon heart, day-glow eyes
"A city lit by fireflies
"They're advertising in the skies
"For people like us"

-- U2, City of Blinding Lights

Posted on: April 22, 2010 11:59 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2010 6:06 pm
 

Short Hops: Bullpens reaching critical mass

Short hops, quick pops and backhand stops:

 Where legendary manager/raconteur Casey Stengel once groused, "Can't anybody here play this game?", Dave Trembley (Baltimore), A.J. Hinch (Arizona), Trey Hillman (Kansas City), Ron Washington (Texas), Lou Piniella (Cubs) and Fredi Gonzalez (Florida) are among the skippers anguishing through today's modern translation: "Can't anybody here pitch in the late innings?"

Nearly three weeks in, and bullpens in each of those places range from blown up to still-smoldering. While the issues and problems are disparate, there are a couple of things in play here.

One, as Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher suggests, some relievers are still attempting to settle into the regular season's erratic workload after pitching regularly scheduled stints throughout spring training.

Two, the spectacular number of blown saves in Baltimore (two conversions in six opportunities), Texas (two in five) and Kansas City (four in nine) add grist to the argument against rigidly locking your closer into the ninth innings. Sometimes, the eighth inning is the game-changer. Sometimes it's the seventh.

"The way the bullpen sets up today, you've got a closer for the seventh inning, a closer for the eighth inning and a closer for the ninth inning," Butcher says.

So, given the nature of specialty bullpens, in an era when there are no Goose Gossage-style closers who can get seven or eight outs, maybe what's needed is less managing-by-the-book and more imagination. Maybe if the Royals, for example, summoned Joakim Soria sooner rather than later, they wouldn't have suffered four of their first five losses in games in which they led in the seventh inning.

In Texas, Frank Francisco has been removed as closer in favor of Neftali Feliz. In Baltimore, Mike Gonzalez, who blew save opportunities on both opening day and in the Orioles' home opener, went to the disabled list with a shoulder strain (and in his place, Jim Johnson has blown two of three save opportunities).

The 2-14 Orioles have lost five games in which they've led in the eighth inning or later. Texas has lost four such games. Kansas City starters already have been cost five wins because of blown saves (including two each for Zack Greinke and Brian Bannister), while Arizona, Milwaukee, Florida and Cubs' starters have lost four victories to blown saves.

The Diamondbacks suffered back-to-back walk-off losses on April 15 (Blaine Boyer, at Los Angeles) and April 16 (Juan Rodriguez, at San Diego). Then, Arizona's pen was hammered for five ninth-inning St. Louis runs Wednesday in what at the time was a tied game.

The Cubs' plight caused Lou Piniella to move erstwhile ace Carlos Zambrano from the rotation to eighth-inning set-up man for closer Carlos Marmol in an absolutely stunning move of desperation. Through Tuesday, the Cubs had surrendered 16 eighth-inning runs, a major-league high. They also had allowed 32 runs in the seventh and eighth innings combined, also the most in the majors.

"A vast majority of these games are decided in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings," Piniella explained -- as opposed to, say, the first-through-sixth innings, when Zambrano (and Greinke and Dan Haren and Kevin Millwood) usually is on the mound.

This continues, some brave manager -- Washington with Feliz? Gonzalez with Leo Nunez? -- is going to call on his closer to protect a one-run lead in the eighth instead of the ninth, out of self-defense if nothing else. And maybe that will be the start of a new -- and welcome -- trend.
 Biggest culprits in blowing up opposing bullpens? Detroit this season has caused a whopping seven blown saves, while the Dodgers have caused six. Though, as manager Jim Leyland noted Thursday in Anaheim, it would make life far easier for the Tigers if they'd start scoring on starting pitchers.

 Regarding the scorched-earth pen in Texas, the Rangers already have lost five games they've led in the seventh inning or later this year. Last year, they lost only six of those games over their 162-game schedule.

 Baltimore hitters with runners in scoring position: A big-league worst .155 (17-for-110). And .103 (6-for-58) with RISP and two out.

 Chad Billingsley has a 7.07 ERA lodged in his throat after surrendering seven runs and seven hits to Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dodgers manager Joe Torre says it looks like the pitcher has confidence issues and Billingsley says his confidence is fine. Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Billingsley had command issues, Billingsley said he didn't. And in other news, the Dodgers say the earth is round and Billingsley says it's flat. This all had better get worked out, pronto.

 The suddenly reeling Giants, who went from 7-2 to getting swept by the Padres, face contenders St. Louis, Philadelphia and Colorado in a homestand beginning Friday and are perfectly set up for the Cards: Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Matt Cain are lined up to start.

 The Twins, according to sources, had what they viewed as a workable deal to acquire Padres closer Heath Bell after Joe Nathan was hurt this spring but veered away because they were nervous over character issues. Bell's outspoken manner at times can grate on teammates.

 When is this guy going to get some work? Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton has converted his only save opportunity this season, and though he's only appeared in six of 15 games, one scout who has watched him this year and in spring training raves about him. "Mariano Rivera still sets the bar, but Jonathan Broxton right now is every bit as good," the scout says. "I saw him this spring and I've seen him this year, and je just comes in pumping strikes at 96 miles an hour."

 Glad to see baseball came to grips with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon's hoodie. Now let's move on to the maple bat issue before somebody gets decapitated.

 Sure wish Milton Bradley would quit giving everybody so much material. Now the Chicago landlord who sued Bradley for $44,000 in unpaid rent over the winter alleges that Bradley also caused $13,900 in damage to the condo with wine, food, juice and coffee stains as well as paint stains.

 One thing I neglected to mention last week while reviewing the Twins' superb new Target Field: The excellent touches extend all the way to the crew responsible for the in-game music, especially the inspired choices of playing clips of The Hold Steady's Stay Positive during key moments for the Twins in the late innings and Bruce Springsteen's Long Walk Home after losses.

 Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker may have a crack pinch-running candidate in-house and not even know it: Congratulations to Reds media relations guru Rob Butcher, who sets the bar in his day job, for not only completing the Boston Marathon on Monday but for doing so in 3:24:59. That's 7:49 per mile!


Posted on: April 22, 2010 12:29 am
 

Even the schedule working against Orioles

Baltimore's epically horrible start (2-14 following Wednesday's loss in Seattle) is the perfect storm of a whole lot of things going wrong, from bullpen meltdowns to miserable situational hitting, but the Orioles aren't getting any breaks from the schedule-maker, either.

That the Orioles knew this spring that they would start off with as rugged a schedule as anybody in baseball is no consolation as they plow through their worst start since the 0-21 beginning in 1988.

The O's are in the midst of playing 18 of their first 28 games against the Yankees, Red Sox and Tampa Bay. And of those other 10 games, seven consist of a West Coast trip to Oakland and Seattle (which ended Wednesday night against the Mariners' Felix Hernandez).

That finished, the Orioles open a series in Boston on Friday, entering a stretch in which they'll face the Red Sox and Yankees 12 consecutive times. After that, it's off to contending Minnesota for four games before finally hitting the first "soft" part of their schedule: And eight-game homestand against Seattle, Cleveland and Kansas City beginning May 11.

Meantime, Baltimore's struggling AL East rival, Boston, is in as friendly a part of the schedule as a team could want: The Red Sox are in the midst of playing 20 of 26 games in Fenway Park, where Boston went 56-25 last season.

The Sox opened a 10-game homestand Friday against Tampa Bay, and following a trip to Toronto and Baltimore, they open another 10-game homestand May 3 against the Angels.

At 6-9 and fourth in the AL East, the Red Sox will not have a better time to turn things around.

A couple of other early scheduling observations:

-- The Angels will make a whopping six different cross-country trips this summer to the East Coast. They were in New York to face the Yankees in April, they'll be in Boston in May, New York again in July, Baltimore in August and Tampa Bay in September. June is the only month in which the Angels do not head for the East Coast. Hmmm, think manager Mike Scioscia made someone angry when he complained about the playoff schedule last October? The Angels will fly 50,509 air miles this season, a major-league high.

-- When San Francisco started 7-2, the thought was that we would find out whether the Giants were for real very soon (though getting swept in San Diego this week didn't figure to be one of the crucial test cases): Beginning in Los Angeles against the Dodgers last Friday, the Giants were to face five contenders in six series': The Dodgers, St. Louis (which arrives in San Francisco on Friday to open a weekend series), Philadelphia, Colorado and Florida.

-- The Twins, who hosted the Red Sox for three games last week, play just twice in Boston this season. Minnesota and Boston are finished with each other for 2010 on May 20.

-- Detroit plays the Mets in New York (June 22-24) before facing the Yankees in New York (Aug. 16-19).

Likes: Austin Jackson, Detroit's good-looking rookie center fielder. ... How about Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes in Oakland on Wednesday night, no-hitting the A's until Eric Chavez's sharp single that bounced off of Hughes to start the inning. ... Never a dull moment talking baseball in Detroit manager Jim Leyland's office. ... I applaud Carlos Zambrano's willingness to do anything to help the Cubs, but a temp job as a set-up man? Yikes.

Dislikes: The plight of the independent record stores, which are shrinking as badly as the independent bookstores and, sadly, are probably headed the way of the independent grocery stores and pharmacies. I applauded Independent Record Store Day last Saturday, but when I visited one of my favorites, Lou's Records in Encinitas, Calif., the other day, it was discouraging. They didn't have the Drive-By Truckers' newest CD (The Big To-Do), which makes about the fourth consecutive trip where they were out of what I was looking for. Worse, they're consolidating inventory into one building (it's a funky little place that currently consists of two small buildings, with used CDs in one and new in the other). Which obviously means less stuff. A clerk told me sales have been down 80 percent.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"People get ready, there's a train a comin'
You don't need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

-- Curtis Mayfield, People Get Ready

Posted on: April 19, 2010 11:08 pm
Edited on: April 20, 2010 12:01 am
 

Giants get good news on Rowand

The shiner on Aaron Rowand's left eye Monday brought to mind the old joke, "You should have seen the other guy."

Only in this case, after Rowand suffered fractures in his cheekbone when he was hit by a Vicente Padilla pitch Friday, the punch-line was different.

"You should have seen it the last couple of days," the Giants' center fielder said. "It's pretty good today."

It's all relative, but the big news of the day for the Giants is that Rowand not only will avoid surgery, but doctors have told him that he should be good to go as soon as he's eligible to return from the disabled list on May 2.

"It's great news for us," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said before the series-opener with San Diego. "It's the best news we could get.

"He can't do any activity until Friday, but after that, he can do baseball activity and then he can come off of the disabled list when he's able to."

Rowand was off to a good start, hitting .304 with a homer and six RBI in 10 games.

In his place, Bochy said he'll probably use Andres Torres more often than not "because Torres is our best center fielder with Aaron Rowand down and we're getting our best defense out there."

With Mark DeRosa also down with a strained hamstring -- the Giants hope he can return maybe as early as Wednesday -- Bochy said he probably will mix and match Eugenio Velez, Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker, depending on pitching matchups.

"A lot depends on where we're at with DeRosa," Bochy said.

DeRosa did pinch hit Monday night, batting for pitcher Matt Cain in the seventh inning with the Giants trailing San Diego 2-1 with one out and runners on second and third. Facing reliever Luke Gregerson, DeRosa struck out.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com