Tag:Tim Lincecum
Posted on: June 1, 2010 10:50 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2010 12:23 am
 

Boras: Gwynn job with Strasburg "remarkable"

As Stephen Strasburg speeds toward his big-league debut next Tuesday against Pittsburgh, agent Scott Boras says that "no college coach has ever prepared a player better than Tony Gwynn."

Gwynn, the Hall of Famer and San Diego State University baseball coach, oversaw the growth and development of the right-hander (along with pitching coach Rusty Filter) while all the while resisting the temptation to overuse him even as Gwynn's Aztecs team was fighting to qualify for its first NCAA tournament berth in more than a decade.

He also helped school Strasburg on the media attention, and stepped in with rules to limit his availability when the kid was on the verge of being overwhelmed.

"Tony recognized that he was a unique talent, and he did a remarkable job," Boras says. "And that player also got that program into the Regionals, too.

"It says a lot about how right the system can work in getting high school players to go to college around people who understand both the collegiate and pro marketplace so they can really develop players."

In Gwynn's case, of course, he not only understood the college game -- he played at San Diego State in the 1970s -- but also, of course, knows the major leagues. As his eight batting titles attest.

Mostly, Strasburg pitched once a week, on Friday nights.

"Tony was extraordinary," Boras says. "The interest of the player came first throughout. And oh, by the way, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that Tony Gwynn's son is a major-league player. I mean that, because he did the same thing with him. They talk about Tony Gwynn being a great player, let's talk about Tony Gwynn as a great coach, father, mentor and everything else he did. Because this man is a Hall of Famer, but you've got to remember that Tony has crossed lines here where most Hall of Famers don't go. They're teachers, mentors, they're all those things. I think a great deal of credit needs to go to him because of what he's doing currently and the fact that he's taking the time to be a college coach.

"He could be a broadcaster. He could probably make triple the income he's making and live a very different life, and a lot easier life than what he's doing now. And I think we're all privileged that he's doing that for young men, for college baseball and for baseball in general. Tony Gwynn is doing something that impacted both college and professional baseball."

Likes: The Cardinals and Reds this week in St. Louis battling for first place in the NL Central. ... Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Tim Lincecum on Memorial Day. Jimenez is unbelievable. Lincecum will find his control. Pitchers slump, too, you know. ... Michael Cuddyer playing second base for Minnesota on Monday in Seattle for the first time since July, 2005. Leave it to the Twins. ... Memorial Day Weekend. Summer's here. ... Case in point: A large group of men playing Ultimate Frisbee on Tuesady in one of the parks I cruise through during my daily runs. Usually, with the kids still in school, the place is quiet on a workday. ... The shrimp that emerged perfectly from my grill the other day. ... New concert DVD from Bruce Springsteen, London Calling -- Live in Hyde Park, in about three weeks. ... Finished Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin. Really, really terrific. A gripping read by Hampton Sides.

Dislikes: Nice job of working the plate the other day, Bill Hohn. In ejecting Astros ace Roy Oswalt, he gave a textbook example of how not to ump. Following in the immediate aftermath of Joe West and Bob Davidson. ... Bad caps worn by all on Memorial Day. Bad, bad caps. Can we just wear the uniforms that the clubs are supposed to wear and stop with all the alternate jerseys/caps stuff? I know there's money to be made, but do we have to squeeze every last penny out of everybody? There are other ways to honor the Veterans -- as they deserve to be honored -- on Memorial Day. ... It's Complicated, with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, is not even worth renting. Brutal. We shut it off after an hour or so the other night. I mean, Meryl Streep is usually fantastic, but she over-acted something fierce in this dog. Every scene, she giggled, laughed or cried. Totally distracting. Ugh.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"I’m gonna write a truthful song over an eighties groove
"I’d like to let you know I’ll always be straight with you
"I stole my personality from an anonymous source
"And I’m gonna pay for it too, I don’t feel bad about that
"Give me my chance back"


-- Hockey, (Tomorrow's Just) A Song Away

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: March 27, 2010 8:27 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2010 9:10 pm
 

Giants torrid spring a harbinger of 2010?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- By Memorial Day, spring training records often take on the same meaning as yesterday's newspaper, your old report cards and the snow shovel sitting in your garage.

So here are the San Francisco Giants, who are headed toward 2010 with great pitching and questions surrounding their ability to score runs, absolutely ripping it up in Cactus League play.

Though they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Angels on Saturday, the Giants own the best spring record in the majors at 19-8, a .730 winning percentage. They're half-a-game ahead of Cleveland (16-6) in the Cactus League.

Does this mean the Giants maybe have a leg up on positively answering some of their questions? Leadoff man Aaron Rowand, for example, is hitting .474 with a .771 slugging percentage and a .543 on-base percentage. He is a huge key to what the Giants need to do this summer.

Or, perhaps, does it mean that all these spring wins and $4 will get Giants manager Bruce Bochy a latte at Starbucks?

"It's hard to quantify how you look at wins and losses in spring training," says Bochy, in his 16th spring as manager. "A lot of kids are playing.

"But I'll say this: No matter where you're at or what you're doing, it's nice to win."

With the caveat that it is dangerous to buy into spring numbers too deeply, these are among the Giants' spring highlights:

Todd Wellemeyer's 3-0 record and 1.35 ERA. He's pretty much nailed down the fifth spot in the Giants' rotation.

Young right-hander Kevin Pucetas has opened eyes in going 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA over 14 innings.

Top prospect Buster Posey is making a run toward the opening day roster even though Bengie Molina has the catching spot locked down by hitting .415 with a .442 OBP in 17 games. The Giants are talking about spotting him in at first base and catcher.

Outfielder John Bowker is forcing the playing-time issue with four homers, 18 RBI and 34 total bases in 20 games (57 at-bats).

Newcomer Aubrey Huff: 3 homers, 12 RBI, a .438 on-base percentage and a .357 batting average.

"He hits the s--- out of the ball," two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum marvels.

"It can build confidence in a club," Bochy says of winning in the spring. "We certainly want to be in winning mode, whether it's spring training or the regular season."

So far, so good with that.

Sunblock Day: Lots of sun Saturday, but very windy in the desert. Temps in the high 60s to low 70s.

Likes: Butler to the Final Four! Butler to the Final Four! My Indiana-born parents went to Butler They met at Butler. My poor dad was sweating out the win over Kansas State so badly he had to leave my brother's house and take a walk when K-State took the lead late in the second half. He came back with 2:00 left and Butler back ahead. He's been living and dying with the Bulldogs from afar all season. If there will be a Final Four moment that's more chilling than when Butler takes the court in Indianapolis for its semi-final game, I can't wait to see it.

Likes II: The Bruce Springsteen mix CD playing as the Giants hit before Friday's Cactus League game against the Angels. Who made the CD? Giants bench coach Ron Wotus. Very impressive. ... Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery, a musician himself, loved Crazy Heart so much he's seen it three times. ... How about that Kansas State-Xavier game Thursday night? You will not see a better college basketball game. It's rare that you know you're watching a classic at the time it's happening, and that definitely was one of them. What a great, great NCAA tournament this year.

Dislikes: Hate to see veteran Doug Mientkiewicz leave Dodgers camp Saturday to think about things after being told he probably won't make the club. He's a terrific person, and I know he wants to keep playing. We talked the other day and his issue with playing Triple-A is, he's fine with it -- if it's in a place where he thinks he'll get a reasonable opportunity to play in the majors. With the Dodgers, with James Loney at first and the versatile Ronnie Belliard on the roster, and with lefty Garrett Anderson probably on the roster as a pinch-hitter, it doesn't look like he'll get that.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Rock and roll means well
"But it can't help telling young boys lies"

-- Drive-By Truckers, Marry Me

Posted on: September 8, 2009 9:25 pm
 

Lincecum: The back story

San Francisco scratching Tim Lincecum from Tuesday night's start against San Diego with inflammation in his back, to say the least, is not good news for the Giants.

Unless ... Lincecum returns to the rotation on Friday against the Dodgers, which would then put him on target to start the finale of a huge series against Colorado next Wednesday and. ...

This is the time of year for conspiracy theories, with all hands on deck and all eyes on the out-of-town scoreboard. And if the Giants were to use a sore back as camouflage to shuffle their stretch-run rotation and set Lincecum up to face both the Dodgers and the Rockies, well, it could be a move of sheer brilliance.

Alas, there are enough indicators that signal this probably is no ruse.

But in speaking with the San Francisco media before Tuesday night's game, Giants manager Bruce Bochy did say it's "possible" that Lincecum could start before his next turn in the rotation (Monday night against the Rockies).

Bochy also did say that his ace will start as soon as he becomes available.

"The sooner we can get him out there, the more starts he would get," Bochy aptly noted.

Hmmm. ...

Now, about those indicators.

Lincecum's velocity has been down in his past few starts, climaxing with the Giants' mysterious decision not to display pitch speeds during the right-hander's last start at home, back on Aug. 28. Instead of his usual 94 m.p.h., Lincecum's fastball has been tracking at 92, 93. Not enough to set off serious alarms, and yes, sometimes a power pitcher's velocity will drop late in the season.

Of course, as the excellent website FanGraphs.com noted in an analysis of Lincecum's slow start back in April, the Cy Young award winner's fastball over his first two starts this season averaged just 92.8 miles an hour, a small drop from the 94.1 career average on his fastball. And nothing apparently was wrong then.

Given his violent motion and small frame (5-11, 170 pounds), durability questions always have hounded Lincecum throughout his career. Not only has he avoided any serious issues so far, he's been a true workhorse. Lincecum leads the NL and ranks second in the majors with 200 1/3 innings pitched, though he ranks sixth in the majors in pitches thrown (3,034).

At 13-5 with a 2.34 ERA, Lincecum is making an excellent case for a second consecutive Cy Young award while the Giants make a spirited dash toward a potential playoff spot.

Best-case scenario right now is if Lincecum makes an extraordinarily rapid recovery and suddenly becomes available to face the Dodgers and the Rockies.

Worst-case scenario? Nobody wants to think about that one right now. And hopefully, we won't have to think about it. The Giants insist this is just a "flare-up", and nothing more.

"The best thing for us is to talk about this in a couple of days," Bochy said. "We'll have more information."

Good news on Thursday or Friday would be most welcome.

Likes: The Giants' upcoming homestand against the Dodgers and Rockies, beginning on Friday night. ... September scoreboard watching. ... Brad Penny making it known to other clubs after he left Boston that he was heading straight back to the National League. He's no dummy. One taste of the AL will do that for a pitcher. ... Stephen Colbert on the cover of the current issue of Rolling Stone. Good interview. ... Sam Kashner's piece on William Manchester and his book Death of a President in the current issue of Vanity Fair. Manchester was asked to write the definitive account of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by Kennedy's widow, Jackie, but it turned political and took a toll on Manchester over the next several years as he attempted to complete it and deal with the changing attitudes of Jackie and Robert Kennedy, JFK's brother. Very compelling read.

Dislikes: The Pink Pony closing in Scottsdale, Ariz. In its day, you could find executives and players from every team that trained in the Phoenix area hanging out there each spring. In its dotage over the past few years, you still could find stray baseball officials and writers hanging out there. A steak joint located in Scottsdale's Old Town, the Pony was legendary.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Beth McKenzie got the job of her dreams
"Retouching photos for a magazine, aimed at teens
"It’s Thursday night she should be out on the scene
"But she’s sitting at home watching The King of Queens"

-- Fountains of Wayne, Someone to Love

 

Posted on: July 14, 2009 6:37 pm
Edited on: July 14, 2009 8:14 pm
 

All-Star pitching plans for tonight

ST. LOUIS -- As American League manager Joe Maddon said the other day, it's difficult to "choreograph" the All-Star Game when it's played in a National League park without the designated hitter.

But while plans may eventually unravel, here's the way Maddon and his NL counterpart, Charlie Manuel, intend to begin tonight's 80th All-Star Game:

Maddon has told starter Roy Halladay that he will pitch two innings. Halladay will be followed in order, according to Maddon, by the White Sox's Mark Buehrle, Kansas City's Zack Greinke, Detroit's Edwin Jackson, Seattle's Felix Hernandez, Boston's Jonathan Papelbon, Minnesota's Joe Nathan and the Yankees' Mariano Rivera.

If Rivera pitches with a lead in the ninth inning, he will have a chance to claim his fourth All-Star save, which would be a record. Currently, he is tied with Dennis Eckersley for the record with three.

As of now, Maddon is planning on keeping in reserve Boston's Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett, Detroit's Justin Verlander and the Angels' Brian Fuentes. Beckett and Verlander pitched on Sunday.

As for Wakefield, making his first All-Star appearance at 42, and holding him back?

"It's all about this game matters," Maddon said. "It does matter, and he's the perfect guy if there are extra innings to carry us the rest of the way."

As for the NL, attempting to win its first All-Star game since 1996, Manuel, following consultation with San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy, has told starter Tim Lincecum to plan to pitch two innings.

After that?

Depends if Lincecum pitches two full innings, and it depends on whether the pitcher's spot is coming up in the next inning, Manuel said. That will determine whether he uses a starter or a reliever to follow Lincecum.

Posted on: July 11, 2009 2:02 am
Edited on: July 11, 2009 3:13 am
 

Giants' Sanchez paints his masterpiece

San Francisco has two legitimate candidates to start Tuesday's All-Star Game in National League Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The Giants have another starter with five Cy Youngs who has thrown one no-hitter and one perfect game in Randy Johnson. And they have a fourth starter with a Cy Young award in Barry Zito.

Yet it was a little known, unheralded underachiever who turned up the heat on the meat-less San Diego Padres on a cool Friday night by the Bay and fired the Giants' first no-hitter since John "The Count" Montefusco in 1976.

Jonathan Sanchez has no such stylish nickname, and he had been bumped from the rotation three weeks ago because he was so ineffective. He had never thrown a complete game in the majors. He had won only two games for the Giants this season, and none since May 25.

Yet for one incredible evening, in an 8-0 triumph, he was as dominant as any of his bigger-named rotation mates has been.

For one incredible evening, he threw the same magic as Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, each of whom also produced no-hitters as a Giant.

Now, maybe this is what propels Sanchez to the dizzying heights the Giants have long thought he could attain. And if it does, that should be one scary thought for opponents scheduled to face a team already rich in pitching.

Until now, Sanchez, 26, mostly was one of those names that kept popping up in trade rumors. It happened endlessly last winter.

But Giants general manager Brian Sabean was adamantly against the idea of dealing the rough-around-the-edges left-hander, even though it was clear that what the Giants needed to do was figure out a way to score more runs and maybe Sanchez could have been a chip to help them add those pieces.

One Pablo Sandoval and one Travis Ishikawa later, the Giants still don't hang crooked numbers on the board very often.

But they can pitch with the best of them, and this is why the Giants have a real chance to become the surprise team of 2009.

One night after Lincecum carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, Sanchez finished the job against the Padres.

He was 2-8 with a 5.30 ERA when he threw his first pitch to rookie Everth Cabrera, just another arm with a lot to learn. He had 68 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings, but he also had walked 46 and had major difficulty with opponents after the first two times through the order.

Just 109 pitches later, maybe Sanchez sees things now that he didn't before. Granted, the Padres aren't very good -- especially this lineup, with David Eckstein and Brian Giles on the disabled list -- but they still run All-Star Adrian Gonzalez out there.

Sanchez worked his fastball early, got ahead of hitters, and used his curve beautifully. On this night, he didn't struggle with his control. He hit his spots. And he gave the Giants a preview of what could be.

Going into this season, Sabean said he couldn't imagine trading Sanchez because the Puerto Rico native was bigger and stronger.

Four months later, Sanchez remains a work in progress.

But he's never looked bigger, or stronger.

The Giants look pretty good themselves right now, too.

Posted on: April 17, 2009 3:46 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2009 4:07 pm
 

The Giants have issues, the Boss doesn't

The only drawback with that clever MLB 2K9 video game advertisement in which San Francisco Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum offers his animated double some tips on how to behave in the major leagues is this: It doesn't include wisdom from the real Lincecum that helps drag the Giants out of their crappy start.

They limp home this weekend carrying with them one of the game's two worst records. Difference between the Giants (2-7) and the Washington Nationals (1-7), however, is the Giants at least were supposed to have a first-class rotation, and even that's been disappointing.

Some thoughts after a couple of days with the Giants this week in Los Angeles:

  • Lincecum's Cy encore is off to a rocky start at 0-1 with a 7.56 ERA in two starts. Even at that, Lincecum is the least of manager Bruce Bochy's concerns. The manager's take: Lincecum hasn't yet harnessed his fastball. When the command returns, he'll be fine. Lincecum spent a long bullpen session this week working with pitching coach Dave Righetti on mechanics. In layman's terms, right now, Lincecum's upper body is not in sync with his lower body during his delivery.
  • Randy Johnson started the season five wins shy of historic No. 300 and, after two starts he remains five wins away. He's 0-2 with an 11.42 ERA -- but, for now, unconcerned. Johnson pitched very well in his first start, against Milwaukee until surrendering the first home run to a pitcher he's ever allowed. Yovani Gallardo was the villain.

As for Monday's flop against the Dodgers, in which he yielded seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, Johnson produced a thick fistful of charts from his locker during a conversation Wednesday afternoon, charts he keeps on opposing hitters and regularly refers to for intelligence. Among his points: He produced a similar clunker against the Dodgers while facing Hideo Nomo back in May, 2002 (seven earned runs, eight hits, five innings).

"And obviously, I was in my prime then," Johnson said of the season in which he won his fifth Cy Young award. "Bad games happen."

Johnson, 45, is happy and in good spirits because he's healthy. And he remains confident that things will soon get better for him, too.

And as for standing five wins away from 300. ...

"I'm still looking for No. 1 (this year)," he says. "So let's put things in perspective. I'm feeling good, that's the main thing."

Three more strikes vs. the Giants:

  • Mentioning Barry Zito's name mostly elicits cringing around here. He was blasted again by the Dodgers Thursday night, his ERA is 10.00 and scouts who have watched him just shake their heads. There still are no answers, and every day it looks more like there never will be any answers.
  • The young Giants hitters are pressing badly, as evidenced in part by their embarrassing and toothless streak of going 32 1/3 innings between a real, live base on balls from last Friday in San Diego to Wednesday in Los Angeles "We need to do better in situational hitting," says Giants veteran Randy Winn of a club that has left runners in scoring position in several key places during their six-game losing streak. "For a team that's not going to hit a lot of home runs, those are things we need to do."
  • Third baseman Pablo Sandoval had a big spring and looks like a future star. But he's slogging along at .212, and that was after collecting two hits Thursday night. What he mostly looks like now is a young player who is extremely overeager. And that's played right into the hands of opposing pitchers. "I think he's more overanxious," Bochy says. "We know Pablo, he's always in swing mode. But he's expanded his zone even more."

Hanging with the Boss

Two fantastic nights with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band this week at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. It never gets old. It's always fresh. And as I've said before, as the band heads East, catch them if you get a chance. It's like getting a chance to see Ty Cobb, or Babe Ruth, or Willie Mays in their primes. Even if you're not ecstatic with their new disc Working on a Dream , it doesn't matter.

The show is tailored to current events, as it always is (this time the economy and the struggles so many people are facing), and there are so many standout moments. The first encore song is culled (and updated) from Stephen Foster's songbook from the 1850s, Hard Times Come Again No More . A bluesy, gospel-sounding take, it's different and cool.

Mike Ness from Social Distortion was a special guest Thursday night and the band ripped through Ness' Bad Luck . What a moment. Ness, Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Nils Lofgren all blazing on guitars midway through the song was outstanding.

No Surrender , Growin' Up , Thunder Road , Backstreets , Racing in the Street , The Wrestler ... so many highlights. One of the moments that stands out, and it's part of what keeps people coming back, came Thursday night when Springsteen collected signs for song requests from the crowd (as he has taken to doing) and picked out Proud Mary , the old Creedence Clearwater Revival chestnut (I've always wanted to use that word -- I feel just like a rock critic or something!).

Hearing the E Street band play that song was cool enough, but the best moments were those just before they tore into the song. Bruce held the sign for the band to see what they were going to play next, and the look of incredulity on the faces of those on stage was priceless. Lofgren was shouting across the stage to either bass player Gary Tallent or pianist Roy Bittan ( I couldn't quite tell which), double-checking the key, grinning widely. Lofgren held his hands together in the form of a D -- key of D? was his clear question -- hollering and motioning as the band scrambled to get its signals straight.

During the guitar solo midway through the song, as Springsteen played, Lofgren and Van Zandt played a few steps back, grinning at each other in amusement or amazement. Maybe both. It's one of the greatest things about seeing the band in concert, and it's the same thing that happens every time you walk into a baseball stadium: You absolutely, positively can never be sure of what you're about to see. You never know what the next moment will bring. And sometimes they're incredibly uplifting.

At the Dodgers' home opener on Monday, I watched Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle. While I've covered two no-hitters (David Wells' perfect game for the Yankees in 1998 and Eric Milton's for Minnesota in 1999), I'd never seen a cycle.

Then, Thursday night, I'm watching the E Street Band scramble to get its signals straight before Proud Mary and then, later in the show, I'm watching 18-year-old Jay Weinberg sit in on the drums for three songs for his dad, Max (Lonesome Day , The Rising and Born to Run ). Max is going to miss six or so shows in Europe this summer -- I believe around the time when Conan O'Brien replaces Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in early June (Max is the bandleader on the show, in case you don't know) -- and Jay is going to play those shows for his pop.

Jay just killed -- the kid is really, really good. And making the moment even more special, I looked about 15 feet to my right as he was playing on Lonesome Day (I was lucky enough to score a spot in the front row in front of the stage), and Max had come around from backstage to watch his son. Watching the band, watching Max watch his son, watching Van Zandt grinning and beaming at Max down front while playing guitar in front of Jay ... wow.

With baseball and at a Springsteen show, you never know when the next special moment is coming. You just know that, when it does, you'd better catch it, and hold on for as long as possible.


Likes, Dislikes and Rockin'

Likes: Baseball as a social institution? Check out this study that says the divorce rate among people in major-league cities is significantly lower than that among those who dwell in cities that wanted major-league baseball clubs but didn't get them. Bet the NFL can't say that. ... Step Brothers has some pretty darn funny moments. I'm not so sure I would have been thrilled paying $10 to see it in the theaters, but it's definitely worth a rental.

Dislikes: Was going to check out State of Play with Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams this weekend, but I don't know. I've read two reviews that have scared me off.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"And I count my blessings
"That you're mine for always
"We laugh beneath the covers
"And count the wrinkles and the grays

-- Bruce Springsteen, Kingdom of Days

 

 

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