Friday, February 29, 2008

Giants 3 - Mariners 5

Today's game was certainly a lot better effort than yesterday against the Cubs. The Giants jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the 2nd inning. Unfortunately, that was it for their scoring on the day. Meanwhile, the Mariners scored 2 runs off of an ineffective Scott Williamson, 2 more of a very poor Randy Messenger and a final run off of Bartolome Fortunato to fashion a 5-3 win.

I think I covered most of the highlights in the photo captions. The Giants just weren't able to put together any offense after the 3 run 2nd inning. I think the general consensus is that if the Giants are going to have any kind of a season at all......they will need to win a bunch of 3-1 and 3-2 games. Well, this game sure bore that theory out. But much like last year...the bullpen let the team down from the 6th inning on.

As an aside, the announced attendance at today's game was only 6,207.....but a large number of season ticket holders were not present. Scottsdale Stadium was emptier than I have ever seen it (on a non-rain day) since the stadium was rebuilt in 1992. I don't know if that trend will continue or if it is a function of starting spring games in February. I will be interested to see how the attendance goes for the rest of the spring season.

Tomorrow is the Giants vs the A's at Scottsdale Stadium. I believe Barry Zito is pitching. It would be nice if he could duplicate Tim Lincecum's performance today.
Aaron Rowand started the game in CF. He went 0 for 2 with a walk and scored the Giants first run before being replaced by Clay Timpner. I still say this is one weird batting stance.

Rowand was involved in a strange play in the 2nd inning when Aurilia hit what should have been a sure double off the LF wall with Rowand on 1B. For some reason after Rowand rounded 2B, he turned around and headed he thought the ball had been caught. Aurilia had to return to 1B and settle for a single. I didn't see it but some of the fans around me told me they had seen 3B coach Tim Flannery waving Rowand back, like he thought the ball had been caught. Luckily both Rowand and Aurilia scored later so the only consequence of the play was that Aurilia had a double reduced to a single.

Mark Minicozzi made his first appearance in a Giants Spring Training game when he came in to play 2B in the 6th. Mark is not in the Major League camp so they gave him a jersey with no name on it. In a rare baseball sight, both he and Brian Bocock were in the game at the same time and both were wearing #29. Minicozzi was 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a groundout to SS.

Stephen Holm replaced Guillermo Rodriguez at catcher late in the game. Holm walked in his only plate appearance.

Travis Denker started the game at 2B and moved to 3B in the 6th. Travis had a good game, going 2 for 4 with 2 singles and the game's first RBI.

Brian Bocock came in in the 6th inning to play SS. Offensively, he went 0 for 2 with a strikeout. Defensively, he made a nice play in the hole and threw a bullet to 1B to save Merkin Valdez from giving up a possible leadoff single in the 7th.

Despite what we heard yesterday afternoon, Ray Durham was back in the lineup today at DH. Ray went 0 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout and was the only Giants player to stay in the entire game.

Rich Aurilia returned to action and looked pretty good defensively. He handled 4 chances flawlessly, including a diving stop in the first inning to turn a possible extra base hit into a 5-3 out. He also went 2 for 2 and scored the Giants 2nd run. In the background is Kevin Frandsen. Kevin went 1 for 3 with a 2 out RBI single that plated the Giants 3rd (and unfortunately last) run in the second. Kevin Also turned a 4-6-3 DP but had no other defensive chances.

The final pitcher of the day was Bartolome Fortunato. 13 pitches later (11 strikes) Fortunato had given up 2 singles, a double and a run and the Giants lost 3-5. Fortunato threw strikes....but too many of them made contact with Mariners' bats.

The inning belonged to Randy Messenger who did nothing to prove he deserved it. After a 4 pitch strikeout to start the inning.....Messenger gave up back to back walks (on 9 pitches), followed by back to back singles to give up 2 runs. Again the Mariners helped him out a little as Mike Morse tried to stretch his 2 RBI single into a double and was thrown out at 2B by Clay Timpner for the 2nd out of the inning. Messenger finished the inning off with a fly out to LF. 20 pitches and only 9 strikes.....not good. It actually could have been worse.

Next up after Williamson was Merkin Valdez. Merkin went 1 inning and gave up 1 single and a hard hit line drive out to 2B. Merkin looks pretty good as he is on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery. His fastball looked just about as good as ever, although he struggled a little with control. He took only 13 pitches in the inning, but only 7 of them were strikes. The Mariners helped him out a little by swinging at 1-0 and 2-0 counts three times (one single and 2 outs).

Scott Williamson followed Misch, inheriting a 3-0 lead. After starting out with a 1 pitch groundout, he gave up a bunt single, followed by a steal, followed by a walk, then a double steal and a wild pitch. So one run was in on the strength of one 20 foot hit. A SAC fly scored the second run and cleared the bases. Scott then gave up a double before finally getting the final out of the inning on a popup to the SS. All totaled.....2 runs on 2 hits and a walk (18 pitches 10 strikes). Williamson takes FOREVER to get the ball to the plate from the stretch.

The third pitcher of the day was Pat Misch. Pat went 2 full innings giving up no runs on 2 hits (1 a double), no walks and ringing up 3 strikeouts. Not to make excuses for Misch, but on the double I thought sure the ball was a flyball out when it left the bat. Then I looked up and saw Aaron Rowand was playing extremely shallow in CF. Rowand went way back on the ball but missed it by a foot or so. Misch threw 34 pitches......20 for strikes.
Tim Lincecum had a very good day today....much better than Noah Lowry yesterday. Timmy was lifted after hitting exactly 40 pitches on his pitch count (26 strikes). He lasted 2 2/3 innings. The official scorekeeper says Tim gave up 2 hits. I scored only one. Richie Sexon led off the 2nd by hitting a little dribbler in between the mound and 3B. Timmy got to the ball and with the way Sexson runs, had plenty of time to throw him out at 1B. Timmy threw high and Daniel Ortmeier (in the background of this photo) had to leap high into the air to catch the ball and keep it from going into the stands. Ortmeier tried a sweep tag on Sexson that both he and I thought connected with Sexson's left shoulder.....but the umpire said he missed and called Sexson safe. If Timmy's throw would have been on target...Sexson is out by 2-3 steps. The official scorekeeper somehow called it a hit. I refused to change it on my scoresheet.....E-1 all the way.

By my scoring Lincecum gave up no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk while tallying 1 strikeout. Timmy's fastball was zinging and he made a few batters look silly on off-speed pitches. Everything he threw was down in the strikezone as only 1 of his 8 outs was by flyball. Everything was on the ground. Very nice start for Timmy.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Giants vs Cubs

It was an absolutely horrible Cactus League opener for the Giants today. I filled out the scorecard and started taking photos with every intention of posting my usual recap of the day's action. By the time there was only 1 out in the top of the 3rd inning and the score was 8-1 Cubs....I put away the scorebook and the camera and started doing some serious drinking. Hey......I had to salvage the day somehow!

The Giants had no offense, until the game was completely out of hand.....poor defense, with errors on Scott McClain and Justin Leone (not to mention 1 on Noah Lowry that wasn't scored that way by the official scorekeeper).......and poor pitching. Pretty much a baseball trifecta.

Noah Lowry was as bad (or worse) as he has ever been with 3 walks, a hit batsman and a wild pitch in only 1.1 innings of work. Kevin Correia had an even worse day with 7 hits and 5 runs to show for his 1 inning of work. The pitching highlights were Billy Sadler's 2/3rds inning with only a walk given up, Jack Taschner's 2 perfect innings and Brian Wilson's 1-2-3 9th inning. This team NEEDS it's pitching to be flawless........needless to say........this was not a good start.

Offensively, the Giants only had a solo HR by Randy Winn until they were behind 10-1. There were some good offensive moments, once the game was out of hand, including Eugenio Velez and Fred Lewis' triples. But, all in all it was a very forgettable opener.

I will post a couple of photos I took before I put the camera away. Hopefully, tomorrow will be a better day for the can't be much worse.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Practice Game

As you can see from the photo to the left.....Duane Kuiper was on hand to witness the Giants' intra-squad game today. After a quick round of BP the practice game started at around 11:00. It went 4 innings as advertised and was over (as was practice) by a few minutes after noon. Most, if not all, of the Giants veterans did not play and only 2 of the 8 pitchers who threw were part of the Giants' Major League camp.

The lineups for the 2 teams were as follows; TEAM 1: Emmanuel Burriss led off and played 2B, Ben Copeland OF, John Bowker OF, Daniel Ortmeier 1B, Scott McClain DH, Clay Timpner OF, Justin Leone 3B, Pablo Sandoval C and Ivan Ochoa SS. After the first couple of innings Eliezer Alfonzo replaced Ortmeier at 1B. TEAM 2: Eugenio Velez at 2B, Fred Lewis OF, Nate Schierholtz OF, Brett Harper DH, Travis Ishikawa 1B, Travis Denker 3B, Stephen Holm C, Brian Bocock SS and Michael McBryde OF. First time I can ever remember seeing back-to-back Travis' in a lineup. No Durham, Frandsen, Aurilia, Molina, Rodriguez, Roberts, Rowand or Winn. Remove Molina who is still injured and add Ortmeier....and I am betting that is your starting lineup for tomorrow's Cactus League opener.

The pitchers for TEAM 1: The 1st inning was thrown by a player with the last name of Gryboski. The only Gryboski I can find who ever played is Kevin Gryboski who is 34 and was in the Pirates' organization last year. This guy looks old enough to be him. The 2nd inning was thrown by Ryan Sadowski who was in AA Connecticut last year. Then Eugene Espineli also from the Defenders. And finally the only pitcher in the Major League camp Kelvin Pichardo. TEAM 2: Adam Cowart who was in low A Augusta in 2007. Next up was Alex Hinshaw, also from Connecticut. The 3rd inning belonged to a pitcher by the last name of Mateo. I have no idea who this guy is. And finally, team 2's lone pitcher from the big league camp, Jose Capellan.

Team 2 won the game 3-2. Manny Burris led the game off with a walk off of Cowart, followed by a first pitch stolen base. He advanced to 3B on a no out fly ball to RF. Unfortunately, he was left stranded by Bowker and Ortmeier. Gryboski pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half.

The second inning featured perfect innings thrown by Hinshaw and Sadowski.

The top of the 3rd inning also featured a perfect 1-2-3 tossed by Mateo. In the bottom half of the inning Espineli had a little trouble after Holm led off and got on base due to a throwing error by Leone. Holm did a nice job of getting his big body down under an attempted sweep tag by Alfonzo. A couple of singles and a missed cutoff man later, team 2 had a 2-0 lead.

That lead didn't last long as Capellan had a poor inning giving up a walk, a couple of singles and a double by Clay Timpner. By the time the top of the 4th was over, Team 1 had tied it up 2-2. Pichardo got the loss when he gave up a run on a couple of singles. All in all not an encouraging performance by the 2 pitchers who are in the Major League camp as they gave up 3 of the 5 runs in a 3-2 Team 2 win.

Sorry I did not get more specific as to the player's performances. I did not keep score for this "game" so all of the above is strictly from memory with a little reminder from the photos. Rather than posting individual captions for each photo.....I am just going to post a selection of photos without comment. If you have any questions I will try to answer them in the comments sections later. I am running a bit behind today as I just got back from picking up my wife at the airport and I better spend a little time with her since it has been 2 weeks since I saw her.

Tomorrow is the first game of the Cactus League schedule. Giants vs Cubs at Scottsdale. I enjoyed the intra-squad game very much......but I am ready for a real 9 inning game.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

By request. Here you go Phil.

Benjie Molina was back on the field today. He participated in batting practice, but not in the simulated game. Here he stretches out that strained quadriceps.

One More Day Until The Games Begin

Very nice day today. The temperature was predicted to be higher than it has been since before Thanksgiving. As I write this, I sit in shorts and a t-shirt in front of the open sliding door and the thermometer says the weatherman was right....77 on the nose. Finally, "typical" Spring Training weather returns to Scottsdale.

After stretching and running the Giants split into groups with the outfielders taking flyballs, the thirdbasemen taking groundballs and the firstbasemen practicing fielding short hops. At the same time, the catchers were practicing fielding popups fired from a pitching machine pointed straight up. Additional drills of some sort were going on at the practice field.

After the infield drills the players had one round of BP (with coaches throwing). Nate Schierholtz was the HR king today with three. Fred Lewis had two. Aaron Rowand, Daniel Ortmeier and Eliezer Alfonzo each had one. More and more each day the crack of the bats are growing louder and louder as the players look more and more comfortable at the plate. As they were finishing the 4th BP group, I concluded this must be another short day as it looked like everything was going to be over by about 11:20. I was happily wrong about that.

After batting practice, the team all gathered between the mound and 2B as the coaches explained something to them. The players then broke up into two "teams" with each going to a different dugout. They played a sort of simulated game, where Shawon Dunston and Dave Righetti pitched while a full defensive team (including pitchers) made the plays on balls batted by the opposing team. It wasn't a true game, because the coaches manipulated the situations so that every possible baserunning situation was covered and pitchers got a chance to bunt a little. There really was only one LONG inning, instead of the teams going from offense to defense every 3 outs. One team batted for 20 or so outs while the other team fielded. Then they switched places. Every position player on each team got at least 1 AB with a few getting 2. The coaches gave both offensive and defensive signs to add to the realism.

There were no HRs on either side. The biggest blow of the day was a triple to deep CF off the bat of that noted speedster........Pablo Sandoval. Even though it was technically batting practice, both Dunston and Righetti threw quite a bit harder than normal BP. Even so, there was only 1 strikeout by a position player. In his first AB, Aaron Rowand struck out swinging.

Each team "scored" several runs.......but I'm not sure which team scored the most. As they left the field to end the day......players from both sides were arguing over who "won". The "game" was a very spirited affair with a lot of ragging and chatter coming from both dugouts. It was great to see something resembling a game after all of these months.

As I noted in the photo captions, Benjie Molina took BP but did not participate in the other drills or in the simulated game. Omar Vizquel was absent, which had me fearing for the condition of his sore knee. When I returned to the condo, my fears were confirmed as I learned Omar will have knee surgery and will be out 4-5 weeks. They claim Frandsen will work out more at SS....which means that Durham has won the 2B job (if he hadn't before reporting to camp) and lord knows who will be playing 3B. Scott McClain was taking BP with the big boys and I assume this injury will allow him to get more playing time this spring (absent a trade). It also should allow Eugenio Velez and Ivan Ochoa a little longer look-see. All in all....not a good thing. Omar needed this spring to get his batting stroke back.

It felt so good sitting in the sun watching almost real baseball, that I just had to go over to my pre and post game haunt...the Blue Moose for a beer and a sandwich after practice. Hey the fans have to get into regular season "playing" form too.

Well, thats about it for today. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 4 inning intra-squad game. This time a REAL game with live pitching and 3 outs per inning. I am told that they will be bringing a few pitchers over from the Minor League camp to do most of the pitching. The rationale is that the Giants have split squad games on Friday (the second day of ST games) and they will need all of their Major League pitchers for that. That's OK by me. I am looking forward to seeing some of the lower Minor League kids pitch. I'm getting a little tired of photographing the same guys day after day anyway.

By the way...the predicted high for the first Spring Training game on Thursday??? An even 80 degrees. I may just have to drink a beer or two on Thursday too.

Before the simulated game, 35 year old Crash Davis........I mean Scott to take BP with the big boys on the main field.

I also had the opportunity to get a rare shot of Clay Timpner at bat.

Nate Schierholtz takes off for 2B during baserunning drills before the simulated game.

Jonathan Sanchez tries his hand at bunting the runner over. He was successful.