Posted on: April 25, 2010 10:03 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2010 10:13 pm

3 to watch: The almost Cy vs. Cy edition

This is the week you really wish you could tweak a couple of pitching rotations.

This is the week the Mariners play the Royals -- but 2009 Cy Young rivals Felix Hernandez (pitching Monday) and Zack Greinke (pitching Tuesday) miss each other by a day.

This is the week the Phillies play the Giants -- but possible 2010 Cy Young rivals Roy Halladay (pitching Monday) and Tim Lincecum (pitching Wednesday) miss each other by two days.

That's fine, because this is also the week the Tigers and Twins get together for the first time this season. So, with no power to change rotations, we'll stick with the American League Central rivals to lead off this week's 3 to watch:

1. The Twins never led the division by more than one game last year -- and they didn't even hold that lead until two days after the regular season was scheduled to end. The Twins already lead by three games this year, and one scout who saw them recently declared, "If they had a legitimate closer, they'd be one of the top three teams in baseball." We're not sure about that, but we are sure that the Twins and Tigers played the best single game we saw all last season. Their first meeting since comes this week, in Twins at Tigers, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Comerica Park . Justin Verlander, who finished third in last year's Cy Young voting, faces Francisco Liriano, who is off to the kind of start that could get him into this year's Cy race.

2. Not everyone predicted that the Twins would be this good. Believe it or not, someone (that would be me) picked the White Sox to win the AL Central. Hey, it still could happen, especially if the White Sox keep up this weekend's one game-winning homer a day pace -- or if Jake Peavy (7.66) and Gavin Floyd (8.38) recover to have two of the best ERAs in the AL, instead of two of the worst. Peavy, Floyd and the Sox get another chance this week, with Peavy starting in White Sox at Rangers, Wednesday night (8:05 EDT) at Rangers Ballpark .

3. It's not Halladay vs. Lincecum, as we hoped for. But it is Lincecum against the two-time NL champs, and we'll take that. Over the last two years, Lincecum's ERA against the Phillies: 1.24. The Phillies' run total in the other 338 (regular-season) games they played: 5.07. Lincecum starts against Cole Hamels, in Phillies at Giants, Wednesday afternoon (3:45 EDT) at AT&T Park .

Posted on: February 26, 2010 4:03 pm
Edited on: February 26, 2010 4:17 pm

'He might hit .500'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There's something different about Pablo Sandoval this spring, and it's not his size.

It's those goggles.

It turns out that when Sandoval was hitting .330 with 25 home runs for the Giants last year, he couldn't see. Or at least, that his vision out of his left eye wasn't that good.

So when a eye test in November showed that his vision wasn't 20-20, Sandoval got glasses. He wore them in Venezuela over the winter, and he was wearing them this morning during live batting practice at the Giants' spring training camp.

"It's so clear now," Sandoval said.

His teammates think about what Sandoval did last year, and just shake their heads.

"He's says he couldn't see the ball," said Bengie Molina. "It's going to be scary [this year]. He might end up hitting .500."

Manager Bruce Bochy said Sandoval isn't the first hitter with less-than-perfect vision, pointing to Tony Gwynn as one example.

"He's just an incredible athlete," Bochy said. "It's hard enough to hit a baseball [with good vision]. Hopefully this makes Pablo even better."

For now, the goggles are the big difference for Sandoval. Despite all the talk about his offseason conditioning program, he looks to be about the same size as he was last year.

But now he can see, and now maybe he'll hit even better than .330.

"I don't know," Sandoval said. "We'll see when the season starts."


Molina said he's still surprised that the Mets never moved off their initial one-year, $5.5 million offer when he was a free agent over the winter. Molina eventually signed back with the Giants for a guaranteed $4.5 million, but with incentives that could pay him another $1.5 million.

"Why go to New York for one year and not see my family?" Molina said. "Three months, and they never changed their offer. That shows me they weren't that interested."

Molina knew the Giants wouldn't go past one year, because they eventually want to hand the catching job to Buster Posey. But he was pleased with the chance for one more season with the team he has been with for the last three years.

"I love this place," Molina said.

Category: MLB
Posted on: February 12, 2010 12:03 pm

A deal that had to get done

Tim Lincecum's new contract doesn't matter in the way that Felix Hernandez's contract mattered, or Josh Johnson's contract mattered, or Justin Verlander's contract mattered.

But for Lincecum and the Giants, it does matter.

Player and team avoided an arbitration hearing neither of them needed by agreeing to a two-year, $23 million deal that makes sense for both sides. While it doesn't add a day to the time Lincecum is committed to stay in San Francisco (he's still not eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season), it avoids the resentment and/or disappointment that would have been inevitable had the sides gone to a hearing.

It's a huge raise for Lincecum, who made just $650,000 last year, when he wasn't arbitration-eligible. But after back-to-back Cy Youngs, it's hard to argue that it's not a deserved raise. It's better for the Giants than risking that they would lose in arbitration and pay him $13 million for this year alone, and better for Lincecum than risking that he would lose and make $8 million.

And for the rest of us, including for Giants fans? Sorry, but it really doesn't matter that much.
Category: MLB
Posted on: September 11, 2009 11:59 am

Watching the weekend (baseball style)

The pennant races aren’t close, and it’s the first full football weekend. You’re excused if your mind isn’t totally on baseball right now.

That’s what we’re here for, to keep you up on what you have to know. So here’s what to look for in your limited non-football time this weekend:

1. Derek’s big night (or big day): No, it’s not nearly as big a deal as the New York media has made it into. But Derek Jeter needs one more hit to pass Lou Gehrig for the Yankees’ all-time record, and it figures to be a pretty cool moment at Yankee Stadium when he gets it. Jeter has hit safely in 12 of his 15 games against the Orioles this year. He’s never faced Chris Tillman, who starts tonight, or Brian Matusz, who starts Saturday.

2. The Giants and Dodgers: The Giants, now four games behind the Rockies, can’t afford to lose to the Dodgers. The Dodgers, now just two games ahead of the Rockies, can’t afford to lose to the Giants. Oh, and of course, everyone in San Francisco hates the Dodgers -- including Brad Penny, the ex-Dodger who starts for the Giants on Sunday. Should be fun.

3. The Rockies road: Colorado took charge of the wild-card race with a 9-1 homestand, but now the Rockies start on a three-city road trip. Worth noting: The Rox are 9-10 on their last three trips. Also worth noting: Top starter Ubaldo Jimenez has been scratched from a Saturday start in San Diego, because of a sore left hamstring. The good news: Jimenez should be able to start Tuesday in San Francisco. One last Rockies note: With the three games in San Francisco, three later on in Los Angeles and three at home against the Cardinals, the Rockies don’t have the easiest of schedules the rest of the way.

4. At home in the Central: The Twins are a bad road team. The Tigers are worse. And the White Sox aren’t too good away from home, either. Keep that in mind this weekend, as the Tigers begin a seven-game homestand against the Blue Jays and Royals, and the Twins begin a nine-game homestand against the A’s, Indians and Tigers. Meanwhile, the White Sox head back out to the West Coast to play the Angels.

5. What about the Rangers? Will Josh Hamilton return tonight? Will Michael Young come back next week? Will the Texas pitching hold up? Are the Rangers a real threat to either the Red Sox or Angels? Texas opens a nine-game homestand tonight against the Mariners, so maybe we’ll start getting some answers.
Posted on: September 1, 2009 7:32 pm

Penny: I'd go back to AL East

PHILADELPHIA -- Brad Penny's career ERA in the National League is 4.06. In five months in the American League East with the Red Sox, his ERA was 5.61, the worst of any full-time starting pitcher in baseball.

And yet, Penny said Tuesday, he credits the Red Sox with rescuing his career. And, he said, he'd happily return to the AL East when he's a free agent at the end of the season.

"I'd go back," said Penny, who will start for the Giants Wednesday night against the Phillies. "I think if I make my pitches against anyone, I'll do fine. . . . Sometimes you don't get breaks. I was making some bad pitches, and leaving some balls up. In the AL East, you can't really do that."

Penny struggled through shoulder problems last year with the Dodgers, and he still has hard feelings against some in the Dodger organization. When he was told that the Giants' AT&T Park features 42,000 fans who hate the Dodgers, Penny quickly said: "42,001."

His feelings towards the Red Sox are much better, in large part because of the program the Red Sox designed to strengthen his shoulder.

"I'm glad I went over there," he said. "I'm not sure I'd be pitching now if I went anywhere else."

Now he's pitching for the Giants, who hope that Penny can enjoy the same kind of National League revival that his former Boston teammate John Smoltz has. Penny had a choice of teams when he was released by the Red Sox, but he was so sure that he'd be a Giant that he rooted for the team while watching the weekend series with the Rockies.

While there was talk that Penny would return to the Marlins, he said that was never a very real possibility.

"Honestly, I wasn't going to Florida," he said. "I want to play in front of some fans."
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 29, 2009 12:42 pm
Edited on: July 29, 2009 4:19 pm

Giants focus on Sanchez

After trading for Ryan Garko on Monday night, the Giants are determined to add another hitter, and Pirates second baseman Freddy Sanchez remains atop their list.

Sources said that while the teams were still talking about a possible deal today, the Giants have some concerns about Sanchez's sore left knee and the Pirates continue to talk to other teams.

It's not Sanchez or nothing for the Giants, who also continue to watch Toronto's Marco Scutaro and Kansas City's Mark Teahen, sources say.

Sanchez hasn't played since Sunday. With the Pirates in San Francisco this week, he has already been examined by the Giants doctors, but it's expected they will look at him again before signing off on the trade. Sanchez told reporters that he doesn't expect to play until Friday.

The Twins have also shown interest in Sanchez.

Posted on: June 4, 2009 11:46 pm

Dunn: 'He thought it was a strike'

WASHINGTON -- Adam Dunn is right. It's a little much to say that history turned on one strike-three call by Tim Timmons.

But it's also true that if not for that call, Randy Johnson would still have 299 wins -- for now. If not for that call, the fine people of Arizona would be eagerly anticipating Johnson's second try at a 300th win, Tuesday night in the ballpark he once called home.

Here's what happened: Eighth inning Thursday, Giants leading the Nationals, 2-1. Two out, bases loaded, Johnson in line for the win and Giants closer Brian Wilson on the mound facing Dunn, the Nats' cleanup hitter. Ball four means a tie game, and a no-decision for Johnson. Strike three means three outs to go for a 300th win.

The pitch sure looked low. Timmons called it a strike. Dunn appeared to disagree.

"Good pitch," he said later.

Seen a replay?

"Nope," Dunn said. "Don't need to. Good pitch."

Any chance that Timmons' call was influenced by the moment?

"C'mon," Dunn said. "Tim's not going to think that quick. He thought it was a strike. Therefore, it is a strike."

A strike that made history.

"If that goes down in history, then baseball needs a new history," Dunn said. "I'll give you this: If [Johnson] doesn't win another game in his career, I'll say it's historic. But I'm going to say he's going to win another game."

So are we. But we're also going to say Timmons' call -- and Dunn's strikeout -- are now part of 300-win history.
Posted on: June 4, 2009 4:42 pm

5:10 ET first pitch for attempt at 300

WASHINGTON -- The tarp is off the field, and the plan now is for tonight's Giants-Nationals game to start at 5:10 ET.

Randy Johnson is the Giants starter, in his first try at 300 wins.
Category: MLB
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