Author Archive

San Francisco Giants’ Barry Zito Could Have First Career-Ending Sprain

San Francisco Giants left-hander Barry Zito sprained a ligament in his foot on Saturday night and had to leave a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

A strained ligament can only be so serious, right?

Listening to manager Bruce Bochy describe the nature of the injury on his KNBR pregame radio show Sunday gave the impression that the Giants organization could be viewing Zito’s freak injury as an opportunity to keep the struggling pitcher out of the starting rotation—for a good, long while.

“He sprained a ligament in the middle of his foot,” Bochy said on KNBR.

“It’s the type injury where Barry could be out two or three weeks…or two or three months. He needs to have some more tests done to determine the severity of the injury.”

Strained foot ligament and he’s out three months?

Zito is in the fifth season of the seven-year, $127 million free-agent contract he signed with the Giants. Zito is 40-45 as a Giant, but has pitched far worse than the record indicates and nowhere near like the Cy Young Award winner he was with the Oakland Athletics

The Giants have tried to minimize the impact of Zito’s struggles on the pitching staff that led the club to the world championship in 2010. For instance, after pitching terribly down the stretch, the 32-year-old was left off of the postseason roster last fall.

He was relegated to the bullpen, briefly, earlier in his career with the Giants.

Zito, however, has never missed a big league start due to injury—never. That made it impossible for the Giants to use the DL to get Zito out of the rotation, in spite of the fact the teams use the DL very creatively to sideline players who are struggling.

Zito’s iron-man reputation kept them from exercising the “dead arm” excuse to a struggling starting pitcher who just needs to disappear.

The New York Yankees put young Phil Hughes on the DL last week with a “dead arm.” His velocity dropped precipitously during spring training and kept dropping when this regular season began.

Hughes has had arm problems in the past, so a “dead arm” it was.

Zito’s fastball topped out at 82 mph on Saturday night in Arizona. Then he strained a ligament in the middle of his foot. The Giants rushed him to the disabled list, replacing him with veteran minor leaguer Ryan Vogelsong early Sunday morning.

Zito could well have suffered the first career-ending ligament strain in the history of Major League Baseball. 

The Giants have an opportunity now to put Vogelsong in the fifth spot in the rotation, keep Zito on the sidelines and do so without answering questions about the $127 million contract or their plan for Zito.

Zito can’t be a big-league relief pitcher and the Giants know that.

Neither the Giants nor Zito would be served by sending him to the minor leagues. 

Now, Zito has given the organization an out—a way to see if Vogelsong can be a low-cost answer in the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Zito set the bar pretty low and Vogelsong was brilliant in spring training, as well as in his initial starts with Fresno in the Pacific Coast League.

If Vogelsong pitches well in Zito’s absence, the concern ceases to be Zito’s struggles; the concern, rather, will be figuring out a way to keep Vogelsong on the big-league roster and in the rotation.

See how it works?

The Giants can figure out what to do with Zito and spin it as the organization doing him a favor by trading him to a team that’ll pay a portion of his salary and is looking for an innings-eater. They can spin unloading Zito as making room for the feel-good story that Vogelsong is on the verge of becoming.

Zito’s a good dude, no question. He has never drawn much criticism in this spot. The reality is that he and the Giants need to part ways. Whether that happens soon is, largely, in the hands of Ryan Vogelsong and doctors who will struggle to deal with Zito’s pesky injury.

Don’t be surprised if the strained ligament in Zito’s foot ends his career, at least in San Francisco. 


Ted Sillanpaa can be reached at

Read more MLB news on

San Francisco Giants Should Stick with Plan: Start Zito, Pitch Lincecum Thursday

Don’t ask. It’s a bad idea.

The only reason the suggestion even need be entertained is because it’s already been put forward. People who over-analyze everything and think they know which of the final six games of the season will be most important are calling for the Giants to pull Barry Zito from the starting rotation and get Tim Lincecum two starts this week.

Some folks want manager Bruce Bochy to start the final week of the season by virtually announcing that Sunday’s regular season finale against the Padres will be for all of the playoff marbles—thus, he absolutely needs Lincecum to pitch it.

Thank heavens panic-driven keyboard jockeys or armchair pitching coaches aren’t calling the shots for San Francisco.

The Giants shouldn’t alter their starting rotation in the final week of the season in order to get Lincecum two starts, including one on Sunday.

Monday’s off day gives the Giants the opportunity to rejigger the rotation to pitch Lincecum on regular rest Wednesday against the Diamondbacks, then again on Sunday against the Padres to end the season. It also allows them to keep Zito from starting even one of the regular season’s final six games.

The Giants have a young pitching staff that has bounced back from a horrible August. Fans insisting that Lincecum pitch Wednesday so that he can pitch again on short rest Sunday are assuming they know that the NL West race will come down to the last day of the regular season. They’re also forgetting how poorly an apparently worn-out Lincecum pitched in August.

Lincecum’s on track and he’s pitching as well as he ever has. So, fans who believe that a sure-thing exists in the final week of the season are better off agreeing that Lincecum should pitch Wednesday against the Diamondbacks when his regular spot in the rotation comes around.

There are no sure things in the National League playoff race, obviously, but one can reasonably expect a strong outing by Lincecum against Arizona on Wednesday.

Mess around with the rotation to get Lincecum an extra start and suddenly the Giants are taking a starting rotation that has carried them to first place with six games left and turning it into a panic-induced hodge podge.

Jonathan Sanchez starts on Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, followed by Madison Bumgarner on Wednesday. Lincecum is due to start on Thursday. That leaves Matt Cain to open the San Diego series, followed by Zito on Saturday and Sanchez on Sunday.

The case can be made for keeping Zito out of the rotation, sure. But, that would be to overlook that the veteran left-hander has come within one out of three quality starts in his last four outings.

Quality starts? Zito? Three in his last four games?

Yep. A quality start only requires that a starter pitch six innings and give up three runs or fewer.

Zito got hit around in Saturday’s loss to Colorado—that turned out to be a game the Giants should’ve won long after he was gone. Before that, though, Zito gave up two runs in six innings against the Brewers and just one unearned run in 5 2/3 in a 1-0 loss to the Dodgers. The lefty gave up two runs in six innings in a 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks on Sept. 8. In fact, Zito struck out seven and walked just three versus Arizona.

Take a deep breath and admit that the Giants should’ve won Zito’s start against the Rockies. And, really, could’ve won with two measly runs when he faced the Dodgers. Wins in those games and, all of a sudden, nobody’s talking about re-working the rotation right now.

No one really wants the Giants’ playoff fate to come down to Lincecum pitching on three days rest on Sunday. At least, no one in their right mind wants it to come to that. The fear that Zito will pitch poorly on Wednesday and that Sanchez will wind up pitching with a playoff spot on the line Sunday is what drives the notion to move Lincecum up one game to start on Thursday.

Oh, fans are also hoping Bochy is planning to manage for seven shutout innings from just four starters in every game this week.


The guy’s a big league manager and he’s going to manage under the assumption that the Giants will score runs on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday—enough, at least, that three well-pitched games will enable the club to sweep Arizona and keep the pressure on San Diego.

Then, Bochy will count on his team getting another strong performance from Cain against the Padres on Friday, followed by the club scoring enough runs Saturday and Sunday so that solid outings by Zito and Sanchez will vault the Giants into the playoffs. (It’ll be all hands on deck Sunday if the playoff spot is on the line, so Sanchez will have every starter waiting to work if he or the bullpen needs help.)

It wasn’t that long ago that some of the folks calling for Lincecum to pitch twice this week, once on three days rest, were saying he was done. Finished. Kaput.

They were even suggesting he rework his offseason conditioning program because, after that horrid August, it was clear that the two-time Cy Young winner needs to be stronger to pitch better down the stretch.

Now, those same people want Lincecum to pitch Wednesday, just so he can hump up and trot out again on Sunday in what they seem oddly certain will be a must-win game against San Diego?

When a pitcher is pitching as well as Lincecum is, the last thing he needs is to have his schedule changed. Can he pitch on regular rest Wednesday and, in theory, pitch well on short rest Sunday? Yeah, sure.

Can Bochy be certain that Lincecum won’t pitch eight shutout innings and lose 1-0 when the bullpen yields an unearned run on Wednesday? No. If that were to happen and the Padres were to win on Wednesday, it would only increase the chances that the Giants entire season will rest on what happens on Sunday.

Big league managers in Bochy‘s position plan to make the next game a must-win affair. There’s no more important game on the schedule than Tuesday’s against Arizona. 

It’s foolish to think that the Giants can plan to earn a playoff spot by getting optimum performances from Sanchez, Bumgarner, Lincecum, and Cain in the final six games of the seasons. They might get six great starts from those four…or they might need six runs to even stay in the game on Thursday or Friday.

Build the rotation solely to get to a one-game season with Lincecum on three days rest on Sunday and the Giants are begging to find their season rest on the shoulders of Ramon Ramirez, Dan Runzler, or Santiago Casilla…on the season’s final day.

Do the Giants want Zito and, at some point, the bullpen on Wednesday against the Diamondbacks?

Or, do they want to risk the chance that the Giants’ fate will be determined on the last day of the season and rely on Lincecum, on short rest, and the bullpen against the Padres?

The five guys in the starting rotation have gotten this team to the brink of a playoff spot. Bochy‘s done a pretty nice job ignoring the media and fans who keep insisting he’s a bonehead who just happens to have his club in first place.

Bochy should expect the Padres to open play Tuesday tied with his club for the NL West lead. Then, he should manage to win on Tuesday and Wednesday—while, maybe, the Padres are losing two straight. That would put the Giants up by two games with four to play.

There’s as much chance that the Giants, or Padres, will enter the final series three games behind with three games to play as there is that the season will come down to Sunday, right?

Thursday’s game against Arizona is a thousand miles away. Only someone who doesn’t pay close attention to how the unexpected is the norm in a baseball playoff race can even see Sunday from here.

Stay with the rotation that’s gotten the Giants to this point—and count on the offense and the bullpen that’s done enough to put the Giants on the brink of a playoff spot.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

San Francisco Giants: Losing Torres Gives Them Reason To Test Drive Ford

Andres Torres, the center fielder and lead-off hitter, is the most irreplaceable member of the San Francisco Giants‘ lineup.

The Giants have to replace him, though, because he’s out for the remainder of the regular season following surgery on his appendix.

Naturally, manager Bruce Bochy responded to Torres being sidelined Sunday by inserting Aaron Rowand in the lead-off spot, playing center field. Rowand went hitless in five at-bats, showing how he wound up buried on the bench as the fifth, perhaps sixth outfielder (Cody Ross has played ahead of Rowand since arriving from Florida, and Nate Schierholtz is clearly more important to the Giants than Rowand, too).

The Giants can’t play the final 18 games of the season with Rowand playing center field, let alone batting lead-off. No way.

The obvious alternative to Rowand would be Ross. He’s a proven big league hitter who can play center field. Being the obvious alternative doesn’t make Ross a viable, let alone a productive alternative to the ailing Torres or Rowand.

Schierholtz? No. The club has tried dozens of combinations in an effort to come up with a consistent outfield rotation, and Schierholtz in center has never been considered an option.

Darren Ford, the 24-year-old rookie who hit a paltry .258 at Double-A Richmond, is an interesting alternative. He’s shown he can change games with his speed on the bases. The speed enables him to cover more ground in center than either Ross or Rowand. It’s possible, however, that Ford simply can’t handle big league pitching.

The Giants don’t really have time to think about what Ford, Ross, and Rowand can or can’t do. They know what Rowand provides. They likely figure that Ross would provide a little more, but not a great deal more, than Rowand.

Ford, however, provides the defense and speed that the Giants need—and, really, how much would he have to hit to hit more than Rowand?

Before falling back to the obvious fallback positions (Ross or Rowand) with Torres out, Bochy should try Ford in center and bat him in the eighth spot in the order. Bump Freddy Sanchez up to the lead-off spot. Maybe, shoot Buster Posey to the No. 2 hole—sure, he’s a middle-of-the-order RBI guy, but batting second means he’ll bat in the first inning in every game and maybe get an extra at-bat every day.

Opposing pitchers will at least give Ford a fighting chance if he’s hitting eighth ahead of the pitcher.

He doesn’t have to get on base three times a game. Ford just needs to get on base once or twice, any way he can, and then Bochy needs to sit back and see if he can steal a run in a season where one run could be the difference between a playoff spot and heading home the first Monday in October.

Bochy has surprised Giants fans lately with his willingness to acknowledge that runners in motion are more likely to produce runs than waiting for the three-run home run. Perhaps, he’ll surprise fans again and give the mercurial Ford a chance.


Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

San Francisco Giants Take Fascinating, Gut-Wrenching Path To Tie for First Place

Where were we?

Oh, right, nothing about yesterday’s game matters once today’s game starts.

The Giants belted the Padres 7-3 to win the opener of the important four-game NL West series Thursday in San Diego. Giants fans were roaring that everything had fallen into place.

Then on Friday night, the Giants squeaked out a gut-wrenching and fascinating 1-0 win over the Padres to move into a tie for the NL West lead.

San Francisco SP Jonathan Sanchez pieced together the five most maddening shutout innings that one could imagine. Five scoreless innings despite seven walks prove that even big league hitters aren’t crazy comfortable hitting against a guy with nasty stuff but no idea where the ball’s going.

San Diego’s Clayton Richard, an All-American sort who looks like he fell off the front of a Wheaties box, was breezing through the same Giants who crushed four home runs Thursday night. If he did not make quick work of the Giants, Sanchez and his search for the strike zone might have resulted in the top of the utterly intriguing seventh inning starting somewhere around midnight.

Truly, the top of the seventh might have been the most intriguing half inning a Giants fan has witnessed all year.

Richard hit Huff with a pitch to start the sixth. The lefty was cruising, but his first pitch was a ball to right-hand hitting Pat Burrell. It was Richard’s 85th pitch of the game. It was also his last. Manager Bud Black replaced Richard with righty Luke Gregerson. Richard was wavering and Black, understandably, didn’t want the next misplaced pitch to float out over the middle of the plate to Burrell.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in contrast, let Sanchez work through his walk on the wild side, figuring the lefty had pitched two wonderful games and that the Padres hadn’t solved him through five.

Still, once Sanchez escaped a jam in the fifth with a double play ground ball, Bochy pulled Sanchez with his shutout still in tact. There have been times in his tenure with the Giants where Bochy might have stuck with Sanchez as long as the game was scoreless. Credit him for calling the pitcher down from the tight rope and giving the game to the bullpen in an important game on Friday. (Also, remember the move when the pitcher bats for himself to start the sixth inning of a scoreless tie in April. All games are not created equal.)

Bochy deserves credit for sending Huff as Burrell struck out. The knock on the manager has been that he’s unwilling to put baserunners in motion or try to create runs. When he put Huff in motion, the first baseman stole his sixth base of the season.

Jose Guillen hit the ball hard into the hole at shortstop. Baseball rules dictate that a ball hit in front of a runner, like Huff, at second base requires the runner to stay put. Huff, however, broke at the crack of the bat because he thought the ball was going to scoot past Miguel Tejada into left field. (Don’t believe the talk of aggressive baserunning. Huff’s a veteran and breaking for third there means he misread the ball off the bat.)

Two things happened that didn’t have to happen and both benefited the Giants.

Tejada could’ve thrown out Guillen easily at first base, leaving Gregersen to deal with slumping Juan Uribe with Huff at third and two out. Instead, Tejada threw to third base where Huff should’ve been out.

However, third baseman Chase Headley was oddly positioned on the outfield side of the bag and had to take the throw with only Huff’s bent right trail leg to tag. Huff’s left foot reached the bag first. Headley was guilty of anticipating, rather than simply covering third base, straddling it so that a simple tag would’ve nailed Huff.

Now, Nate Schierholtz won’t go down as one of the Giants’ all-time playoff stretch heroes, but his takeout slide that kept Padres second baseman David Eckstein from doubling up Uribe on a bouncer to third allowed Huff to score.

Inside baseball note: Eckstein didn’t position himself with his left foot on the outside of the base to protect himself from Schierholtz, who has shown a few times his best position might be fullback. If Eckstein had been more on the left field side of the bag, Schierholtz would’ve needed to slide after he reached the base, but Eckstein would have still been able to get Uribe. Instead, Schierholtz had time to reach and take Eckstein’s legs out from under him.

Fans will long remember the home run barrage on Thursday night, but that seventh inning sequence that plated the lone run will go down as a wonderful example of why true baseball fans simply love the game. Headley was just slightly out of position. Huff read base hit to left. Tejada made the right play, but it turned out to be the wrong play.

Then, the Giants bullpen kept the door closed for four innings on what has been a resourceful San Diego offense.

Simply magnificent.

Bochy, again, showed that fans who groan that he isn’t suited to manage this Giants team are wrong. His willingness to let Sanchez work in and out of jams proved that sometimes the best thing a manager can do is be patient and do nothing. Then, when he does something, do it quickly and don’t look back.

Everything starts new with the first pitch on Saturday.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

San Francisco Giants’ Win Shows Burrell, Posey, Cain Mean More Than Momentum

The Giants‘ offensive outburst in the first game of the four-game series in San Diego gives them momentum in the NL West showdown.

San Francisco will assuredly keep the momentum gained in a 7-3 win over the Padres if starting pitchers Matt Cain and John Garland can miraculously return to the mound tonight with exactly the same stuff they possessed on Thursday.

Since Cain can’t duplicate his masterful performance for San Francisco, and Garland won’t be out there to help the Giants make Petco Park play like a band box, all momentum gained on Thursday ends when the first pitch is thrown on Friday.

Different starting pitchers. Different lineups. If Jonathan Sanchez can pitch as well as Cain did, the Giants could keep the momentum, especially if Padres starter Clayton Richard struggles like Garland did in helping San Francisco’s batting order look like the 1927 New York Yankees in the series-opener.

Giants fans will choose to believe that the club’s superior heart, desire and focus resulted in the boys’ bats heating up at the start of a four-game offensive explosion. The Padres’ faithful will rest assured that Richard will pitch well and that San Diego hitters will solve Sanchez a little more easily than they did Cain.

So, let’s consider what we do know from the Giants opening-night win:

** Fans who griped all season long about the Giants’ decision to extend second baseman Freddy Sanchez’s contract must feel silly. Or, perhaps, they don’t understand the value of brilliant defense in the middle infield and a big league hitter who finds ways to get things going.


** The value of Andres Torres to the Giants’ batting order can’t be disputed. That lead-off knock to start the game made a big difference.

** The Giants wouldn’t be one game out of the NL West (and NL wild-card) race without Pat Burrell. That home run that he sent into orbit, crashing off the brick wall of the building that occupies space inside Petco Park, brought back memories of the old Giants teams that specialized in the home run.

** Cody Ross is pressing to perform in a playoff race and make the Marlins seem even more foolish in giving him away on waivers. He might want to stop choking the ash out of the handle of the bat and just let the game come to him.

** There are some who see young outfielder Darren Ford’s mind-bending speed on the bases and quietly think, “I wonder if he might not merit a start or an at-bat as a late-inning defensive replacement … just to see if he can show an ability to work his way on base from time to time, down the stretch.

** Folks who cringed when the Giants passed on trying to obtain Miguel Tejada should be acknowledging that the organization’s decision was money well saved. There’s not a lick of defense, at the plate or in the field, between Tejada and Juan Uribe.

** While the well known Giants “insiders” ponder rhetorical questions regarding which starting pitcher they’d pick to start a one-game playoff, they might slow down before insisting that Tim Lincecum is the only logical choice. Cain has made the case that he has become the club’s most reliable, and effective, starting pitcher. Things could change if Lincecum turns in a third straight gem on Sunday.


** The Giants should sign Aubrey Huff to a longer-term deal in the off-season. He came up big on Thursday, as he has all season. The club has no young first baseman or middle-of-the-order bat ready to jump to the big leagues any time soon. The metrics and comparative salaries that dominate off-season chatter won’t reflect Huff’s true value to the Giants.

** Burrell’s reputation, his personality, means nothing to Giants fans as long as he’s swinging the bat well. A reader complained that Burrell reported arrogance is “rubbing off” on Buster Posey. Hey, the guy’s not dating a family member so…let’s agree to appreciate what Burrell does with a bat in his hands. Period.

** Posey’s going to be the Giants leader for years to come so, really, a little bit of swagger and some red-ass rubbing off on him would actually be a good thing.

** They’ve pitched well for the most part, but there’s no reason to rush the Giants middle-inning relievers into action. Thus, Sanchez is in a spot where working into the seventh inning would save San Francisco fans some trouble.

** Pablo Sandoval has reached the point where having a healthy Edgar Renteria to play shortstop merits moving Uribe to third base against some pitchers. It would help Sandoval to know he doesn’t have to feel any need to do more than what he’s done all season — heat up, cool off, heat up, cool off. The Giants don’t want him playing the final 21 games pressing to recreate his 2009 performance.


** Bud Black, like every other big league manager, is only as smart as his players make him look. He opted not to walk Posey intentionally in that pivotal point in the fifth inning and Garland served up a home run.

** No, the Giants shouldn’t be thinking about the sizzling Rockies who trail them by a couple of games in the NL West. All the Giants have to do is focus on their game until the clubs open their three-game series in Colorado Sept. 24.

** “Desire,” “heart,” or “wanting it more” will have nothing to do with a single win or loss through the remainder of the season. Every team and every player really wants to help his team get into the playoffs. Great pitching, timely hitting … those things matter.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

San Francisco Giants’ Bold Move Pays Off, Kid Speedster Steals Big Win

The San Francisco Giants did everything most fans insist that they never do and came away with an important win on Thursday night, beating the Colorado Rockies 2-1, to gain a game on the NL West-leading San Diego Padres.

The Giants dipped all the way down to Double-A Richmond to recall 24-year-old outfielder Darren Ford when rosters expanded Wednesday. Ford only batted .256 with a .680 OPS for the Flying Squirrels, but he stole 37 bases and the club remembered his sparkling effort in spring training.

(For an explanation of OPS visit:

General manager Brian Sabean OK’d the call to a kid without a single day of big league experience, then field manager Bruce Bochy utilized Ford’s wheels the minute the kid showed up in the dugout.

Sabean thought outside the box. Bochy did the same, and most importantly, put a completely unproven kid in a pressure spot. (Bochy doesn’t typically use young players, remember?)

With the game tied 1-1 in the eighth, Mike Fontenot drew a walk. Fontenot runs fine. Ford, however, might be one of the fastest guys on any big league roster. Ford ran for Fontenot and broke for second, and was standing on the bag, when Colorado‘s Ubaldo Jimenez fielded Tim Lincecum‘s quite average sacrifice bunt.

Bochy wouldn’t bunt-and-run with many Giants, but he was confident that Ford could steal the bag if LIncecum failed and bunted through the ball.

Guys who run like Ford are bold and, boy, can they read pitches in the dirt.

With Andres Torres at bat, Jimenez threw a pitch that bounced six or eight feet to the left of catcher Miguel Olivo and Ford was off for third as soon as he saw the pitch headed for the dirt. Then, he was streaking to the plate when he saw Olivo‘s desperate throw to third base sail into left field.

It’s hard to imagine many Giants who’d have even broken for third on that pitch. Torres, sure, and maybe Nate Schierholtz. but neither would’ve reached third as quickly as Ford did.

Giants 2, Rockies 1. And, the Giants are three games behind the struggling San Diego Padres in the West and just one and a half games back of the Philadelphia Phillies in the wild-card race.

How stunning was the move to call up Ford, then watch him steal a victory? Well, it overshadowed a sterling, eight-inning outing by Tim Lincecum.

While Giants fans and the media were trying to figure out how Lincecum had slumped so terribly, he quietly struck out nine, walked one and yielded just five hits against a strong Rockies lineup. Only streaking Carlos Gonzalez hit a home run off him to account for the only Colorado run.

Lincecum might be back in the groove, but the story in Wednesday’s game was Darren Ford and the fact that the generally conservative, by-the-book Giants used his incredible speed in a way they’ve never used a player like him before.

Sabean‘s worst critics must give him credit for going along with recalling Ford when, really, most expected his infusion of speed to be the recall of Eugenio Velez. Even those who want Bochy to be fired have to admit  he called on an utterly unproven speed-burner to bunt-and-run and is celebrating a victory as a result.

Sabean and Bochy just did something that makes incredibly good sense, though, and that’s what they are supposed to do.

Ford spent all day in the air and in airports, arrived in the middle of the game—and delivered the victory.

Let’s not forget Lincecum either. If he pitches like that down the stretch, Ford might have more opportunities to steal wins with his wheels.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

No Need For Dontrelle Willis, But Giants Should Stock Up Down Stretch

The San Francisco Giants are still in the playoff chase, even after Monday’s mind-bending loss.

Really, could the gem that Jonathan Sanchez pitched have been wasted any more painfully that it was against Colorado in the series opener?

Could an apparently inspiring win have been lost any more quickly?

The Colorado lead-off hitter reached in the ninth before a misplayed fly ball led to a freaky bounce on an accurate throw to third. The Giants 1-0 edge became a 2-1 Rockies win in an instant.

Moving forward, the Giants do have reason to give great thought to the pending September call-ups. They are in position where they should ponder dropping a player from the 40-man roster to make room for a relief pitcher, or maybe a starter, who can help in the final month.

Players already on the 40-man roster who, most obviously, figure to be recalled are relief pitcher Waldis Joaquin and, potentially, starter Henry Sosa. The pen will get a lift when Dan Runzler returns from the disabled list. Chris Ray and Guillermo Mota will also come off the DL, but history indicates that won’t necessarily make the bullpen better.

The Giants have no business adding veteran Dontrelle Willis to the 40-man roster. First, adding him means dropping a player from the 40-man for a completely fallen star. Second, left-hander Matt Yourkin and right-hander Steve Edlefsen are far more deserving of a spot on the 40-man and in the big leagues in September.

Willis has only pitched in three games in Fresno. In three innings, the struggling veteran has walked four, given up two hits and allowed three runs. The southpaw Yourkin, who could start or relieve in San Francisco, is 7-8 with 4.36 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in 130 innings—mostly as a starter. Edlefsen is 7-1 with a 2.04 ERA and six saves coming out of Fresno’s bullpen.

Edlefsen is a career Giants farmhand who merits the big league bid more than Yourkin, at least based on numbers. Yourkin, however, is a journeyman who would give the club a fourth lefty in the pen. The Giants would get more use out of Yorkin as a situational lefty or, perhaps, as a spot starter to give the beleaguered rotation a break heading into September.

The players most likely to be dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for Yourkin, Edlefsen, or Willis include left-hand reliever Alex Hinshaw, right-hand starter Kevin Puecetas and journeyman utilityman Eugenio Velez.

The Giants can make a case for either of those pitchers having long-term value. Velez has the potential for short-term help as a pinch-runner or pinch-hitter. But, really, he has too often squandered opportunities to keep a big league job. How much help, really, will Velez provide in this playoff chase?

The Giants would be wise to trim Velez from the 40-man roster and add Yourkin, simply because the starting pitchers need a break and there isn’t a starting pitcher in the pen right now. And, there’s always a need for another lefty reliever.

Emmanuel Burris can be recalled to provide late-inning defense up the middle and pinch-run. Ryan Rohlinger could help at shortstop where Juan Uribe has played every single day since Edgar Renteria was hurt.

There are other hitters for the Giants to consider.

First baseman Brett Pill is on the 40-man roster and has a solid season in Fresno. Brandon Belt is, clearly, the first baseman of the Giants’ future. Belt is not on the 40-man, so bringing him up after hitting .217 in six games at Triple-A doesn’t make sense. There’s use for a right-handed bat like Pill.

Pablo Sandoval has finally gotten hot at the plate, but has become a defensive liability at third base. Lefty-swinging third baseman Conor Gillaspie hit .290 with a .350 on-base percentage for Double-A Richmond. The former first-round draft pick has six homers and 63 RBIs. He has 16 errors for the Flying Squirrels, but he still merits a spot in San Francisco in September.

Gillespie could pave the way to move Sandoval to first base some down the stretch—and fill in if Sandoval is needed to catch in an emergency. It would be nice to see and show where’s the young third baseman stands as a prospect.

The Giants could make recalls on the cheap. Save the meal money and hotel costs to house the extra players for 30 days. With a playoff spot there for the taking and the knowledge that we never know when the least likely player becomes the most inexplicable hero, the Giants should call all hands on deck.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

San Francisco Giants Benched Rowand, Waited on Sandoval, Added Guillen: Next?

Fans haven’t been hesitant to point to the player or the plan that keeps the San Francisco Giants from soaring to the top of the NL West and well past the field in the wild-card race.

As it turns out, though, most things that fans insisted the Giants do to get things going have been done and things haven’t gone very well at all in the last month. The club is on the verge of falling out of the division race and has to keep pace with the Philadelphia Phillies, a tall order, to win the Wild Card.

It almost seems as though fans are…grasping at straws and calling for change for the sake of change. No!

Here’s a quick look at the most common complaints fans had, how the Giants addressed them and their impact on club that had gone 12-14 entering the final two games of August.

“Call up Buster Posey… now!”

The fear was that the organization was going to play it cheap and not recall Posey until June. Remember all that talk about the arbitration clock? Well, the club called on the phenom in May. Then, a deal that sent Bengie Molina to Texas made Posey the everyday catcher. Posey has had a magnificent season.

Calling Posey up sooner than later didn’t prevent the August meltdown.

“Don’t break up the starting rotation.”

Fans who believed the Milwaukee Brewers would trade Prince Fielder for Jonathan Sanchez notwithstanding, it was generally considered key that the Giants not trade a member of the starting rotation to get a full-time, run-producer. Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner stayed put.

Fans who insisted that the starting rotation would save the Giants have noted that it has been the club’s biggest problem over the last month.

“It’s Barry Zito’s fault!”

That’s not really a fan request, but most fans mumbled it when the Giants had a lineup without a big league hitter. In fact, now isn’t a bad time to mumble, “It’s Zito’s fault that … ” and add “the Giants couldn’t sign a big-time slugger” or “trade for Roy Oswalt and his big contract.” Right?

Mainly, though, Zito was outstanding early and then just OK. Now, he’s fallen on hard times yet hasn’t been any worse than his peers in the rotation were in August.

“They have to bench Aaron Rowand!”

Duly noted, obviously, because Rowand is buried deep on the Giants bench.

Getting Rowand out of the lineup didn’t exactly ignite a hot streak in August, did it?


“Add a big ‘bat’ right now!”

The Giants rescued left fielder Pat Burrell from the scrap heap and he has returned to somewhere near the form he showed when he was one of the NL’s top home run hitters with Philadelphia.

Burrell filled a spot in the middle of the order and delivered the goods but…

“Man, go get another ‘bat’ to help the pitching!”

Now, it’s easy to grumble, “I meant Adam Dunn or Manny Ramirez,” but the fact remains that Jose Guillen came over from Kansas City and has hit the devil out of the ball. He hasn’t ignited a series of personality conflicts and ruined the clubhouse chemistry either.

Two ‘big bats’ and… the August slump still hit hard.

“The pen stinks! Get some relievers.”

Veterans Javier Lopez and Ramiro Ramirez were acquired in trades. Jeremy Affeldt returned to health.

Apparently, the club needed to acquire Mariano Rivera because faces changed in the pen, but the results remained much the same.

“Shorten the leash on Jonathan Sanchez and yank him when he starts to unravel.”

If only the Giants would give the left-hander the hook sooner than later, right? Well, manager Bruce Bochy routinely replaces Sanchez in the fourth or fifth, even with a lead, if he starts to struggle.

An abundance of faith in Sanchez wasn’t the problem.

“Put John  Bowker in the lineup and let him hit home runs!”

Bowker was hitting .207 with the big club when he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The woeful Pirates have yet to recall Bowker from the minor leagues. So, fans who thought Bowker was the answer have to explain how wrong two organizations are about him.

“What’s Dave Righetti doing? Find a new pitching coach.”

Looking back, it turns out that Righetti was the pitching coach during both of Lincecum’s Cy Young Award seasons. Righetti also presided over the staff in July when the Giants played so well they appeared poised to soar past the NL West-leading San Diego Padres.

Since none of the other things fans have insisted would save the Giants have saved the Giants, guess who becomes a fall guy? The rotation has fallen apart because Righetti’s not doing his job, apparently?

“Just put Andres Torres in the lead-off spot and the whole lineup gets better.”


His club MVP type season might have help keep the club from sinking from sight completely in August.


“Do something about Pablo Sandoval.”

Comcast baseball analyst Mycheal Urban suggested that, perhaps, Sandoval should be sent to the minors in June. Others felt he should bat second, fifth, seventh, eighth, etc. They also said his defense isn’t a problem, but that he needed to hit.

Sandoval’s hitting. His defense is a problem. Ouch!

“Bochy’s gotta go!”

Oddly, when an entire list of sure-fire fixes fail to prevent a tailspin, the manager is the guy who usually gets the blame. Even Bochy’s most ardent critics must have trouble believing the skipper is to blame for Lincecum, Zito, Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner all getting beat like drums at the same time in the same month. And, he likely hasn’t done anything that makes it more difficult for Sandoval to catch the ball then throw it straight.

It’s easy to blame the manager if Guillen can’t get to a fly ball. “Why wasn’t Cody Ross in there?” And, it’s easy to blame the manager if Ross strikes. “Nate Schierholtz should have pinch-hit!”

It’s hard to figure how putting any other manager in Bochy’s spot would’ve helped in August, though.

Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Contact Ted at


Read more MLB news on

Tim Lincecum’s Problems Aren’t Caused by Buster Posey

The notion that Tim Lincecum’s woeful performance in August was prompted by rookie catcher Buster Posey tipping pitches is utterly ridiculous.

Of course, the desperate search to explain how poorly Lincecum has pitched lately leads fans to suggest he cut his hair and has manager Bruce Bochy saying the two-time Cy Young Award winner needs to work harder to get in better condition during the offseason.

Lincecum’s not been above looking for answer in odd places. Before he dropped Friday night’s game to Arizona, 6-0, he opted to change the look of his uniform and wear black stockings with orange stirrups.  There’s more chance that Lincecum just needs to tweak his uniform or trim his hair than there is that he hit the skids because he and Posey don’t work together, as well as the right-hander worked with veteran catcher Bengie Molina.

If Posey is guilty of tipping pitches to the point that he gets Lincecum hit all over the park, why isn’t Matt Cain getting jacked around by opposing hitters?  Why haven’t opposing hitters been hammering closer Brian Wilson’s fastball in every outing? Posey’s catching those guys, too.

Posey might make rookie mistakes like touching the ground with his glove when he wants the pitcher to keep the ball particularly low.  However, the only way that type of thing is the cause for Lincecum’s problems would be if Posey coincidentally worked an entire game without making such mistakes in Lincecum’s few solid outings in recent months.

When Molina was initially traded to the Texas Rangers, simply to make room for Posey behind the plate, media types and the Giants were gleefully reporting that Posey had immediately meshed with the starting pitchers, including with Lincecum.

Lincecum had some good outings with Posey behind the plate, in between his two prolonged slumps this season.  So, Posey didn’t start tipping pitches or making rookie mistakes until after he’d put down fingers for Lincecum in a couple of victories?

Posey’s not to blame for Lincecum’s struggles. Lincecum would be struggling even if Molina were still catching his starts.  Remember, things have gone so poorly for Lincecum that he has altered his wind-up and delivery, at one point in the middle of the game.

It’s doubtful something as simple as changing catchers is the problem if a Cy Young Award winner feels the need to mess with a pitching motion that enabled him to take baseball by storm in 2008 and 2009.

Bochy might be onto something, though.  Bochy’s a baseball guy, through and through. If he says Lincecum’s just tired, and that he’s tired because he didn’t work hard enough in the offseason, the manager is most likely right.  Bochy never calls out his players, let alone a veteran and one of the game’s brightest young stars. For the veteran skipper to flatly state that Lincecum’s tired and lacking cardiovascular and lower body strength, it must be the gospel truth.

Lincecum won’t bounce back this season. He’ll win some games down the stretch, but long gone is the time that the Giants could imagine one of his starts being an automatic victory.

Barry Zito got his fastball back, so Lincecum can get two, three, or four mph back, as well. He just won’t do it this year.  And, while the kid continues to struggle, it won’t be Posey’s fault.


Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

Posey, Burrell, Torres Lead San Francisco Giants in Wild Card Chase

Major League Baseball wasn’t necessarily meant to be enjoyed with one finger extended in an attempt to find a target for today’s round of criticism.

Oh, the 2010 San Francisco Giants have made it easy for fans who want to affix blame, find solutions to every potential problem, and moan about what will go wrong next from Opening Day through the dog days of summer.

The Giants’ talented staff of starting pitchers has hit the skids. Pablo Sandoval, until very recently, lost his stroke after a brilliant 2009 campaign. The big hitter fans wanted never arrived. The bullpen has struggled. The club has yet to clinch first place in the NL West or the wild-card race, so those who find joy in finding misery can always finger general manager Brian Sabean or field manager Bruce Bochy to blame for something.

Not today. Not here. Not with the Giants in the thick of the NL wild-card race and within striking distance of the mercurial NL West leading San Diego Padres (it’s beginning to look like maybe the Padres aren’t going to fold, huh?).

This is a day for the top 10 feel-good stories of the Giants 2010 season:

10. The Giants built an offense on the cheap

No Adam Dunn, but the Giants have big league hitters at virtually every position these days. Jose Guillen can’t run well, but he can hit better than any right fielder the Giants have had in awhile. Pat Burrell (more on him higher up the list) is, to the uninformed fan, swings it like the Giants must have built the batting order around him. Now, they’ve added outfielder Cody Ross from the Marlins (fans will love the guy, honest).

Then, figure that they threw Buster Posey in as the big bat in the overhaul—by recalling him from the minors. A team can’t add that much punch for that minimal financial outlay very often.

9. Pablo Sandoval is finding his mojo

He won’t replicate his 2009 offensive production. Even if he does, fans and the media are ripping his defensive skills (did they actually think he was a good third baseman at some point?). Still, Sandoval’s worked hard and persevered and is swinging the bat well after fans and even some media “insiders” though he should be sent to the minor leagues.

Great story.

8. Travis Ishikawa has a big league job

He’s a late-inning defensive replacement. The guy proved he can play first base everyday in a pinch and produce (he’s also shown he’s not an everyday big leaguer…his value diminishes the more he plays). Fans love the guy. Well, people who value patience and hard work love the guy. Finally, Ishikawa has established himself as a fine pinch-hitter.

Long after fans forget John Bowker, Fred Lewis, and all those guys who were supposed to help save the offense, they’ll be talking about Ishikawa becoming a serviceable big leaguer.

7. Aubrey Huff can play defense

How all those American League teams that employed Huff refused to let this guy play defense is an absolute mystery. His offensive output makes him a guy who will get NL MVP votes, but the great story has been his play on defense.

In spring training, it appeared he’d struggle at first base. Huff was fine, good even. When Buster Posey was recalled to play first base, Huff moved to the outfield. And…he’s a serviceable outfielder with an adequate arm.

Best of all, he’s joyfully accepted the chance to prove he’s a big league defender.

How often do professional athletes happily accept, even joke about, having their role changed three times in less than one season?

Huff’s a guy to keep around awhile.

6. Madison Bumgarner is a big league pitcher

He’s only 21 years old, but…didn’t media types and lots of fans think that his abysmal spring training effort showed that the left-hander was overrated and, worse, a potential bust? His numbers are special because he’s only 21 and because he knows folks were counting him out. It takes stones for a kid to do what he did after losing a starting spot in spring training. He came back and, now, is pitching as well as anyone in the rotation.

5. Aaron Rowand is taking his diminished role like a pro

It might not mean much to fans, but bet that the Giants front office is overjoyed that Rowand is quietly accepting his ever-diminishing role in the lineup. The guy signed a multi-million-dollar free-agent deal and went bust in San Francisco. He lost his starting job to a career minor leaguer after an extended period when making contact with any pitch was a challenge. Now, he’s behind former Florida Marlins star Cody Ross, too.

Rowand hasn’t been heard to utter a single complaint. Fans can boo him and shout about his .230’ish batting average. He gives the appearance he’ll respond like a pro and do whatever he can, in the few times he’s called upon, to help the club. And Rowand is a key clubhouse presence—a veteran leader—so if he wanted to try to completely unhinge the chemistry with media tirades, he surely could.

4. Barry Zito bounced back

He’s struggling right now, but Zito has returned to be an effective big league starting pitcher in 2010. He’ll never truly earn the salary the Giants are paying him—unless he solves the crisis in the Middle East, cures the common cold and wins 20 games.

Everybody seemed so certain that the butt of every Giants’ fans cruelest joke was finished…done. Many roared that Zito was stealing money and that he should simply retire early in 2009.

When you hear a naysayer spouting off about something that, “can’t possibly happen” or about a player who “is absolutely finished,” remind him of the story of Zito in 2010.

3. Pat Burrell salvaged his career to key the bat attack.

It’s impossible to feel sorry for a millionaire, especially one who was getting paid millions to do nothing. Burrell flopped so miserably with the Tampa Bay Rays that they released the veteran outfielder and said, “Here’s your millions of dollars, just leave and give us an empty roster spot.” Burrell’s great seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies were forgotten. He was considered finished at 33 years of age.

The Giants were so desperate for home run power that they gave Burrell a minor league contract and two weeks to prove he could regain the form he showed in Philly. Burrell did the job in Fresno, got a call to San Francisco and …

His story has evolved as the type story that should give fans and general managers hope, regardless of their team’s plight. Paying him virtually nothing, the Giants are being led by the Bay Area native who joins Aubrey Huff to sandwich Buster Posey in the middle of the order.

Burrell brought the Giants the longball power, sure. He’s got 12 homers—two fewer than he had in about 200 games for Tampa Bay. Better, Burrell knows the strike zone and is the patient, veteran hitter that the Giants have lacked for years. Go ahead, gripe that he can’t run and that he isn’t a good defensive left fielder. Just acknowledge his .884 on-base percentage and his 41 walks.

A power hitter…who will take a walk…in the middle of the Giants order. And, another team is paying his salary?

Great story.

2. Buster Posey arrived in the big leagues as advertised

The young catcher arrived in San Francisco exactly as advertised. Well, he arrived as a first baseman for a team that couldn’t hit a lick, but eventually earned the everyday catcher’s job and became the player a franchise can plan to build around for a decade—or more.

The numbers don’t sufficiently explain why Posey has been such a wonderful story for the Giants. He is not only a Rookie of the Year candidate. The kid is clearly a calming presence, mature beyond his years. Since his arrival in May, there hasn’t been a player on the roster who hasn’t briefly appeared to have forgotten how to play the game.

When Posey doesn’t get the job done, it’s because the opposition just outplayed him. He knows, and fans believe, it won’t happen very often.

Who among Giants fans didn’t have some fear that Posey might be a .280 hitter, drive in 75 runs and hit 12 homers? Oh, and, remember all the skeptics who didn’t think he could handle big league pitching?

The story ends with Giants fans breathing a sigh of relief and planning on Posey becoming a Bonds-like franchise cornerstone—a big-time hitter around whom the Giants can build for years to come.

1. Andres Torres emerged as an everyday center fielder

If you like underdogs, you love Andres Torres.

The Giants grabbed Torres from the scrap heap entering spring training 2009. The chances that a 31-year-old outfielder could end 12 years in the minor leagues by becoming a big league team’s starting centerfielder and lead-off hitter are virtually nil. Torres is the Giants centerfielder, lead-off hitter, and arguably their heart and soul at the age of 32.

Never saw that coming, did you?

Torres has provided the Giants with a base-stealing threat with 23 thefts in 116 games. The switch-hitter has 13 home runs and ranks among NL leaders with 41 doubles and 5 triples. Playing alongside outfielders who don’t have much range, Torres has anchored the outer defense. For those who can’t forget the negative—Aaron Rowand is on the bench because Torres has become a big league contributor.

Posey’s going to be a star for years to come. Torres might be having the year of his life, so his is the Giants’ top story in 2010.


Ted Sillanpaa is a Northern California sports writer and columnist. Reach Ted at

Read more MLB news on

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress