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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Giants Cactus League Update

While Eric and I were at pub quiz last night, leading "Stuck Between a Rock and James Franco" to a respectable 3rd place finish, we discussed how hard it's going to be to condense our respective previews of the Giants and A's into a single post.

Coming up with 500 words on the Astros can be a bit like pulling teeth, but I'm sure we'll have no shortage of things to say about our own Boys of Summer.

In a preventative effort to keep my post on the Giants under 18,000 words, I'm going to spend some of my ammunition on a quick Cactus League Update.

The Giants are 5 games into their Spring Training schedule and each of their five starters have made at least one appearance. Similarly, with Freddy Sanchez's start today against the Cubs, we've seen every likely starter in the field and at bat.

All things considered, there have been relatively few surprises. Matt Cain hasn't allowed a run. Barry Zito walked in a run. Expectations have been met.

All kidding aside, the Giants look good so far. While we all know overall wins and losses mean slightly less than nothing in Spring Training, situational victories mean everything. Getting a runner in from third base with one out. Turning a clean double play. Laying down a solid sacrifice bunt. These are the fleeting but essential moments in which Spring Training success is won.

A few notes on the Giants bigger Spring Training story lines:


The Giants' starting pitching has looked good. Considering all the potential pitfalls Spring Training presents (see Adam Wainwright), Giants fans should be feel fortunate its starters are all happy and healthy (knock on wood repeatedly).

- After a shaky first outing, Lincecum pitched 3 nearly perfect innings (Tejada error) this afternoon against the Cubs. He had a few 3-ball counts, but the fact that he didn't allow a single walk is great to see.

- Cain was Cain. Of all the Giants pitchers at risk of a backlash from the large post-season workload, Cain should be least susceptible.

- Similarly, Sanchez was Sanchez. He looked fine in his first start, allowing 4 hits 1 walk and 0 runs. Nonetheless, he continued to toe that Sanchez line where you feel that at any moment he could throw a ball to the backstop and get that crazy look in his eye.

- Compared to last Spring, Bumgarner looks fantastic. He just finished two innings in relief of Lincecum and gave up 3 hits, 0 run and had 4 K's. Bumgarner has the potential to one day be the Giants' left-handed Matt Cain -- a big, tall horse who can consistently fire off 220 innings each season. We'd all love him to be that for the Giants in 2011, but Bumgarner is still young and last seasons innings increase could show some lingering effects. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can pitch a full season near his Game 4 World Series level.

- Barry Zito walked 5 in 1 and 2/3 innings. I love Zeets. Sure, he's a bum. But he's our bum. We signed him to help us win a World Series, and we won a World Series. So it all worked out! I'm perfectly fine with him being our 5th starter (even if he has the 4th spot in the rotation). Sure, I hope he won't walk in a run in every start, but not many clubs have a former Cy Young winner as their worst pitcher. In other news, I earn 0.25% of his annual salary.


- The most encouraging news of Spring Training has without a doubt been Pablo Sandoval. He's still big, but that's ok. He's a big guy. The key is that he looks looks less like girl from Willy Wonka half way through her transformation into a blueberry. Pablo looks great. He looks healthier, stronger and more like a professional athlete. But about 100 times more important than his appearance is the fact that he's hitting the ball hard and hitting it consistently. He homered in back to back games this weekend and has 5 RBI and a .500 average so far this Spring. He had two booming doubles today alone. There's no telling if Pablo will ever be 2009 Pablo, but you have to give him credit for buckling down, taking his situation seriously and working hard to try and improve.

- Mark DeRosa is also showing very encouraging signs of a successful rehab from his wrist injury. He's hitting .750 in his Cactus League AB's. Again, we have to take every number with a grain of salt, but I'd much rather he be hitting .750 than .250.

- Brandon Belt went 3 for 5 with 4 RBI yesterday against the Brewers. There's still no telling whether or not he'll start 2011 in San Francisco or Fresno, but it's great to see him hit Major League pitching.

The biggest concern of the Spring so far is Brian Wilson's back. The Giants maintain it's nothing serious, but until he makes a Cactus League appearance, Giants fans will likely be questioning whether or not his massages in Thailand were performed by a licensed physical therapist. Bochy and Rags maintain that he's close to seeing some action (on the mound, not Thai--)

Anyway, those are some of the Black and Orange headlines from the Valley of the Sun!

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