Giants Insider notebook: DeRosa's road back


Giants Insider notebook: DeRosa's road back

Feb. 26, 2011

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Most veterans couldn't care less about their results in early spring training games, but this spring is a little different for Mark DeRosa.Signed to a two-year, 12 million contract before the 2010 season, he was limited to 26 games before submitting to the second major surgery on his left wrist in about 10 months. He rejoined the team for rehab and was along for the ride through the World Series, earning high praise from teammates for providing leadership that few non-participants can pull off, but being a well-paid cheerleader never sat quite right with the ultra-competitive side of DeRosa."I did what I could in terms of sharing what I knew about certain guys and situations, and it's great if some of our guys found that helpful; that's what being a teammate is all about," DeRosa said shortly after he reported for camp. "But they brought me here to contribute on the field, and not being able to do that was definitely frustrating."Now that he's back on the field, his wrist no longer an issue, DeRosa is contributing plenty. He celebrated his 37th birthday Saturday by going 3-for-3 in the Giants' Cactus League blowout of a split squad of Dodgers at Scottsdale Stadium. He's 4-for-5 in two games, and nobody's pretending the positive results don't mean anything."I think it does," Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "It's been a long road for him, and I know it's spring training, but you do want to get some hits and get going on a positive note."DeRosa, who has started both games at second base while Freddy Sanchez continues to strengthen his surgically repaired left shoulder, likely will serve as San Francisco's super-utilityman during the regular season, seeing time in several games a week while bouncing all over the diamond to spell various starters.HUFF'S FIRST AT FIRST
Aubrey Huff, who dropped a throw for an error on his first play at first base last spring, made his Cactus League debut Saturday and turned in one of the best defensive plays of the game on the first ground ball that came his way.With runners at second and third with one out in the third inning, Huff smothered a ball hit by Xavier Paul and fired a strike to catcher Chris Stewart to nail James Loney at the plate."I had a feeling he was going to hit it to me," Huff said. "I don't know why. Just a feeling. You'd like your first play of the year to be a little easier, but at least I got it out of the way."Huff and the rest of the Giants were expected to be average at best on defense last season, but their solid glove work ended up as one of the more pleasant surprises of the year."We don't have a lot of guys who are going to make the spectacular play," Huff said, "but everyone has good fundamentals and makes all the routine plays, and with our pitching that's all you need."SPEAKING OF PITCHING
Left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, recently named the team's No. 2 starter, gave up four hits and needed about 40 pitches to get through 1 23 scoreless innings. His ERA was protected by lefty Shane Loux, who took over with two out and the bases loaded in the second inning and struck out Jamey Carroll.Sanchez said it felt good to be back on the mound and noted that one of his goals this spring is to refine his splitter. So far, so good; he threw a nasty one to strike out Paul to open the second inning.Not one to thrust and parry with the press, Sanchez, when asked how his debut outing compared with his first outing of last spring, said he couldn't remember his 2010 Cactus League debut. Smiling throughout, he then playfully challenged the reporter who asked the question if he remembered that game.He did not.PANDA POWER
Though Pablo Sandoval made his second fielding error in two days, he atoned for it with an RBI single and a mammoth two-run homer onto the walkway far above and beyond the wall in the deepest part of right-center field.Both hits came on the first pitch of the at-bat, calling to mind Bochy's praise of Sandoval's patience in taking a walk and laying off some tough pitches on Friday.Bochy insisted that he didn't want his trimmed-down third baseman to lose his aggressiveness at the plate, saying, "He just needs to tone it down a bit."Now 3-for-6 for the spring, Sandoval skipped winter ball for the first time this past offseason, focusing on getting his weight and fitness under control."I put a lot of work in, and I'm doing well," Sandoval said. "It's nice. I do want to see more pitches because I didn't play this winter, but I know what pitches I can hit, and when they come I'm going to hit it."URIBE REUNION ON HOLD
The game didn't sell out, and the excitement in the air that marked Friday's opener was gone, as were the sunny skies. And the one story line that would have given the game a little extra juice -- even the GiantsDodgers rivalry is a fairly laid-back affair during the spring -- never materialized.Juan Uribe, one of the most popular Giants over the past two years but now with L.A. after signing a three-year, 21 million deal as a free agent, did not make the trip to Scottsdale with the Dodgers, staying in Glendale.One member of the Dodgers' media contingent said Uribe seems happy in his new home and has already won over his new teammates, but he added, "It's not the best look to decide to skip the first game against the Giants. I'm sure he just doesn't want to deal with it yet.""It" might be a chorus of boos. In a highly unscientific poll conducted via Twitter, more than 75 percent of respondents said they were more inclined to yell, "Booo-Reebay" than, "Oooh-Reebay."GAMERS
Lefty Clayton Tanner has the best outing among Giants pitchers, ripping through two scoreless innings. Bochy was impressed with Tanner's tempo and said Tanner, a third-round pick in the 2006 draft who went 9-9 with a 3.68 ERA over 27 games at Double-A Richmond last year, likely will start the season at Triple-A Fresno. "He does give us some coverage there, some depth," Bochy said. Middle-infield prospects Brandon Crawford and Charlie Culberson were among the defensive standouts Saturday. Crawford, a slick-fielding shortstop, showed off quite the cannon in throwing a runner out at second after chasing down a ball near the left-field line, and Culberson deftly handled a few tougher-than-they-looked plays at second base. Andres Torres went 2-for-3 with an RBI double. Mike Fontenot started at shortstop and went 0-for-3. Nate Schierholtz, battling for a roster spot and perhaps auditioning for teams that might be looking to trade for an outfielder, ripped a two-run triple before the game got sloppy. Huff just missed a home run down the right-field line and had to settle for a single because he hit it so hard that the carom off the wall made legging out a double impossible.

Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice


Irvin, Mack given a day off from Raiders practice

ALAMEDA – Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin were out at Raiders practice Wednesday for the stretching period. Both edge rushers left one-at-a-time during the individual period, which was open to the press, headed into the main building and did not return.

There was no perceived reaction, certainly no surprise, from the coaching staff or players on the field. Irvin and new defensive coordinator John Pagano were seen joking around on the field before practice began in earnest. 

Both Irvin and Mack were given a practice off, one scheduled earlier in the day. A Raiders official called it a day off/rest-type day that was not injury related. The Silver and Black typically practice in pads or shells on Wednesday, but were in jerseys and sweats in the interest of recovery.

This day off's timing did raise an eyebrow.

Wednesday marked the first practice Irvin has missed since training camp. Mack hasn’t missed one in months.

Mack and Irvin’s downtime also came a day after beloved defensive coordinator Ken Norton’s firing.

Mack and Irvin especially were among those loyal to Norton. Mack and Norton developed a bond after the coach was named defensive coordinator in 2015. Norton and Irvin go way back to their days together in Seattle. Irvin credits Norton for helping him get on the right path and stay there.

Neither player was happy Norton got the axe. Irvin made his displeasure clear, tweeting “BULLS***” shortly after news of Norton’s demise broke. Mack told ESPN “I like to keep my thoughts private.”

It isn’t immediately clear if the non-injury related day off was related to Norton’s dismissal. Head coach Jack Del Rio won’t speak to the media again until Friday. New defensive coordinator John Pagano is scheduled to speak Thursday afternoon.

Del Rio addressed the media before Wednesday’s practice, and was asked how he’ll handle players unhappy with the in-season shake-up.

“I don’t try and 'handle' them,” Del Rio said. “I think the biggest thing is to understand the relationship, respect that, give him a little space and then at the end of the day, we’re going to get on with our work. But, I’m human. It wasn’t easy for me either.”

Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing


Del Rio: 'Nobody should feel comfortable,' following Norton firing

ALAMEDA – Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio put out a statement Tuesday explaining why he fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr.

He went into greater detail Wednesday afternoon, his first time facing the media since a change was made

Specifics will be discussed further down this story. We don’t, however, want to bury the lede.

Del Rio’s main message wasn’t about Norton. It applied to all in Silver and Black. This season has not met lofty expectations. That is unacceptable.

“I know one thing,” Del Rio said. “Nobody should feel comfortable, because what I’ve been watching is not good enough.”

Del Rio didn’t absolve himself from blame. Norton got fired, but everyone has played a part in this disappointing 4-6 record.

“It’s always shared,” Del Rio said. “A change was made, obviously. We all share in it, all of us, starting with me. It’s coaches and players. It’s a team game, and we’re all in it together. And nobody is coming to help us.”

The Raiders must look inward to start a prolonged winning streak they’ve shown little evidence they can create.

The seat will be warm under players and coaches alike, even if only one change was made. Expect further shakeup on the coaching staff after the season, if vast improvements don’t come down the stretch, possibly with several position coaches being shown the door. More than a few higher profile players could be cut or allowed to leave, especially on defense.

While Del Rio has taken more heat the past month than at any other time in his Raiders tenure, expect him to be around a longer term. He was given a contract extension in February, and has significant capitol built after changing the culture in Oakland and re-teaching this team how to win. One bad year, even if this season continues heading downhill, shouldn’t erase that.

Del Rio was looking to shake things up, and Norton was the obvious move. Experienced play caller John Pagano was on staff – he was Chargers defensive coordinator from 2012-2016 – and firing the popular Pagano’s style could create some new waves and looks that any offensive Norton would make an impact in the locker room and prove this story’s opening quote, that no one should feel comfortable.

Del Rio hopes firing Norton will be a shock to the defense’s system.

“I really felt like I needed to shake things up,” Del Rio said. “We couldn’t continue doing what we’ve been doing to this point. So I made the call. The whole idea is to change what we’re doing and make sure…what I’m looking for at the end of the day is for us to play fast on defense. We weren’t playing fast enough. We weren’t playing confident enough.”