Feb. 21, 2011
URBAN ARCHIVEGIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEOMychael UrbanCSNBayArea.com
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- First things first: Giants closer Brian Wilson's back is just fine. He threw gas in the 'pen Monday for 20 minutes, pain-free. Time to stop worrying about it. But it's been a strange little mini-drama, hasn't it? And it seemed to get a little stranger by the day -- especially early on, when Wilson was ducking the media.Wilson is a talker. A great talker. So when he doesn't want to talk, it's news. And now, on top of some quiet internal suggestions that Wilson's back pain might have been caused by his macho sprint up nearby Camelback Mountain last week in a race with fellow reliever Jeremy Affeldt, some folks are assuming he partied too hard last Friday when actor Charlie Sheen flew him on a private jet into L.A. for the night. The Camelback Mountain thing might have some merit. The Sheen thing does not. The gossip-mongers at TMZ did what they do; they sensationalized the story and got about 80 percent of the facts wrong.Going to Sheen's house was essentially a business trip, Wilson said, and one he was happy to make. Hey, Ricky Vaughn is a god to men of a certain age, especially men who actually close games in the big leagues and seem to have a screw loose -- just like Sheen's Vaughn character in "Major League." No drugs or alcohol were present at the meeting, Wilson said, just a bunch of Hollywood types picking his brain in preparation for another "Major League" sequel.Thankfully, the saga seems to be over. Wilson's bullpen session was his second in three days, this time with Giants manager Bruce Bochy standing in the batter's box.Wilson threw hard, he threw with command, and he threw without discomfort. He did, however, note that seeing Bochy in the box was "intimidating."Asked why Wilson might feel that way, Bochy smiled and said, "He knows. Any pitch, I can take him deep."COMPETITION IN CENTER?
It's been widely assumed that Andres Torres entered camp as the Giants' starting center fielder. After all, the guy took the job from Aaron Rowand last year, established himself as an excellent defensive player and a quality leadoff man, and helped the team win a world title.Bochy, though, wouldn't confirm that the job is Torres' when he was pressed on the situation after Monday's workout."We'll get into all that as we go deeper into camp here," Bochy said.This, a day after Bochy reversed course on his plans to play Rowand at all three outfield positions, saying he wanted Rowand, who hasn't played on a corner since 2004, to stay where he's comfortable.Bochy bristled just a bit, though, when asked if his refusal to name Torres the starter was an indication that the Giants weren't ready to go all-in with a guy who just had his first productive year in the Majors at age 32."No," said the skipper. "It's not so much a fluke as he finally got a chance to play every day."Moments later, Bochy said something that shed some light on his thinking, suggesting his unwillingness to anoint Torres the starter this early in camp could be out of respect for Rowand."I'm not ready," Bochy said, "to designate anyone a fourth outfielder."INTENSITY TURNED UP
The rain clouds that turned the greater Phoenix area into a cold, wet and gray expanse over the weekend were gone by the time the Giants started their workout at 10 a.m., and their general overall disposition was awfully sunny as they took the field to stretch."I think they're just excited to be back on the field," Bochy said.Once the workout truly kicked in, though, things got as serious as they can possibly get on Feb. 21. No lollygaggers at Scottsdale Stadium. These guys were getting after it in a big way, and the jovial banter that often punctuates spring workouts was replaced by grunts, the popping of gloves and the crack of bats.Several players told me the increased intensity was a must. The team's Cactus League opener is Friday, and there's a lot of work to do."It's time to go," Miguel Tejada said between rounds in the cage. "Time to play ball, to play hard."MIGGY AND THE PANDA
While watching about 30 minutes of Monday's workout with Giants GM Brian Sabean, who rarely misses an opportunity to see his club on the field, I asked him how big of a factor Tejada's potential influence among Latin players was in the decision to sign him.Sabean, who has a habit of using the term "the player" instead of a player's actual name, said the player's ability and durability were at the top of the list, but the leadership issue was certainly an added bonus.The reports on Tejada as a clubhouse guy are off the charts, Sabean told me, and I shared that I'd seen the same thing while covering Tejada when he played for the A's. Sabean thinks Tejada is going to help a ton in term of replacing the leadership of departed veterans Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. He might even have more of an influence than those guys.If Monday is any indication, Tejada is going to be a busy mentor on this team. Pablo Sandoval, clearly enamored with Tejada, was in the veteran shortstop's ear all day, asking questions and sharing information."He's a good kid," Tejada said. "He looks good, too!"Said Bochy of Tejada, "He'll be good with Pablo -- and all our young players."