Arroyo paints corners, befuddles Giants


Arroyo paints corners, befuddles Giants


SAN FRANCISCO -- With his flowing blonde mane, awkward stiff-legged delivery and the Key West cool he exhibits, Bronson Arroyo has been anything but the prototypical imposing stopper on the mound in his 13-year big league career.And yet, with Cincinnati wanting, er, needing a quality start to give its bullpen a much-needed breather after going through six pitchers in the series opener, there was the crafty Arroyo, hitting his spots, painting the edge of the plate and straight baffling the Giants. The right-hander threw seven innings of shutout ball and surrendered only one hit and one walk in a 9-0 victory to hand the Reds a two games to none lead in this best-of-five National League Division Series.RELATED: Baggs Instant Replay: Reds embarrass lifeless Giants
Best of all, at least from Cincinnati's perspective, Reds manager Dusty Baker had an inkling Arroyo would thrive at AT&T Park."He flirted with a nohitter a couple of starts ago," Baker said. "He's been throwing the ball well, and I just thought him and this forgiving ballpark would be right for him, even though I don't think he had won a game here."Indeed, Arroyo entered the day 0-4 on the shores of McCovey Cove and had not beaten the Giants at all since Aug. 31, 2008."You want to get deep in the ballgame but a playoff atmosphere, it's impossible to control everything that's going on," Arroyo said. "You go out there (with) a mindset of trying to get into the seventh inning possibly, and that doesn't happen a whole lotif you look around at both leagues you will see a lot of starting pitchers that have to bow out after 5 23 (innings)."You're burning more energy, there is so much more going on, so it's hard to take that responsibility on your shoulders and say, 'I'm going to get deep in the ballgame'. You hope you do.I threw enough pitches in the middle of the game where they had swung early on and saved me some pitches that gave me an opportunity to do that."Save some pitches? A 3-and-2 backdoor breaking pitch that froze Gregor Blanco for a strikeout to lead off the third inning saved Arroyo some pitches.
"It set a nice tone for us because you don't always get those pitches," he said, with a figurative tip of his cap to homeplate umpire Brian O'Nora."You're trying to pitch to such a small sliver of the outer half of the plate, and if you can do that it builds confidence."And confident he looked, building on the postseason experience he had in 2004 with the Boston Red Sox, the first, and thus far, only MLB team to rally from an 0-3 deficit in a playoff series to win a series."He was great," Baker said. "He had his breaking ball working, his fastball, he located it wellonce we got those early runs, he seemed to get tougher."Stingier, too.The Giants stung the ball early, but right at the Reds fielders. Arroyo was perfect through 4 23 innings, before Brandon Belt singled to right-center. The only other Giant to reach base off him was Buster Posey, who walked with two out in the seventh.
But the thought of a no-no or even a Perfect Game in the postseason seems a ludicrous though.
"A nohitter in this type of environment is almost impossible to do and it's something you're not thinking about," he said. "The win for the ballclub is the nirvana. There is nothing else to think about. If something else happens crazy like that, then it's icing on the cake."But to get through the fifth inning without having to pitch from the stretch but one time was really big.It allows you to get in your groove. You're not wasting a lot of energy because when guys are on base you're thinking about shutting the running game down. All kinds of things come into play there that don't have to if no one is on base.So to make it through the first five innings without having to deal with a base runner was big."In fact, had the Reds not been up so long in the eighth, when they batted around and added five runs, Arroyo probably would have come stayed in the game. After all, he himself batted in that Reds conga line."But we might have to pitch him on threedays rest, too," Baker said. "So at that period of time we had to save him for later.Plus, that long inning, we scored a lot of runs.About time to give some of the other guys a break."Arroyo, though, would offer no such quarter to the Giants. Not on this night.

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

What the Giants' 2018 Opening Day lineup could look like

SAN FRANCISCO — The excitement could be heard in Bruce Bochy’s voice as he spoke on a conference call Tuesday afternoon, which was understandable. Bochy used 136 different lineups last season, largely because the Giants never found permanent solutions in the outfield or at third base. 

Since the final game of a 98-loss season, the front office has handed Bochy an everyday third baseman in Evan Longoria, a star in right field in Andrew McCutchen, and a versatile outfield option in Austin Jackson. With every new addition, Bochy has tinkered with the lineup bouncing around his head. He isn’t ready to reveal anything publicly, but he said the new-look staff is already discussing lineup options. 

“It’s going to be probably toward the end of spring training until we have this lineup down,” Bochy said. “It’s a different lineup, as you know. I’ll see or we will see what makes the most sense.”

In McCutchen and Longoria, the Giants added two guys used to hitting right in the heart of the order. After the Longoria deal, Bochy did say he would like to hit Longoria in front of Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. Since then, McCutchen has given him another option, and a lot more could still change. 

Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans would like to add one more center fielder, and it’s possible that player can lead off. Steven Duggar could win the job in camp, and with his speed and strong eye at the plate, he would be an ideal leadoff option. That is, however, a lot of pressure for a rookie, and Bochy mentioned McCutchen and Jackson as options atop the lineup. Both hit there quite a bit earlier in their careers, but McCutchen hasn’t been a leadoff hitter since 2011 and Jackson has just 56 starts there the last three years. Joe Panik and Hunter Pence also have experience leading off for Bochy, and it’s possible the top of the lineup could change depending on the opposing pitcher.  

“I’ve always liked to have the versatility or flexibility to mix it a little bit,” Bochy said. “Maybe it’s a matchup thing or lefty-righty.”

It will be a lefty, Clayton Kershaw, staring in at the Giants on opening day. So for now, here’s a guess at the group Bochy will send out there at Dodger Stadium … 

1. Andrew McCutchen RF
2. Joe Panik 2B
3. Evan Longoria 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Brandon Belt 1B
6. Hunter Pence LF
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Austin Jackson CF
9. Madison Bumgarner LHP

Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder


Jackson not necessarily Giants' everyday center fielder

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants had a glaring hole in center field after the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen and his subsequent move to right field, so it stood out when a press release to announce the signing of Austin Jackson included the words “depth at all three outfield positions.”

A day later, team officials made it clear that Jackson is not necessarily the final piece of the puzzle, or even the solution in center field. After mentioning several times that it was a strategic signing, vice president of baseball operations Brian Sabean gave a blunt answer when asked about Jackson’s role. 

“Did we get him to be our everyday center fielder? Probably not,” Sabean said. “I don’t know that in his recent history he’s been able to go out there in that fashion.”

Jackson played just 54 games in 2016 and 85 last season for the Indians. The Giants see him as a complementary piece, someone who can handle plenty of time in center, spell McCutchen and Hunter Pence in the corners, and give them a dangerous bat against left-handed pitchers. 

It seemed that was a role that would mostly go to Austin Slater, but the Giants gave Jackson a two-year deal for $6 million, basically wiping out the rest of their room under the tax line. They will not be significantly involved in free agency from this point on, which leaves two options for one more outfield addition. 

Steven Duggar was mentioned over and over again on Tuesday’s conference call, and the Giants will give the prospect a chance to win a significant role this spring. It’s possible that Duggar and Jackson could form a platoon, but before committing to that, the front office will look to add a third offseason addition via trade. 

“There are still some fronts that we are pursuing with minimum-service type of players, which are low in salary,” Sabean said. “We’ll flush out other possibilities.”

Evans has spent months laying the groundwork for multiple deals, and the front office remains confident that one more outfielder can be added via trade. The player would have to be young and pre-arbitration to line up financially with the rest of the offseason work.

If that doesn’t end up happening, Bruce Bochy won’t be too upset. Bochy said he couldn’t be happier with the work Sabean and Evans have done to overhaul an outfield that was unfathomably bad on both sides of the ball last season. If Jackson is the final piece, Bochy is ready to make it work. 

“Right now, as we start the season, I think you’ll see Austin out in center field as much as anything,” he said. “We’ll see where we’re at when we break camp, but that’s a need for us out there in center. As we break camp, we’ll know where we’re at with other options, Gorkys (Hernandez) or Duggar. But center field is where (Jackson) will spend most of his time this spring.”