Bochy maps out pitching thoughts for NLCS


Bochy maps out pitching thoughts for NLCS

Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest, today at 4 p.m. leading up to first pitch of NLCS Game 2, and again following the final out, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

SAN FRANCISCO -- Tim Lincecum gave a thumbs-up to Bruce Bochy when he arrived Monday, telling his manager he'd be available to pitch in relief one day after delivering two innings out of the bullpen.

Bochy reserved the right to do whatever he deems necessary to win Game 2. But he said his strong preference is to hold back Lincecum for a Game 4 start at St. Louis.

"We'd like to have that option if we decide to go that way," Bochy said. "We'll do all we can to win this one. And we also have Barry Zito if we use Timmy."

If the Giants can hold off using Lincecum until a Game 4 start, then Bochy would have the luxury to choose a Game 5 starter from among Zito and Madison Bumgarner, whose stuff has been flat ever since mid-September.

Does Bochy already have his mind made up between Zito and Bumgarner, should he have that choice?

"No," Bochy said. "It's still a decision."

Bochy did not sound ready to throw in the towel with Bumgarner, who has delivered two poor starts while the Giants have lost all three home playoff games thus far. But he acknowledged he has discussed the innings workload on the 23-year-old left-hander with pitching coach Dave Righetti.

RELATED: Madison Bumgarner 2012 game logs

"Any time you're at this time of year, especially with a young pitcher like Madison, you'll have that conversation," Bochy said. "I remember having them about Timmy. So have we had those conversations? Yeah."

Shutting down Bumgarner hasn't been a part of those talks, though.

"If I thought the stuff had dropped that dramatically, I'd worry about it," Bochy said. "He still has good stuff. He's just making some mistakes. He still has stuff to execute his pitches. It's not like he's throwing 85-86 mph. His delivery gets out of sync at times. That does concern you a little bit."

Bumgarner's biggest foible wasn't the two-run home run he served up to Carlos Beltran in the fourth inning. It was the 0-2 fastball he threw over the plate to the previous batter, Jon Jay, who extended the inning with a single. Bumgarner had thrown two nasty pitches before the fat one.

Bumgarner mentioned after his start that he had to compete better with diminished stuff and reduce his workload between starts. That has been a key, Bochy said, since young players often try to throw more between starts to iron out issues.

RELATED: Andrew Baggarly's Couch-bound observations from Game 1

The Cardinals certainly didn't have any dragging arms out there in their 6-4 victory in Game 1. I asked Bochy if he was surprised that his hitters were thrown such an overwhelming number of fastballs.

"That's who they are," Bochy said. "We knew that. They're power arms. They're cranking it up there from 95 to 100. The one guy (Edward Mujica) who doesn't can throw 93 with a good split and slider. That's an impressive bullpen."

As for Chris Carpenter, he's not going to throw 95 mph after making just three regular-season starts. But the reports indicate he's got his previous movement.

"He'll run it, sink it, throw a cutter and changeup," Bochy said. "Still the good movement he's always had, just not with the previous velocity."

One other pregame note: Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso were teammates on the same 5-year-old pee-wee soccer team. Crawford was asked what position he played.

"I think at 5 you kind of rotate positions," he said, to laughs.

With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani


With new posting system reportedly agreed to, Giants can soon chase Ohtani

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Giants continue to wait for a resolution to the Giancarlo Stanton chase, they may soon find themselves bidding on another superstar talent they have long coveted. 

According to multiple reports, Major League Baseball, the Players Association, and the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization agreed to a new posting system that should allow Shohei Ohtani to be made available in about 10 days. Joel Sherman of the NY Post reported that MLB owners must ratify the agreement next Friday and Ohtani would then be posted that day or the following day. 

The Giants have made no secret of their desire to jump feet-first into that process, and general manager Bobby Evans and assistant GM Jeremy Shelley visited Japan in September to scout Ohtani, a potential two-way star. Ohtani wants to be a starter and a hitter in the big leagues, as he was in Japan, and after watching tape of the 23-year-old, Bruce Bochy said he would be on board. 

"He's good," Bochy said after a game at Dodger Stadium late in the season. "I absolutely would play him every day."

There has been little clarity over the past two months as MLB teams have waited for the negotiations to play out. Per Sherman, there will be new posting rules in future years but Ohtani will operate under the old system. That limits the Giants to a $300,000 bonus because they went over their spending limit in 2015, but club officials don't believe that will disqualify them. Very little is known about Ohtani's preferences, but by coming to the United States in 2017, he is potentially forfeiting a $200 million deal as a free agent. That alone is enough to validate the fact that the Giants can safely chase Ohtani, knowing that the signing bonus won't be a deal breaker.

MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions


MLB crushes Braves with sanctions for international signing infractions

ATLANTA -- The Braves lost 13 prospects and former general manager John Coppolella was banned for life by Major League Baseball on Tuesday for circumventing international signing rules from 2015-17.

Former Atlanta special assistant Gordon Blakeley, who was the team's international scouting chief, was suspended from baseball for one year by Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Sanctions imposed by Manfred will leave the Braves unable to bargain at full strength for a top Latin American prospect until 2021.

Manfred said MLB's investigation determined the Braves moved international signing bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.

Most notable among the players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016.

Other "high-value" players the Braves will lose include Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Pena, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.

Three more international signees - Brandol Mezquita, Angel Rojas and Antonio Sucre - were declared free agents. The team's contract with prospect Ji-Hwan Bae, which was not yet final, was disapproved. Finally, the Braves were banned from signing prospect Robert Puason in the 2019-20 signing period.

The 13 players will be free to negotiate as free agents with other teams.

Also, the Braves will forfeit their third-round selection in the 2018 draft as punishment for offering "impermissible benefits" to an unnamed draft pick in an effort to convince him to sign for a lower bonus.

The investigation showed the players signed by the Braves in 2016-17 would have been unavailable if the team had not circumvented the rules by moving bonus pool money.

Manfred said stripping the Braves of the 13 players was not sufficient punishment. He said "additional sanctions are warranted to penalize the club for the violations committed by its employees."

Therefore, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period. Also, the team's international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.

The Braves already cannot give an international signing bonus of more than $300,000 for 2017-18 and 2018-19 as penalties for exceeding their signing bonus pools under baseball's previous labor contract.

And there is still more discipline to be handed down.

Manfred said he intends "to discipline other Braves international baseball operations employees who participated in the misconduct."

Coppolella was forced to resign after the season. Former team president John Hart was moved to a senior adviser role when a new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, was hired on Nov. 13. Hart left the team on Friday.

"The senior baseball operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves," Manfred said. He also said the Braves "cooperated throughout the investigation."

Coppolella did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The Braves braced fans for the sanctions when team chairman Terry McGuirk apologized to fans "on behalf of the entire Braves family" for the rules violations at the news conference to introduce Anthopoulos.

The Braves said in a statement released Tuesday they "understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down.

"As we expressed last week, our organization has not lived up to the standard our fans expect from us and that we expect from ourselves. For that, we apologize. We are instituting the changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again and remain excited about the future of Braves baseball."

Manfred said he is confident the Braves management team led by McGuirk, Anthopoulos and vice chairman John Schuerholz "have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been."

The Braves are not the first team to be found guilty of violating rules in signing international players.

In 2016, the Boston Red Sox lost five players and were banned from signing international amateur free agents for one year as punishment for rules violations on signing bonuses.