EXTRA BAGGS: Cain draws familiar, friendly foe on Monday


EXTRA BAGGS: Cain draws familiar, friendly foe on Monday

SEATTLE Matt Cain didnt change anything in his routineafter his 125-pitch perfect game on Wednesday.

He still threw his normal bullpen and did his normal workbetween starts.

With a littleextra media attention, of course. Cain will read the top ten list on the LettermanShow. Itll be taped on Monday before he takes the mound at Anaheim.

Hey, if the guy can swing a golf club and throw a perfectgame three hours later, he can stand at wooden attention in front of a cameraand read off a teleprompter on the day he pitches.

Itll be an event when Cain takes the mound again, and itsonly fitting that he faces a friend and former minor league teammate.

Cains face lit up when I mentioned that hell oppose formerGiant Jerome Williams. At one time, Williams and Jesse Foppert were supposed tobe the Giants aces of the future. It didnt happen, but Cain finally broughtthe franchise out of the pitching doldrums. Boy, did he ever.

As you might recall, Williams was traded to the Cubs in May,2005, with David Aardsma for LaTroy Hawkins. Three months later, Cain made hismajor league debut. But Cain and Williams did play together in the minors for atime.

Cain told me he admires Williams for the way he perseveredthrough independent ball to make his way back to the big leagues. Anyone whosheard his story knows the personal tumult hes been through. I know I cant seea puka shell necklace without thinking of him.

Cain and Williams are linked in one other respect.

I got my first hit off him, Cain said, smiling.

Indeed he did. It was a seventh-inning double and itcame during Cains third big league start Sept. 9, 2005, at China Basin. Cain threwhis first career complete game that day -- Dan Ortmeiers single scored the tiebreakingrun -- to win 2-1 and pick up his second major league victory.

I dug up my game story from that day. This is what Williamshad to say:

I dont like that he got a hit off me, Williams said witha laugh. I told him when I was at Fresno, Just keep pitching like yourepitching and youll be successful for a long time.

Cain listened. And Williams was right.

One more crystal-ball comment from that night in 2005, courtesy of Cubs(and former Giants) manager Dusty Baker:

Outstanding ball game. Outstanding fastball. He located iton the outside when he needed to. We heard he had good stuff and they werentlying. Thats a special young man right there.

Tim Lincecum is a special case, too. But he and Cain aregoing in vastly different directions.

If youre looking for silver linings after Saturday nightsloss to the Mariners, consider this: Lincecum faced 22 batters. He hadthree-ball counts on just three of them.

Yes, the Mariners are a bad offensive team. And Lincecum hasa 6.19 ERA. No amount of bleeders or bad luck can explain that away.
BAGGARLY: Time to skip Lincecum's start?

Still, youd rather have Lincecum embracing positives andworking constructively to make changes instead of hitting the panic button. Byall accounts, hes staying upbeat.

The DH role didnt suite Pablo Sandoval well Saturday night.Even by his free-swinging standards, he was chasing pitches with all the ferocity of WalterWhite swatting at flies in his laboratory.

It stands to reason that Sandoval could be more overanxiouswhen hes not in the flow of the game as the third baseman. I wonder if wellsee him DH again. Im betting no.

Its true, Joaquin Arias couldnt make a backhand play on akey ball in the sixth inning. Maybe Sandoval is able to pick it and beat therunner to third base. Well never know.

The consensus I get from scouts is that Arias has playedbetter defense at third base than Sandoval did in April. Its not that Sandovalis an inferior defender. Its just that he has to prove himself to managementagain. Hes always been a player who responds to a challenge. The Giants arecounting on him to respond this time, and I think he will.

Left-hander Dan Runzler (strained lat) pitched a scorelessinning Saturday while making his third rehab appearance for Single-A San Josein a 3-2 victory over Modesto.

The Giants finished the first half with a 38-32 record andin second place in the Cal Leagues North Division. Unbelievably, this is thefirst time since 2004 that San Jose did not win the first-half title.

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.