Giants back dominant Moore with rally that has a familiar ring

Giants back dominant Moore with rally that has a familiar ring

SAN FRANCISCO — Matt Moore walked off the mound to a thundering ovation, handing a three-run lead to a bullpen that needed to record just three outs. Moore said he didn’t think at all about the last time he had done that, even though it happened to be the last game the Giants played in their home park.

This time, the bullpen came through. 

Mark Melancon shut the Diamondbacks down in the ninth, clinching a 4-1 win for Moore and the Giants, who got an early scare when Buster Posey was hit in the head and received the winning run on a bizarre mistake-filled play at the plate two innings later. Moore did not drift back to his postseason start — a similar eight-inning gem — but the home opener did have a postseason-throwback feel to it. Three of the four runs were scored in a way the Giants have made famous during World Series runs. 

“We call them the RTI: runs thrown in,” manager Bruce Bochy said, smiling. “We had three of them today. It was a crazy inning. They were all rushed, and fortunately we took advantage.”

The day’s only significant rally happened with Moore, owner of one previous regular-season RBI, at the plate. There was a mixup with the signs and Moore tried to bunt the first pitch from Taijuan Walker. He couldn’t put it down, but a swing later in the at-bat accomplished the same goal. 

The swinging bunt to the right side was far enough to get Brandon Crawford — the savviest baserunner on the team — home from third. Walker thought he had a shot anyway, and his throw to the plate skipped to the backstop. Joe Panik rounded third and scored easily. When Jeff Mathis’ throw back to Walker at the plate skipped toward first, Jarrett Parker raced home just ahead of the tag.

Parker had started the play on first base. He made the read himself, noting that there wasn’t time to look for a sign.

“I was watching Joe to make sure Joe was going home first, so I didn’t get held up,” Parker said. “I saw the ball kick away and went for it. If I was looking for (Phil Nevin’s wave home) in that moment, who knows what could have happened.”

At the time, Parker was without a hit on the season (he later singled). He emphatically pumped his fist at the plate and clapped his hands as his helmet flew off. Parker said that in recent days, veterans told him not to worry about the slump. There were other ways he could help the team.

“I’m just trying to make an impact,” he said. “I haven’t been worrying about it too much. Go about your business, play the right way, and let things take care of themselves.”

Moore took care of the rest on this day, one that included loud ovations for Javier Lopez and Barry Bonds, but also an emotional ceremony for fallen Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who was a regular in the clubhouse and became close with many of the Giants. Bochy’s voice cracked when he talked about a pre-game ceremony that included the Owens children throwing out the first pitch.

“I thought it was important for us to go out and play well and win this ballgame,” he said. 

Bochy had the right guy on the mound. Moore had thrown eight dominant innings against the Cubs here the last time the Giants played at home, and he was sharp in a different way Monday. He relied on his defense and worked quickly, running into trouble just once, when Yasmany Tomas homered to lead off the fifth. 

After the bullpen blew it in Game 4, Moore did not point fingers. “This is the type of thing that makes you love baseball,” he said that night. “Because you really have to love it to come back after something like this.”

On Monday, after Melancon had held on to every inch of a three-run lead, Moore flashed another smile, this time one that didn’t hold any sadness.

“Mark’s a beast,” he said. “I’ll take him every day.”

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”