Panik finds grass in extra innings, leads Giants to win in return to KC

Panik finds grass in extra innings, leads Giants to win in return to KC

KANSAS CITY — Just as he did after Game 7 of the World Series, Joe Panik found Shawon Dunston and Chad Chop after a win to thank them for a decision to review a missed call. 

“First game back here, it’s me, Craw, Belt, Dunston and Chop,” he said Tuesday night. “Again, it was four to six to three to replay.”

Some things haven’t changed three years later. The Giants again got a big double play that was boosted by a review. Poor Eric Hosmer was again on the back end of it, showing that against the Giants, he can’t win regardless of how he goes into the bag. The pitching was outstanding in big spots, just as it was the last time the Giants played at Kauffman Stadium.

But there was one key difference: Three years after he made Giants hitters miserable, Lorenzo Cain came up inches short on the game-deciding play. Cain was all over the field Tuesday, but Panik’s single in the top of the 11th snuck under his glove to drive Nick Hundley home and give the Giants a 2-1 win. 

Panik was on that 2014 team that couldn’t figure out a way past Cain, Alex Gordon and the rest of the Royals outfield. He had flashbacks as he approached first. 

“It was mixed emotions,” he said. “You see the trajectory of the ball and the outfielders and you see a lot of green. But running to first, you see Lorenzo running and you have bad thoughts running through your head. Fortunately, that one caught some grass.”

It ended up being the game-winner on a night when both teams struggled in the clutch. The Giants left 10 on base but that was nothing compared to a 1-for-11 performance from the Royals with runners in scoring position. 

Panik and others credited Giants relievers for buckling down when situations got tight late. Steven Okert and Derek Law got through some iffy spots in the eighth, ninth and tenth to get the ball to Mark Melancon, who stranded two.

Hours earlier, Matt Cain had put the staff in gear with seven sharp innings. 

“He was outstanding,” interim manager Ron Wotus said. “Really, really good.”

Wotus, managing because Bruce Bochy had a minor heart procedure, was particularly encouraged by Cain’s effort against left-handed hitters. After Gordon’s leadoff double, Cain kept Gordon, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer mostly in check. He has two straight solid outings, lowering his ERA to 3.31. 

“It was a good day,” Cain said. “That was nice.”

Cain said he has benefited from a decision to keep him on track. The Giants could have skipped their No. 5 starter — and at one time it looked like a lock — but Cain got the nod in a city he didn’t pitch in three years ago because of an injury. 

“It was good to get back in a rhythm,” he said. “It’s nice to get back on the same page.”

Will it continue? Cain’s next start would come Monday against the Dodgers, and at times Bochy has hinted that Ty Blach could sneak back into the rotation to face a lineup that has massive issues against lefties. Asked about Cain on Tuesday, Wotus smiled and said Bochy will have all the answers when he returns to the club Friday. 

With Bochy back, Wotus will go back to being the bench coach and working tirelessly with the roster’s infielders. They have paid him back when given the chance. A year ago, Brandon Crawford picked up seven hits to help Wotus win a 14-inning game as interim manager. This time it was Panik.

“You get all the statistics today and matchups and everything and all the information that you look at, but the guy plays baseball,” Wotus said. “He’s in the moment and wants to be the guy.”

Panik found his moment in the 11th. The Giants are 2-0 the last two years without their manager, who was said to be watching from his home in San Diego. The games have lasted 25 combined innings. 

“He has a knack for knowing what games to take off,” Wotus said, smiling.


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.”