Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4


Scutaro playing hurt, Lincecum likely in Game 4

Programming note: Tune in to Giants October Quest, today at noon leading up to the first pitch of Game 3, and tune in again following the final out for highlights and interviews from St. Louis, only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area!

ST. LOUIS -- The first pitch of Game 3 remains an iffy proposition to be lobbed on time, even if the horizontal rain hasn't arrived by the 1:07 (PDT) scheduled start.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny were in agreement: They don't want to start a game only to take cover after an inning or two, knocking out both Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse and turning this NLCS into a long-relief baton handoff. In fact, Bochy said he'd be surprised if the game started on time.

As the skies darkened over Busch Stadium, this much was clear: Bochy would not use the Merkin Valdez maneuver.

When the game starts, Cain will be on the mound. Bochy wouldn't try to outsmart the weather and start a relief pitcher, as he did a few years ago when a storm was approaching Dodger Stadium and Valdez started in place of Tim Lincecum.

(The Giants did win that day, but Bochy outsmarted himself. Valdez absolutely dealt in two quick innings, so Lincecum took the mound in the third -- and then the heavy rain arrived. The Giants brought back Lincecum after a long delay; then-Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who used the same gambit only to end up putting Chad Billingsley in the game, did not choose to heat up his starter again.)

There is a sense of urgency to get this game in, though. If the series is delayed and Saturday's travel day is wiped out, then the Giants wouldn't have the option to bring back a fully rested Cain to pitch a potential Game 7. The same would be true for the Cardinals and Kyle Lohse, who has been their best starting pitcher this season.

Bochy is not a fan of using pitchers on short rest -- and he confirmed he wouldn't ask that of Ryan Vogelsong for a possible Game 5 assignment. (Vogelsong is lined up for Game 6.)

Even though the Giants remain officially TBA for games 4 and 5, the pencil plan is for Tim Lincecum to take the ball Thursday as long as he isn't needed for emergency relief in Game 3.

Game 5 is a choice between Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito, and as Bochy said about Bumgarner, "I don't think I'm concerned to the point where we don't play on using him. I'm not as concerned as you may think, because he's healthy. There's nothing going on with the arm. He's a big, strong guy. He's pressing more than anything and we've got to get his confidence back."

You can bank on this: There's no way the Giants would start both Bumgarner AND Zito in the remaining four games. The Cardinals posted the best batting average against left-handed pitching among NL teams. The Giants want to limit the Cards' exposure to lefties as much as possible.

Bumgarner and Zito both threw side session on Tuesday, so both are almost certainly unavailable to be used in relief in Game 3, Bochy said.

Marco Scutaro didn't look like Brandon Phillips at second base while taking grounders, but his lack of mobility wasn't concerning enough for Bochy to scratch him from the lineup.

Scutaro said he hadn't spoken Wednesday with Matt Holliday, whose controversial takeout slide sent the veteran infielder to the MRI chamber Monday night.

Scutaro told me his hip felt much better with another day of rest, but his left knee soreness was about the same.

Bochy was 80 percent sure Scutaro would start when the team boarded their flight Tuesday morning; he upgraded the Chance of Scutaro to 100 percent after watching Tuesday's workout.

Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly said he still had a couple of last-minute tests to pass before he'd be cleared to return to the coaches' box, but it hadn't been ruled out for Game 3. Hitting assistant Joe Lefebvre coached first base the previous two games after Kelly was struck on the head by a line drive in batting practice Saturday.

A shirtless Brian Wilson ducked his bearded head into Bochy's office during his session with the beat reporters and made a declaration.

"Activate me," Wilson said. "First toss Friday, big league game. Write it."

Friday marks the six-month mark from Wilson's reconstructive elbow surgery. He'll be cleared to start tossing on that day. He offered advice on how reporters should cover it.

"Make me a left-hander," he said. "Spice it up."

The Toronto Blue Jays claimed Scott Cousins off waivers. Wonder if the Maple Leafs will add him to their goon squad, too.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency


Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches


Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.