Giants

Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

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Surkamp gets wise counsel from Lincecum

GOODYEAR, Ariz. Eric Surkamp won an ERA title in Double-Alast season, he enjoyed the thrill of his major league debut and he got dousedwith the celebratory beer shower that accompanies your first major league win.

All good things.

But last season ended on the worst possible note.

In his second to last start, he didnt survive the firstinning at Arizonas Chase Field. And the Diamondbacks destroyed the Giants15-2. Surkamp faced eight batters and retired just one of them. It was fourwalks, two singles, a double, three stolen bases and an early shower.

It was a smoldering wreck of an outing. And it was the night thatArizona clinched the NL West title.

Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti told Surkamp to forgetthat night and take only the positives out of what otherwise was a startlinglygood season. But when Surkamp went to work out at Fischer Sports in the Phoenixarea, the reminders were all around him.

J.J. Putz, Miguel Montero those guys were there everyday, Surkamp said. A lot of Diamondbacks players train there. But it wasgood. It motivated me.

Surkamp didnt lack for motivation over the winter. Perhapsno Giants player made a bigger improvement in terms of fitness andconditioning. But Surkamp needed to improve his mind, too especially afterhis first Cactus League outing was another rough one.

The first outings, I was pretty tense, knowing I didnt endthe season so great last year, Surkamp said. When you struggle in your firstouting, you get down on yourself.

Thats where Tim Lincecum stepped in. Surkamp said he was runningwith the two-time Cy Young Award winner one day when he received a piece ofadvice.

He helped to take the pressure off, Surkamp said. Its justhave the mindset going into games, like, Maybe the weight of the world isnton you. So stay calm. That was the gist of it. Coming from a guy like him,facing No.1s all the time, it says a lot about him and the composure he pitcheswith.

Surkamp has looked more calm and composed with every outing,winning the confidence of manager Bruce Bochy and making himself into a solidoption whenever the club has a vacancy in the rotation. He got close to 90pitches in five innings of a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesdayat Goodyear Ballpark.

The only runs he allowed came on Shelley Duncans two-runhome run in the fourth inning. Surkamp didnt let it faze him, settling backdown and throwing strikes to retire the next three hitters.

I think the kids had a nice spring, Bochy said. Hesbetter with experience. It seems his confidence is growing. He threw 90 pitchestoday and thats a good effort. He seems to be commanding his pitches better,and when he gets out of sync, he seems to be regrouping out there.

Hes got a calmness about him that you like.

Surkamp said he began incorporating his slider in hisprevious start and started throwing it to right-handers on Wednesday. He stillchastised himself for getting lazy on a few pitches in the early innings, whenhe was leaving a few balls armside.

Ive got to eliminate the pitches I leave up and over theplate, he said. The home run was a wakeup call, almost. Ive got to learn tobe locked in. It shouldnt take a home run for that to happen.

Even if Ryan Vogelsong must start the year on the disabledlist, the Giants wont need a fifth starter until April 15 the ninth game ofthe season. So Surkamp probably wont be needed in the near term.

But if Barry Zito struggles mightily, Vogelsong needs moretime or an injury befalls the rotation, Surkamp wants to leave the clearimpression that hell be ready for anything even if a division title is onthe line.

Its hard because you want to go out there and prove it to Giantsfans and everybody else, Surkamp said. Really, you just need to prove it toyourself. Just know you belong up here and its the same game.

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in the National League for years now. The 31-year-old is a five-time All-Star and was named the 2013 NL MVP. 

Not only do his stats stand out, McCutchen is also one of the most entertaining players in baseball. And that's clearly going to continue in San Francisco. 

On Thursday, McCutchen was asked about the famous seagulls of San Francisco flying around the outfield at AT&T Park. 

"I definitely made a few friends out there over the years. Steve the Seagull out there, I know him," McCutchen said on KNBR. "He comes in every now and then. We have a little pow-wow when I come to San Francisco. Yeah, we get along well, me and the guys, me and the birds. They know when to come in that's for sure." 

Denard Span, who the Giants traded to acquire Evan Longoria, had a much different relationship with the seagulls. 

McCutchen is clearly the opposite of Span in this regard though. He seems about as calm as can be when it comes to the birds paying him a visit. 

"They chill, we have some conversations. It's all good," says McCutchen. 

One other aspect McCutchen can't wait for in the outfield at AT&T Park, is getting to know all the fans. Specifically, not being a part of a special chant Giants fans have for opposing outfielders. 

"I'm lookin' forward to fans not callin' me bums anymore," McCutchen said with a laugh. "I'm glad I'm on the winning side. I'm glad I'm on the San Francisco Giants side. I can't wait to meet all the fans."