SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Brian Wilson hasnt blown one cutfastball past a major league hitter. So its too early to say hes back to hisold self on the mound.But after another promising bullpen session Monday morning,Wilson sure sounded like his old, confident and quirky self while meeting withreporters.And he left no doubt: Hell be ready to burst through thatbullpen gate on April 6.I know theres speculation, but if theres a saveopportunity on opening day, Ill be saving the game, he said. Im ready.This was not the evasive, gloomy Wilson who didnt giveinterviews in August and September when he couldnt pitch because of a soreright elbow. It wasnt even the clipped, somewhat standoffish Wilson whoreported to camp a week ago.He was back to his glib self, smirking as he offeredone-liners. And he made it clear his spirits match the way he feels on themound.I started the season on the DL and I ended the season(injured). I know theres much concern, Wilson said. Im just letting you knowthere wont be any concern once the season starts. Everybodys excited because Im pitching pain-free, but to me it was another bullpen. Thats how I pitch. Im not going to be surprised when I do well. Im going to take the mound and dominate. Any pitcher should feel like that. I know Ill pitchpain-free and Ill get the same three outs Ive always gotten.He paused as he stared me down, stifling a smile.And it will be exciting, Baggs.Wilson plans to throw another bullpen session in two days,then throw live batting practice. Hes on schedule to make his Cactus Leagueappearance March 11 or 12, and said he should be able to get in 10 to 11innings before the Giants open the season at Arizonas Chase Field.Thats good enough, Wilson said.Giants manager Bruce Bochy confirmed Wilsons timetable, andcalled Mondays session his best of the spring for the All-Star closer.Hes got his velocity back and his cutter, said Bochy, whoreceived reports from pitching coach Dave Righetti and trainer Dave Groeschner.Theres doubts that will creep into every pitcher or hitters mind after beingoff for several months. But hes got to feel good with where hes at rightnow.Wilson said he's able to stride a half-step further than the previous year, when his hip and back forced him to stiffen up his delivery. The elbow soreness probably came from compensating for the back. Wilson said he's learning to pitch with the longer stride length, but he didn't believe it would be a major adjustment.He worked with bullpen catcher Taira Uematsu to simulate pitches to right-handed and left-handed batters, taking extra time between pitches as he tried to lock in his location. The session was more than just a pitcher gripping and ripping.Tim Lincecum watched Wilson throw and also came awayencouraged. As Lincecum spoke to reporters, Wilson came over and offered him achocolate chip cookie.Its delicious, Wilson said.Lincecum laughed.Thats the way everybody wants Willie light and full ofenergy, he said. Its tough to see him when hes not like that. To see himhealthy and worry free is good for us and good for the team.Lincecum understood why Wilson went into a shell. Thetwo-time Cy Young Award winner felt the same way when he went 0-5 in August,2010.It changes a player to the point where hes not himself,Lincecum said. When I was going through that August, it was probably awkwardfor people to be around me. It was similar with Wilson. I feel hes back tobeing himself this year. Hes like, I feel good. My pens are going good. Youget excited about that on a day-to-day basis. I saw his bullpen. I saw him lift. Hes back to beingWilson.The Giants dont just feed off Wilsons ability to savegames. They also feed off his special brand of confidence and mirth. Thosequalities are beginning to reemerge along with his stuff.Weve got some fast baseball players, some veteranhitters, Wilson said. Thats all we need. Weve got cats who keep it loosehere. Weve got (Aubrey) Huff. I dont know about the Rally Thong. He mightbring it back.If we play the way we did in 2010, not talent-wise but as ateam, well do fine.One more important question: Wheres the Machine?I dont know, Wilson said. Thats a good question. Canthe Machine retire? I dont think thats possible.Wilson wouldnt confirm the secret identity of thatmysteriously masked mascot from 2010, largely believed to be Pat Burrell.Instead, Wilson deadpanned that there was a Machine bobblehead giveaway day inthe works.Guaranteed sellout, he said.Wilson looks ready for that sellout-crowd stage again.There were times he was miserable, when he didnt feel heshould be shut down, Bochy said. Now that hes back, its got to be better.Hes right on schedule and hell get enough innings, go back-to-back days, allthe boxes we need to check off with him.Wilson said he didnt think of himself as a rehabbing playerany longer.Its a different type of confidence, he said. I know whoI am and what Im capable of doing. My mechanics are right. I dont have thefeeling in my arm or my hip that I did last year. I know there are checklists,Is Brian progressing? But Im not looking at it that way. I plan on going outthere every day and being ready.This is an awesome team and were looking forward toanother journey. Weve got this pitching staff back together and were ready torock.Another long pause.And thats going to be fun to write about, Baggs.
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.”
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.”
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.
When he signed with Giants, Denard Span told us he doesn't like birds. pic.twitter.com/Ri7g4LJa8b— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) May 13, 2017
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."