Urban: Tejada reclaims starting job at SS


Urban: Tejada reclaims starting job at SS

July 18, 2011


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Mychael Urban

Saddled with an inconsistent offense missing its two most pure hitters and featuring precious few steady contributors, Giants manager Bruce Bochy doesn't have the luxury of running out the same lineup day after day. As a result, he has no choice but to play whatever hot hand he might have on any given day. He's used those very words -- "hot hand" -- countless times this season, to the point that you can see him struggling to write out his lineup card every afternoon while fumbling to wrap oven mitts around his pen or pencil.He used them again Monday before the opener of a three-game series against the visiting Dodgers at AT&T Park in explaining why Miguel Tejada, who lost his starting job at shortstop when rookie Brandon Crawford came up from the minors sporting a scalding stick to match his slick glove, has essentially reclaimed that job."He's earned it," Bochy said of Tejada, who was signed to a one-year deal worth 6.5 million last November 30. "I like the way he's swinging the bat, and this gives us a chance to give 'Craw' a little bit of a break."Tejada, 37, was a massive disappointment in the season's first two months, batting .217 with little pop through June 1 while displaying little of the range and athleticism that made him one of the better shortstops in baseball during his prime years with the Oakland A's. The 2002 American League MVP has since turned things around a bit at the plate, however, batting .286 with seven doubles, three homers and 10 RBIs, and he's been particularly strong in July, batting .341 (14-for-41) with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs in 12 games through Sunday.Crawford, meanwhile, is mired in a 1-for-21 slump over his past six games through Sunday -- including 0-for-9 in the just-concluded four-game series in San Diego, where Tejada went 3-for-10 with a home run."I'm searching a little bit," Crawford said. "But we're working on some things, me and hitting coach Hensley Meulens, and I think we're heading in the right direction."Special instructor Shawon Dunston said Tejada, even while sitting on the bench behind Crawford, has served as something of a mentor and one-man cheer squad for the rookie."Miggy's good for Brandon, no matter who's playing," Dunston said. "I wish every young player had a guy like Miggy to help show 'em the ropes."Tejada's defense remains a concern; he's made eight errors for a .945 fielding percentage in 36 games at shortstop, faring better during his 42 games at third base while Pablo Sandoval was out and in four games at second base recently. Crawford, 24, has made seven errors for a .960 fielding percentage in 40 games at shortstop since his promotion on May 26.But unless there's a situation in which a double switch makes sense, don't expect Crawford to be used as a late-game defensive replacement."Rarely will I do that with a young player, especially a rookie," Bochy said of a one-for-one defensive swap late in a tight game. "It's not that easy for a young player to come off the bench like that late in a game, come into a tight ballgame where the pressure's on. Miggy'll have to find ways to get it done unless there's a double switch."Monday marked the second consecutive game in which Tejada, a right-handed hitter, got the nod at shortstop over Crawford, a lefty hitter, with a righty on the mound for the opponent.
UPDATE: Tejada suffered a lower abdominal strain while failing to field a ground ball in the hole in the third inning Monday and was immediately removed from the game; Crawford replaced him.
Dribblers : Bochy said no decision has been made on whether the team will skip Barry Zito's turn in the rotation Friday to keep the rest of the starters on regular rest. Were that move made, and given the Giants have this Thursday and next Monday off, Zito might not be needed to start a game until the July 29-31 series at Cincinnati. A decision could be announced as early as Monday night after the game. Lefty Jonathan Sanchez (biceps tendinitis) will make his next rehab start Friday for Triple-A Fresno. Asked if Brian Wilson might wear his skin-tight latex tuxedo to the White House on Monday, Bochy smiled and said, "I don't think they'd let him in."

Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots


Raiders counting heavily on lightning rod CB against Patriots

MEXICO CITY – The Raiders cornerback David Amerson didn’t practice all week, but ran just well enough to be considered “doubtful” for Sunday’s game against New England.

Translation: Outlook for Sunday is not good, but Jack Del Rio’s fingers remained crossed real, real tight. The Raiders hope there’s a way he can be active against Tom Brady’s buzz saw attack, because their cover men are beat up.

Amerson has missed two straight with a foot injury, and has dealt with injury all year. Gareon Conley’s season officially ended Monday, when he was placed on season-ending injured reserve. Antonio Hamilton and Demetrius McCray were already there.

Reggie McKenzie hasn’t reached out for reinforcements. That leaves TJ Carrie, Dexter McDonald and Sean Smith to play cornerback. Carrie’s been the rock, a sure tackler who hasn’t made spectacular plays but doesn’t give them up. McDonald has been forced into action, with holes let in his game.

Smith should be the No. 1 guy in this group, the steadying presence on the outside. That hasn’t been the case this year, where he lost a starting job in training camp and sub-package snaps during the season, only to have injuries to Conley and Amerson bring him in the fray.

He’s also been dealing with felony assault and battery charges in Los Angeles stemming from a July 4 incident in Pasadena.

Smith has been a lightning rod for fan criticism, a byproduct of his $9.5 million salary this year and explosive plays allowed early in the year.

If there’s an anvil weighing on his mind, teammates insist you’d never know.

“We’re human at the end of the day,” Amerson said. “You feel it, but you have to find a way to remain even keel and professional and do your job well.”

Smith will be counted on heavily Sunday against New England, especially if Amerson can’t play as expected. He has proven vulnerable to speed without help and proper disruption at the line of scrimmage, though that hasn’t been an issue lately because the Utah alum has recovered well after a rough start.

He got pulled after struggling against Vernon Davis in Washington. He didn’t play against the Chargers after giving up two huge plays to Baltimore the week before.

Amerson originally sprained his foot in Week 7 against Kansas City – he hasn’t played since – and Smith was called upon to respond. He wasn’t targeted in that game, and has been strong in coverage ever since.

Smith has allowed three catches for 12 yards in four targets over the last two games. The ninth-year veteran insists he wasn’t doing anything markedly different, and had zero interest in patting himself on the back for recent jobs well done.

“I’m not,” Smith said. “I’m out there doing my job, man, the best way I can.”

Smith says the off-field distractions during a roller-coaster season, one of his career’s most trying yet, haven’t impacted him much

“Nope. Not at all,” Smith said. “As long as I wake up a Raider, I’m all right. I’ll deal with whatever happens. I’ll always be there for my guys, and I’ll do whatever it takes to help our team win.”

Raiders defensive backs laud Smith’s locker room presence, saying he’s an excellent teammate. Cornerbacks in general must have a short memory when things go bad, to refocus and prevent that from happening again. Smith apparently has that in spades.

“I know how things go, especially when you have a target on your back,” Amerson said. “Sometimes you get hit with the perfect pass and you give up some plays. You can’t do anything about that but take advantage of the next opportunity. Sean’s a good player, and he definitely has that mindset.”

Smith will lend experience to this big game, something the Raiders need after suffering so many injuries.

"It sucks that so many of us have gone down,” Smith said. "You want to have all your guys out there, but that’s the NFL. Injuries happen. As long as everybody comes to work and acts like a pro, we’ll be all right. We all have a job to do. We all would like to start, but you have to be ready when your number’s called.”

Kevin Durant takes shot at Zaza Pachulia while center's kid play one-on-one


Kevin Durant takes shot at Zaza Pachulia while center's kid play one-on-one

Kevin Durant doesn't take it easy on anyone. Not even the children of teammate Zaza Pachulia.

After practice on Saturday in Philadelphia, Pachulia's two sons, Davit and Saba, were playing one-on-one at the facility the Warriors were using. Kevin Durant filmed one sequence and posted it to his Instagram Story.

One of Pachulia's sons grabbed the ball and drives around the other without dribbling. As he makes the shot, Durant offers his commentary and took a shot at the Warriors starting center.

"That's a travel. Such a travel. Same thing your pops do," Durant said, taking a shot at Pachulia.

Durant also had another message for Pachulia written on the video.

"Yo, @zazapachulia at some you have to teach the boys how to play off the bounce," Durant wrote.