Giants

Brian Wilson likely headed to free agency

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Brian Wilson likely headed to free agency

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brian Wilson and the Giants are nowhere near agreement on the shape of a contract for 2013, and barring a last-minute change, the All-Star closer and former World Series hero will be able to shop his services on the open market beginning 9 p.m. Friday night.Wilson will become a free agent if the Giants do not tender him a contract by the deadline. Because tendering him a contract would guarantee him a minimum salary of 6.8 million through arbitration, I'm told Giants do not plan take that tack and Wilson, from what I understand, is viewing that stand as an affront.RELATED: Could Brian Wilson wind up with the Dodgers?
The Giants appetite is to negotiate an incentive-laden contract with a lower guaranteed salary with Wilson. Sabean acknowledged the two parties are not at that stage but he intended to use the nine or so hours remaining before the deadline before making a tender decision just to be thorough.In other words: Almost certainly, Wilson will become a free agent. So his return will be determined by whether he gets a better deal on the open market.The Angels might have provided one clue. They just gave right-hander Ryan Madson a 3.5 million guarantee with another 3.5 million in incentives based on days spent on the active roster and games finished. Madson had Tommy John surgery in March, just a few weeks before Wilson did.RELATED: Giants 'jockey' with Pagan, Scutaro
Then again, Wilson's Tommy John procedure was his second, which makes his rehab schedule and outlook less predictable. Sabean said Wilson is going at a snails pace, which is to be expected following the procedure in April; he continues to play catch from 60 feet on flat ground and has vowed to be fully operational by opening day.Whether Wilson returns or not, it's likely to be another casting call again as the Giants figure out a closer to begin the season. Sergio Romo's emerging effectiveness against left-handers, combined with his terrific postseason culminating with his final pitch to strike out the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera to clinch the World Series title, makes him the prime candidate. But Jeremy Affeldt is returning as well, and the Giants are talking to right-hander Santiago Casilla, who is arbitration-eligible, about a multiyear deal.Although Sabean will look for relief depth on the open market, it will be dependent on what dollars remain, if any, after the club either re-signs or replaces second baseman Marco Scutaro and center fielder Angel Pagan.

Giants make two crucial mistakes, get rocked by Astros

Giants make two crucial mistakes, get rocked by Astros

HOUSTON — On Saturday, acting on an idea from hitting coach Alonzo Powell, a former Astro, the Giants placed a call to the Warriors. By Monday, Warriors equipment manager Eric Housen had delivered 60 sets of warm-ups to Minute Maid Park so the Giants could represent the Bay Area on their flight to Chicago. 

It was an idea that had players excited as they tried on the gear for the first time. It was also an idea that seemed like a better one before the team actually took the field against the Astros. 

The Giants got smoked in a two-game series here, losing 4-1 on Wednesday and getting outscored 15-3 in 18 innings. For good measure, the hometown Rockets upset the Warriors a few minutes after Tuesday night’s blowout loss to Gerrit Cole. Justin Verlander was just as tough, allowing one run in six innings, which actually raised his ERA a bit, to 1.08.

“It’s such a good staff over here,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “You’ve got your hands full. We saw two really good ones. You know you’ve got your hands full to try to get some runs. I thought last night we had some chances, but not so much today.”

The Giants grabbed an early lead when Gorkys Hernandez lined a triple and scored on Buster Posey’s sacrifice fly. But you have to play perfect baseball to come in here and beat the Astros, and they made two huge mistakes. 

First, Andrew McCutchen overran a pop-up to right field. Carlos Correa scored all the way from first on the two-out error. 

“I missed it. No excuses,” McCutchen said. “The ball got hit in the air and I missed it. Plain and simple.”

The bigger mistake came an inning later, after Samardzija had issued one of his five walks. He tried to throw a 1-2 slider to George Springer and ended up leaving a flat 89 mph meatball in the exact heart of the strike zone. Springer crushed it for a two-run shot. Ballgame. 

“It was just a pitch that stayed middle,” Samardzija said. “If you get it going more to the outer half of the plate you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting an out.”

A year ago, Samardzija might have dotted that outer half. But his command has taken a huge step back. He has 25 strikeouts to 23 walks after issuing just 32 free passes all of last season. 

“When you don’t have your best stuff, you don’t ever want to be missing in the middle of the plate,” Samardzija said of the lack of command. 

The shame of all this is that the Giants could have stolen a huge win on Wednesday. Hernandez had a solid day — nine-pitch leadoff out, triple, single — and looks poised to be the everyday center fielder when the Giants remember they employ Mac Williamson. The bullpen had a solid day. Bochy had Will Smith, Sam Dyson, Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland lined up to try and shorten the game and possibly get extended. Smith and Dyson did get in, and had an easy time of it. 

But all too often, the starters have come up short. Before Bochy could turn to the trusted arms in the ‘pen, Samardzija had done too much damage. He was out by the fifth, and the Astros cruised home from there.

Giants swept by Astros in two-game series, get outscored 15-3

Giants swept by Astros in two-game series, get outscored 15-3

BOX SCORE

HOUSTON — The Giants did exactly what you might have expected during their 48 hours at Minute Maid Park. 

A day after getting blown out by Gerrit Cole and the Astros, the lineup managed just one run off Justin Verlander, the MLB ERA leader, falling 4-1. A couple of mistakes proved costly. Andrew McCutchen made an error in right that cost Jeff Samardzija a run, and Samardzija grooved a slider to George Springer that shot out of the yard for a two-run homer. 

The Giants got outscored 15-3 by the reigning champs. They’ll see them again in August. Here’s what else you need to know from the mini-sweep… 

— Houston’s first run was a strange one. Carlos Correa singled with one out, but Samardzija appeared to be out of the inning when Yuli Gurriel hit a high pop-up to shallow right. McCutchen ran 108 feet to get under the ball but then whiffed on the catch attempt, and Correa scored all the way from first. That’s the second time McCutchen has done that this season, his first in right. 

— Samardzija led the Giants last season with 14 starts that lasted at least seven innings. He has yet to do it this season in seven appearances. In 4 2/3 innings, Samardzija was charged with four runs — three earned — on four hits and five walks. 

— Will Smith has been really good. He pitched 1 1/3 perfect frames in relief of Samardzija and he still has not allowed an earned run in 10 appearances since returning from Tommy John. 

— Pablo Sandoval faced Verlander twice. He did not homer. He grounded out to third and flied out to left.