EXTRA BAGGS: Giants want a heavier Lincecum, etc.


EXTRA BAGGS: Giants want a heavier Lincecum, etc.

NASHVILLE -- The Giants have asked Tim Lincecum to put some more meat on his bones this winter -- preferably not by eating out of a paper cheeseburger sack.

"The focus is on good weight," said Giants head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner, who spoke by phone with Lincecum last week. "If he can gain five or six pounds of good weight this winter and come into spring, that would be what we're looking for."

Lincecum struggled to a 5.18 ERA last season -- the highest among all NL starting pitchers who qualified for the ERA title -- before becoming a secret weapon as a highly effective long reliever in the postseason. He either ran into trouble in the first inning, when he struggled to repeat his mechanics, or in the later innings, as his pitch count began to climb.

The latter was more of a stamina issue as Lincecum pitched nearly 20 pounds lighter than the previous season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he didn't like the way his knees and ankles felt in 2011, even though he had a 2.74 ERA and struck out 220. He had gained weight by gorging on In-N-Out double-double burgers.

The Giants don't want Lincecum to grease-bomb his way back to his 2011 weight. But they'd like him to begin the year with some reserves in his tank.

"He felt good (in 2012) and it wasn't like he was in bad shape," Groeschner said. "This is a strong kid we're talking about. Could he be in better shape? Certainly. We'd like to see his legs a little stronger, work on core strength. We just don't want him to start on a deficit."

Lincecum is entering his final year before he'd be eligible for free agency. He'll be a member of the starting rotation, manager Bruce Bochy reiterated to me on Monday. And as you might expect, Lincecum is motivated to have a turnaround season.

Groeschner was encouraged after hanging up the phone.

"Timmy just seems more eager to get going this winter and do it," Groeschner said. "He's ready to go for it. I was pleased with that as a starting point. Now it's up to him to put that into play.

"We just don't want him to fluctuate. We want him to find a happy medium."

Lincecum and all other pitchers were under orders to "stay cool" through Dec. 1. Now they are just beginning to crank up their fitness and throwing programs. But Groeschner said he plans to curtail their activity this spring, whether it takes the form of fewer bullpens, shorter exhibition starts or even delaying their participation in Cactus League games for the first week. (The Giants' Feb. 23 exhibition opener is their earliest in history, which is partly due to the World Baseball Classic.)

NEWS: Giants release Cactus League schedule

Groeschner said he would get with Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti to map out a plan to limit pitches after the Giants won their second World Series in three seasons.

Pablo Sandoval confirmed what he told us in October: He's definitely participating for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

Sandoval is in Venezuela now and will play for Magallanes in the winter league. It's a different offseason than the previous two years, when he did less baseball work and more strength training along with weight loss.

He'll be watched by Jose Alguacil, the Giants' well-regarded roving minor league infield instructor, who is coaching for Magallanes. Giants hitting coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens is managing the Margarita club and checking in frequently with Sandoval as well.

Two years ago, the Giants put the fear of God (or Fresno) in Sandoval when they demanded that he lose weight. It's a little harder to do that with a reigning World Series MVP. Ultimately, club officials know it's up to Sandoval to come into camp in acceptable condition, and no amount of monitoring can change that.

Sergio Romo is expected to play for Mexico in the WBC, and several other members of the organization are likely to participate. But the toughest call will be Buster Posey, who has gone on record saying he'd like to suit up for Team USA.

Bochy recently checked in with Posey about that decision; the Giants wouldn't actively try to dissuade him, but it's clear they would have greater peace of mind if he skipped the tournament -- especially after he spent 10 months of ankle rehab, played far more games than they expected in 2012 and pushed himself through three rounds of the playoffs.

Groeschner has received praise throughout baseball, and deservedly so, for the plan he and his staff devised to get Posey back on the field after those two ankle surgeries left him unable to walk for more than three months.

The Giants prefer to pace Posey the same way this spring, since you can't argue with the results -- a batting title and an NL MVP Award. But the WBC would throw everyone a big curveball. So stay tuned.

George Kontos had successful laser eye surgery, and he wasn't the only one. Jeremy Affeldt had the procedure done shortly after signing his three-year contract last month, too. And no, thank heavens, it was not self-administered.

Maybe now Affeldt will be able to see those hamburger patties more clearly when he tries to separate them.

Giants notes: Crawford in concussion protocol after collision in outfield

Giants notes: Crawford in concussion protocol after collision in outfield

LOS ANGELES — When the Giants got Evan Longoria back last month, they immediately found themselves without Brandon Belt. They’re hoping not to repeat that process.

Belt could be back Tuesday, but it’s unclear if he’ll be taking throws from his usual shortstop. Brandon Crawford collided with Gorkys Hernandez in a nasty fifth-inning collision and was put in the concussion protocol. Manager Bruce Bochy said Crawford was feeling much better after the game, but the Giants know all too well that these things can be unpredictable. 

“It rattled him pretty good,” Bochy said. “For precaution reasons, he came out. He’s in the concussion protocol but he feels pretty good. We’re hoping for the best. We’ll re-evaluate him, but right now it looks pretty good, I’ll say that.”

The Giants have had three players go into the concussion protocol in the last nine days. Buster Posey and Nick Hundley avoided the concussion DL after taking foul tips off the mask. Crawford took a thigh to the face as he chased Clayton Kershaw’s pop-up down the left field line. He went down but quickly popped back up, and at first it looked like Hernandez was in more pain. The left fielder jammed his wrist but stayed in the game. Bochy said Crawford looked shaken as he came off the field. 

Crawford is the club’s most irreplaceable player, so any ability to go on a run here may depend on Tuesday’s evaluation. Alen Hanson took over at short and later gave way to Chase d’Arnaud. 

--- Belt was 1-for-3 with a double in his second rehab game for Triple-A Sacramento. Team officials will now decide if he needs one more game there, or if he’ll face Alex Wood on Tuesday. 

--- It’s been a while since a Bumgarner-Puig showdown, and there wasn’t any drama Monday. Puig flied out in his first at-bat and angrily batted his bat down as he left the box, but Bumgarner simply smiled and shook his head. After Puig popped up in the sixth, the two came close to crossing paths on the infield, but they never looked at each other. 

--- Hundley was the hero tonight. He’s 5-for-12 this season as a pinch-hitter, with a homer and six RBI. 

--- Jeff Samardzija threw a short simulated game and likely will do that one more time before starting a rehab assignment. Samardzija said he feels great. Of course, he said that the last time, too, but there seems to be more confidence with team officials this time that the shoulder is healed. 

--- Tip of the cap to d'Arnaud and his infield coaches. He was out taking grounders at short on the homestand and said it was because you never know when you'll be needed at a new spot. When Hundley pinch-hit for Hanson, d'Arnaud was needed. He moved from second to short and Joe Panik entered as the second baseman.

With Dodgers bullpen searching, Giants come through with stunning win: 'That was sick'

With Dodgers bullpen searching, Giants come through with stunning win: 'That was sick'

LOS ANGELES — About 15 minutes after his club’s best win of the year, Bruce Bochy crinkled his face as a local reporter asked a long and odd question. The man wanted to know if Bochy felt sorry for the Dodgers, who are without their closer, Kenley Jansen. 

“Excuse me?” Bochy said, a bewildered look on his face. “With the injuries we’ve had?”

The Giants would not feel sorry for the Dodgers under just about any circumstance. That’s not how this rivalry works. They especially will not feel sorry for a team that has lost its closer, not when Bochy's original choice has been limited for two seasons and his backup, as the manager calmly pointed out, put his fist through a door. 

This is cruel game, and you take advantage when you can. The Giants did Monday, stunning a team that already was reeling because of bullpen issues. Nick Hundley’s two-run single flipped the score in the ninth and the Giants held on for a 5-2 win, the final out coming from a man who was their fourth choice to be closer this year. 

The win, which got the Giants within four games of the Dodgers and five of the first-place Diamondbacks, came after eight spectacular innings from Clayton Kershaw. Madison Bumgarner kept pace for six, and the Giants stayed within striking distance. They exploded in the ninth, a rarity. They had been 2-51 when trailing after eight innings. 

“We’ve got to win games like this to get to where we want to be,” Bumgarner said. 

That destination is still a long shot, but these things can change in a hurry, and the Giants all of a sudden find themselves chasing a team that has a familiar problem. The Dodgers simply can’t close opponents out with Jansen sidelined by a heart issue, and it may cost them a postseason spot. Two years ago, Kershaw likely would have closed this one out himself. But that’s not baseball in 2018. In a matchup of left-handed aces, Bumgarner was pulled after 97 pitches. Kershaw struck out two in the eighth, but he was done after 110 pitches. It was the logical choice given his injury problems in recent years, but it still left the home crowd salty. When the Giants loaded the bases with two outs in the ninth, Dodgers fans started to boil. When Hundley roped a single into right-center, the boos started. They got louder and louder until Dave Roberts finally pulled the plug on Scott Alexander, the Giants having turned a one-run deficit into a three-run lead.

The Giants did not feel sorry for anyone on the field. As the Dodgers tried to make sense of what had happened, Hundley returned to the dugout and spent 30 seconds exchanging hard back slaps, high-fives and hugs. 

“I’m just pumped for Hundo, man,” rookie Steven Duggar said. “That was sick.”

Hundley has been around long enough to see the strategy of this sport change. The complete game is a lost art. The Giants don’t have one, and the Dodgers don’t either. So in the ninth, with Kershaw on the bench, Hundley kept a close eye on the visiting bullpen. Alexander, a lefty with a good sinker, never had any backup. He was left out there to try and get through the ninth, so Hundley knew he would get his shot. 

“I got a good pitch to hit early and I found a spot where nobody was playing,” he said, practically shrugging. “With Jansen down, they’ve used a lot of different guys. When (Alexander) came in the game I knew I would hit. It’s just about making sure you’re prepared.”

There might not be a backup catcher in the game more prepared for Hundley, who still goes through his business every day as if he is a starter. Sometimes that leads to big days in place of Buster Posey. Sometimes it leads to late-game heroics. 

Hundley’s latest big hit got the Giants back to 60-60. The computers say they have a less than five percent chance of making the playoffs. The standings say there are plenty of teams still ahead of them, and this was just one game. But it was a hell of a way to start the most important road trip of the year. 

The Giants brought Madison Bumgarner into Dodger Stadium to face Clayton Kershaw. In the end, they walked away with a big win. 

“The best in the world are playing,” Hundley said. “It’s fun to come out on top.”