Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson credits Kruk & Kuip for helping facilitate reunion with Giants

Brian Wilson credits Kruk & Kuip for helping facilitate reunion with Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — A ceremony before Tuesday’s game ended the way so many Giants games once did: With Brian Wilson on the mound throwing to Buster Posey. 

Wilson was a surprise guest at the home opener. After a parade of Giants legends took the field to celebrate the organization’s 60th year in San Francisco, a clean-shaven Wilson jogged in from center field, took the mound and fired the ceremonial first pitch to Posey. Wilson has largely been absent from the public eye since his career ended after the 2014 season, and that was the last time he was at AT&T Park. What has he been doing?

“Eating raw food and hanging out,” he said. 

Wilson lives in the Los Angles area these days but said he plans to be seen in San Francisco more often. He said Larry Baer was instrumental in bringing him back into the fold after two years with the Dodgers, and credited Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper with helping the reunion happen. 

While the Giants love to bring their former players back, this was one reunion that looked unlikely. Wilson confronted Baer near the Giants dugout after a Giants-Dodgers game in 2013, but on Tuesday he said that ring dustup was overblown. He claimed his bushy black beard made it look more intimidating than it was.

“I guess what people saw was it was some argument, but it wasn’t,” he said. “It was just a conversation … we’re good.”

Wilson was often almost a caricature of himself during the final years of his career, but he was laid-back while talking to reporters during Tuesday’s game. He said he couldn't sleep Monday night because of the jitters involved with throwing out the first pitch on two days notice. He brought his own uniform for the ceremony and took the field fully dressed. 

“Why not have the last uniform I put on be the 38 Giants uniform? This is my uniform,” he said. “I had it all, especially the cleats that I got fined for.”

One thing was missing. Wilson shaved his famous beard a year ago.

“It wasn’t like a big deal,” he said. “It was a big deal because I was like, ‘holy crap, that’s my face.’”

The lack of a beard led to a bit of a confusing moment when Wilson was announced. His “House of Pain” walk-up song blasted through the park but the sellout crowd had a mixed reaction. Some didn’t seem to recognize the player running in from center field. Others seemed unsure of how to react to a man who left the Giants for the Dodgers. Wilson was fine with all reactions. 

“You’re allowed to do whatever you want, just be loud about it,” he said. “Show your emotions, just be loud about it.”

Power play at the center of Sharks' downfall in 2016-17

Power play at the center of Sharks' downfall in 2016-17

SAN JOSE – There was an NHL coaching casualty on Monday on a team that flamed out in the first round.

No, it wasn’t in San Jose. It was in Chicago, as the Blackhawks fired assistant coach Mike Kitchen, who was in charge of their penalty kill. Chicago, swept by Nashville despite finishing atop the Western Conference, finished 24th on the PK in the regular season.

When it comes to the Sharks’ coaching staff, there’s no doubt that head coach Pete DeBoer will return, but it’s fair to wonder if assistant coach Steve Spott is feeling a little heat right now. The Sharks’ power play, a primary focus of Spott’s, finished just 25th in the NHL this season (16.7 percent) after it was third in the league in 2015-16 (22.5 percent).

When asked if the full Sharks’ coaching staff would return next season, general manager Doug Wilson didn’t offer anything definitive.

“I haven’t sat down with them yet. I think they did an outstanding job,” Wilson said. “You go through the last 12 months with a compressed schedule, very few practices, integrating players. I’m very pleased with their performance.

“I think there are things that they want to do better. We all have to take a look back and be honest, and say since we’re not playing right now, what can we do better? I think that transparency and honesty is a really good part of this group. We’ll do that in the next week.”

And what was Wilson’s perspective of the power play?

“It’s got to be better. [The coaches] will tell you. …  It’s not [always] the percentage or the number, it’s when you score goals. We certainly have the talent, and historically we’ve done very well,” Wilson said.

There was no part of the Sharks’ game during the regular season and in the playoffs that was more baffling and frustrating than its performance with a man advantage. Last season’s success seemed to bleed into October as the Sharks were running at a 24.1 percent rate through the first month of the 2016-17 season, but after November 1 and through the end of the season, the power play was a miserable 15.7 percent (34-for-217).

In the playoffs the Sharks were a more respectable 5-for-28, but even DeBoer called that misleading as four of those came in the 7-0 blowout in Game 4. They were 1-for-18 the rest of the series.

DeBoer, as the head coach, took responsibility for that part of the Sharks’ game when asked how much the miserable power play grinded on Spott.

“It grinds on all of us,” he said. “This isn’t about Steve. The power play is not about Steve. The power play is about our whole staff. We sit on all those situations as a group, and I’m the ultimate guy responsible for all those things. 

“I think it ground on all of us. It didn’t give us momentum, it didn’t create momentum even when it wasn’t scoring. That’s what you want your power play to do, is at least give you some momentum that you’re feeling good coming out of it. We didn’t get that, so that’s something that’s right at the top of our list.”

One baffling aspect of the power play is that the coaching staff hardly ever tried anything different with its units unless it was forced into it due to injury. Patrick Marleau was bumped from the top unit for a brief stretch in the middle of the season, but it didn’t last very long.

The second unit generated just seven goals in the 82-game season, and none after Feb. 2 other than rookie Danny O’Regan’s score in the final game when several Sharks regulars were resting.

One argument regarding the top unit is that it simply became too predictable. Joe Thornton could be counted on to pass, Brent Burns was going to shoot any chance he got, and Joe Pavelski would be hovering somewhere around the slot looking for a deflection.

Pavelski said: “There were times where maybe we rushed it, forced a few things. Definitely all year it could have been a little better, a little more of our identity and what it has been in the past. So, that’s on us as players.”

DeBoer said: “I think we got a little stagnant. I don’t think we had as much motion as we usually have and as much movement, and that comes with some confidence. You lose confidence, you tend to stand still. That’s something that we’ve got to get back.”

Brian Wilson attempting MLB comeback as knuckleballer

brian-wilson-giants.jpg
USATSI

Brian Wilson attempting MLB comeback as knuckleballer

Former Giants All-Star closer Brian Wilson is attempting an MLB comeback ... as a starting pitcher and a knuckleballer.

Wilson, who has thrown for a pair of teams recently according to Yahoo Sports' Tim Brown, threw a 30-pitch bullpen session at USC on Wednesday, showcasing his knuckleball and a clean-shaven face. 

"That right there was an MVP-Cy Young knuckleball," Wilson told Brown after the session. "You can write that down, too. No joke. I can already see myself out there throwing up some waffles."

The 34-year-old has been out of baseball since 2014, when he went 2-4 with a 4.66 ERA in 61 games for the Dodgers. Los Angeles released him in 2015, still owing him $9.5 million. 

“It was kinda good to lay back and figure out what I wanted,” Wilson told Brown. “It feels like a new leaf.”

Brown reports that Wilson has always toyed with a knuckleball, but that the Giants asked him not to throw it while in San Francisco, where he went 20-20 with a 3.21 ERA and 171 saves over seven years, collecting three All-Star nods and two World Series rings.

"I always said that once my career was over I was coming back as a knuckleballer," he told Brown. "I’m good with it. Man, I get to play a game. It’s going to be pretty fun."

Time will tell if all the fun will result in a new MLB contract. 

"So that's what he's been doing!?" former teammate Aubrey Huff tweeted. "Most of us assumed he moved to Indonesia, or joined a tribe in Africa. Go get em B-wheezy!"

https://twitter.com/aubrey_huff/status/829502122215366656