Nationals

Bochy earns trust from Giants, nears another crown

Bochy earns trust from Giants, nears another crown

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Bruce Bochy heads down the stairs that lead from the clubhouse to the dugout, greeting each player he passes along the way.

Whether friendly during a winning streak or firm after a tough loss, the San Francisco Giants have come to rely on one thing when it comes to their manager: Boch, as they call him, has their best interests at heart.

Yet this year tested Bochy like no other in nearly two decades on the top dugout step.

Two wins away from joining an exclusive club of 22 other managers to win at least two World Series championships, even Bochy will acknowledge he never saw this special October run coming.

Two years after winning the title, the Giants took a 2-0 lead into Game 3 on Saturday night against the Detroit Tigers.

``You've worked hard to get here so enjoy it, savor it,'' he said.

Bochy is quick to point out that it's his players who deserve all the credit. Yet there's no denying his astute decision-making again this month, from every pitching change, pinch hitter and double-switch.

From moving two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum into the bullpen to giving Barry Zito a second chance after the pitcher was left off the roster for all three postseason rounds in 2010.

He also helped make the decision to stick with the players who brought the club this far, rather than adding Melky Cabrera to the mix for the NL championship series and risk ruining chemistry with a player coming off a 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test.

``Hopefully you work at it and you get better with each year,'' Bochy said. ``It's like a player. I don't think you ever arrive as a player, I don't think you ever do as a manager.''

``You keep trying to get better and work on things, whether it's in game strategy or managing your players or even dealing with the media or front office, whatever it is,'' he said. ``You know, for myself, I don't see it difficult, but I do see you need to always try to improve in any area you can and become the best player or manager you can.''

Bochy made all the right moves in 2010, and he has been equally as spot on this October - albeit under far more challenging circumstances.

He lost All-Star closer Brian Wilson to a season-ending elbow injury way back in April. Slugger Pablo Sandoval, the Game 1 World Series star with a three-home run performance, spent two stints on the disabled list and dealt with a sexual assault investigation.

Then there was Cabrera's 50-game suspension Aug. 15, followed by the announcement Sept. 27 that the club would not be bringing him back.

His team charged on, unfazed by any of it. Outwardly, at least.

Bochy's mellow demeanor is a large part the reason why.

``He's a terrific manager,'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``We all have to handle things during the course of the year, and I think he handled the Melky Cabrera thing as well as anybody could have possibly handled it. ... He runs a good ship. He doesn't get too excited. He's tremendous with his bullpen. He was smart enough he's got three left-handers in the bullpen, so it's pretty versatile.''

``I think they know who's in charge,'' Leyland added. ``He knows exactly what he's doing.''

Of the nearly two dozen managers with at least two World Series titles, 13 are already in the Hall of Fame, with Joe Torre and Tony La Russa likely to join them. Leyland also is chasing his second managerial championship after winning with the Marlins in 1997, and his admiration for his World Series counterpart is considerable.

``He's one of the best managers in all of baseball, there's no question,'' Leyland said. ``Handles his bullpen tremendous, as good as you can handle a bullpen. He's at the head of the class with some other guys, there's no question about that. He's a tremendous manager. He's got a nice, calming influence about himself. You know who's in charge. He's everything that's good about baseball managers, in my opinion. He does it the right way. You never hear Bruce Bochy boasting himself or anything like that. You don't really hear much about him. He's terrific.''

The 57-year-old Bochy would join new Cleveland manager Terry Francona as the only active skippers with two or more World Series titles.

Not that he has had a spare moment to ponder that pursuit - or would ever bring it up anyway.

``He tells you everything when he needs to tell you,'' Sandoval said, benched during the 2010 World Series.

``I understood the things I had to do,'' he said.

Perhaps the biggest praise for Bochy this time around comes for how he has handled a patchwork bullpen and made it all operate so smoothly once the starter comes out - without the reliable Wilson, the 2010 majors leader with 48 saves.

Bochy, finishing up his 18th year as a skipper, began with Santiago Casilla as his ninth-inning guy and when he hit some bumps, turned to Sergio Romo or Javier Lopez.

Bochy also patiently waited out Brandon Belt as the first baseman did everything to eventually find his swing and his hitting groove, and he allowed first-year starting shortstop Brandon Crawford learn on the field.

``I think that's huge, huge for me, especially with a younger guy who struggles a little bit,'' Belt said. ``You lose a lot of confidence, but when you can look back and see that the front office, manager and coaches still have confidence in you, it gives you that little bit of hope you need to push through. I think that's what helped me a lot.''

Bochy mixed in Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence after they came aboard at the trade deadline. Then, he welcomed back Guillermo Mota when the reliever came off a 100-game drug suspension the pitcher blamed on children's cough syrup.

``We've also dealt with things that most managers and coaching staffs do that nobody ever knows about or hears about,'' general manager Brian Sabean said. ``The fact that we have won (103) games total, it's been a just reward for those guys because they're very talented and unfortunately very underrated. He's done a tremendous job.''

Lincecum insists he is thriving from the rush of hearing his name called to warm up and go into the game.

Bochy will tell it like it is, and Lincecum understood after a season of struggles. It was after the 2010 World Series when the skipper and Sabean publicly called out Sandoval, saying the switch-hitting third baseman had better get into top physical shape before spring training 2011 or risk starting the season in the minor leagues.

That got the Kung Fu Panda's attention, all right. It has worked out well.

``I think there needs to be a trust there. I think they need to know that you're behind them, and there's different ways to do it,'' Bochy said.

``Sometimes you're not going to agree. But as long as you do it in the right way and handle things right,'' he said, ``I think without question, I think it's something that's critical for the player and makes him a better player when he has trust from his manager and vice versa.''

---

AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed.

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Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

Beats by Scherz: Why Scherzer chose Dr. Dre song as his walk-up music

NEW YORK – A few constants remain during this wayward Nationals season. One is Max Scherzer.

Scherzer comes into Tuesday leading the National League in innings pitched and strikeouts. He's second in strikeouts per nine innings and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Scherzer's 3.72 ERA is well above his average of 2.71 since arriving in Washington in 2015. However, his FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a league-leading 2.45, showing he has been victimized by bad defense more than bad pitching.

He hopped on a pop-up edition of The Racing Presidents podcast Tuesday in New York. Sitting in the visitors dugout a day ahead of another matchup with 2018 Cy Young Award Jacob deGrom, Scherzer touched on lighter topics, like his selection of Dr. Dre's "Still Dre" as his walkup song, and addressed who is responsible for the Nationals being seven games under .500 the last year-plus.

We're all responsible," Scherzer said. "When you wear a hat and jersey that says Nationals on it, we're all in the same position. It's frustrating to not have a winning record. It's frustrating not to be winning as a team. [Since] I've been here, we've won a couple division titles and you know that feeling of what it's like to win. You know you have the core group of players who have won here in the past that can win here again. It's just a matter of figuring out what the right chemistry is and going out there and getting it done."

Scherzer is in his 12th major-league season. He's made at least 30 starts for 10 consecutive seasons. One of the reasons for his lack of injuries and durability is not because he goes through extensive recuperation during the offseason. Instead, Scherzer keeps pushing both his arm and body. 

"I try to find a way to continue to do more, to take more on my body even as I age," Scherzer said.

And, about that walkup song, which is part-protest, part-comeback song? He was out to dinner with reliever Aaron Barrett when it popped on and Barrett suggested it as this year's entrance music.

So, click below to listen to everything Scherzer had to say in our exclusive interview. Also, don't forget to download, rate and subscribe to The Racing Presidents podcast. We're with you after every game and with marquee interviews and insight you can't find elsewhere.

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

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2019 NBA Draft prospect profile: Bruno Fernando

The Washington Wizards will have the ninth overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...

2019 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Bruno Fernando

School: Maryland
Position: Center
Age: 20 (turns 21 in August)
Height: 6-10
Weight: 237
Wingspan: 7-3
Max vertical: 33.5 in.

2018/19 stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.6 spg, 1.9 bpg, 60.7 FG% (5.1/8.4), 30.0 3PT% (0.1/0.3), 77.9 FT%

Player comparison: Jusuf Nurkic, Bam Adebayo

Projections: NBC Sports Washington 24th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 19th, Sports Illustrated 28th, Ringer 37th

5 things to know:

*Fernando tested the NBA draft waters last year before returning to school and clearly helped his stock by doing so. He went from a likely second round pick to someone who could fall in the lottery. Fernando is ranked in most mock drafts as the third-best big man in this draft behind Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes.

*He is one of the best rebounders in this class. He averaged 10.9 boards per game as a sophomore and had five games of 15 or more. That includes a 19-rebound performance against Nebraska on Feb. 6. Fernando is a strong, physical forward so there is reason to believe those skills will translate to the next level.

*Concerns about Fernando include his lack of an outside shot. He attempted only 13 threes in college and did most of his damage around the rim. But the potential for Fernando to become a reliable scorer in the NBA appear to be there. He has soft touch around the rim and can finish with power.

*Defensively, Fernando needs some work. He has the physical tools with his size and long arms, and he averaged 1.9 blocks per game in college, but some evaluatiors criticize his defensive instincts and discipline. As long as Fernando can block shots and rebound in the NBA, he should be fine on that end of the floor.

*Fernando is originally from the country of Angola and has played for their national team in several international tournaments. Angola basketball is famous for being the subject of one of Charles Barkley's most memorable quotes. During the 1992 Olympics, he said of USA's next opponent: "I don't know anything about Angola, but I know they're in trouble."

Fit with Wizards: Fernando would fit the Wizards in a variety of ways. Rim protection and rebounding are their biggest needs and he would help them to different degrees in both areas. With rebounding in particular, he could be a big plus.

But two questions about Fernando could give the Wizards pause. One is if they can justify taking him ninth when he may fall into the teens and second is what his ceiling will ultimately be. Does he have All-Star potential or will he top out as an Enes Kanter-type rebounding specialist?

Ideally, the Wizards would find someone with very high upside to give them hope for a true franchise building block moving forward. There may be better options than Fernando at No. 9, even if they play positions that are less of a need for the Wizards.

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