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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Belt's success, Pence's return difference makers

For the first month or so of the season, the Giants had some roller coaster moments. They had a few upswings, then a few downswings with some injuries, but as we inch towards the end of May, they've really have seemed to have gotten things on track.

Duffy Makin' Pablo Loss Easier
First off all, the big news over the last week or so has been the reassignment of new third basemen Casey McGehee to Triple-A Sacramento, a role in which he didn't have to accept and could have collected his paycheck regardless. Instead he chose to continue to be a part of this organization and go work on his game over in Sacramento where he's just a 90 minute drive from AT&T Park should the Giants need him at any given moment. That move officially opened the door for Matt Duffy to become the team's full-time third basemen and the Giants couldn't have asked for better results out of their 23 year-old infielder thus far. He himself has been a big part of this team's May resurgence, as the kid has hit .343 with 2 jacks and 15 RBI since sort of taking over at third earlier this month and it's no wonder the offense has picked up since the move. Casey, while great in the clubhouse, just simply wasn't getting it done on the diamond and his rally-killing double-plays ended up really being his downfall. For a team that doesn't hit a ton of big three-run home runs, they can't give up extra outs with double plays and McGehee had become a DP machine. So, if you couldn't tell, I'm a huge supporter of the move. Give Duffy a couple of months to see if he can take this position down the stretch or figure out if they'll need to go out and get someone else. So far though, he not only looks up to the challenge, but heaps and bounds better than his predecessor.

Now, I know the insertion of Duffy into the lineup has been key, but that didn't become official until last week, and before that move the whole lineup had been starting to pick it up. Pence, coming back and coming back strong and ready to go was a huge, huge shot in the arm, and the fact that Brandon Belt may have finally figured out how to hit some home runs without changing his approach and keeping his average respectable has sort of been the difference. Posey's been healthy and in the zone and Brandon Crawford's continued growth at the plate has also helped things. Another guy I wanted to mention and a guy who I think has been overlooked quite a bit during this huge turnaround of late and that's the guy that gets it all started, leadoff man Nori Aoki. Sabean seems to strikeout consistently with multi-year deals for free agent positional guys, but it seems like all his one-year deals tend to work out OK. Aoki is the latest case as he's been one of the more effective leadoff men in baseball, slashing .326/.357/.439 with 11 swipes and 21 runs scored. Now that we're at the quarter point of the season, you can multiply that production by 4 and your looking at a 44-steal, 84-run pace for Aoki right now with that +.300 average. Needless to say, he's pretty much locked the leadoff spot down and unless he tanks for a month while Pagan skyrockets, he's staying right where he is.

Extras: With the open spot left by McGehee, the Giants decided to give right handed reliever Hunter Strickland another look-see at the big league level. So far up here, it's been a case of the "Jekyll and Hydes" for Strickland but he's hoping this time around with postseason experience under his belt, things will go differently... Larry Baer said on KNBR Wednesday that the Giants are indeed expecting Cain to produce for them this season and although there has been no official timetable, sometime in July is the the Giants' Boss' best guess. That's some good news I guess. I'm still not really counting on much out of Cainer and with the way the staff is throwing right now, and Peavy hopefully on his way back, they don't necessarily need him at the moment. So unless Cain is 110% and ready to rock like he was back in 2010-12, then OK, but if not, let the guys they have take care of things and if need be, use the resources saved this winter to go out and land a Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto. Just cause things are fine now on the pitching front doesn't mean the Giants should be settling. Lincecum could always go into a funk again at anytime, Huddy could eventually start to look his age (as he has for much of 2015 anyway) and Ryan Vogelsong is about as unpredictable as they come...

Also, as you've noticed, Bruce Bochy's A-lineup has indeed changed with Hunter Pence settling in, but not quite in the way most had expected. Angel Pagan has been moved into the 7th spot for the time being, with Hunter Pence sliding into the 3-spot, Brandon Belt 5th behind Posey, Crawford 6th and new third basemen Matt Duffy hitting 8th. Things could change but right now that seems to be a pretty solid set-up, especially with the way each guy is currently swinging, I could see Duffy and Pagan at some point swapping if Duffy continues to rake up RBI's, then if Aoki ever hits a cold streak or needs a day off, Boch can swap Pagan into the leadoff spot and Blanco/Maxwell into the 8th spot.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Return of Pence has Giants clicking

Now that Hunter Pence has made his highly anticipated return, doing so with a bang I must add; more on that later), Brian Sabean and co. can start to really plan their course of action as we move toward trade season (at least in terms of positional needs). It's taken 6 weeks of the regular season but the Giants A-Lineup has arrived and it's looked pretty darn solid!

Hunter Pence wasted no time making his presence felt in that batting order, as he went 4-8 with a whopping 5 runs scored to go along with a home run and two RBI. Talk about an explosive couple of welcome back games! Pence's return doesn't just add another premier bat to the lineup, but it also alleviates some of the pressure off some of the other bats, such as Brandon Belt, and it causes a ripple effect all throughout the lineup. Speaking of Belt, he was the only Giant to out-do Hunter Pence at the plate in the Reds' series. The big first baseman finally found that power stroke that he'd been searching for since the season begin, homering three times in the series, which happened to be just his first three home runs of the 2015 season so far. He came into Cinci with a .287/.368/.394 with no homers and just 7 RBI and he left with a .321/.392/.509 line to go with those 3 homers and now 14 RBI. Belt has that ability to get hot and hit home runs in bunches and it looks like he's right in the middle of one of those streaks and I don't think it's any coincidence that his burst over the weekend coincided with the return of the Hunter Pence.

Many wondered how the lineup would shape up when Pence returned and whether or not Angel Pagan would be ousted from the 3-hole. However, although Pagan doesn't hit for as much power as your prototypical 3-hole guy, he's been hovering right around .330 all season long and is one of the more clutch hitters on the team. Now, if Nori Aoki runs into any trouble (May hasn't been as easy on left fielder after a big April) then Pagan could find himself back atop the Giants order at some point, but I think Bochy is really hoping he can continue to solidify that spot. It stretches the Giants order out much more that way and allows for a little more pop at the bottom of the lineup.

So, with Pence now back in the mix, the lineup has rounded into shape a bit the last couple of nights, and seems to be on the upswing. There's still a little bit of concern at the hot corner with Casey Mcgehee still struggling and hitting into double plays like they're going out of style, but they still have another couple of months to figure out how they'll approach the stretch-run at that position. Every other spot on the diamond seems pretty much locked down at the moment though, so outside of a possible upgrade at third base, Brian Sabean's primary focus heading into the summer will likely be on the starting pitching market. They're still waiting on the returns of Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, which could end up negating the need for another starting pitcher, but with Cain's health and the amount of time he's missed, I'm not sure they're expecting much from him, at least for the first half of the season. Peavy, on the other hand, just can't seem to get his back to heal up and keeps having to push back scheduled work, although the hope now is that he'll be ready for a rehab assignment as soon as this weekend and could rejoin the Giants rotation in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, Ryan Vogelsong has been throwing the ball better of late, and Tim Hudson is coming off a dominant outing vs. the Dodgers Tuesday night at AT&T. It hasn't just been the Madison Bumgarner show over the last couple weeks as the Giants have finally started to string together some solid outings and it's no coincidence it has them a season-high three games over .500 and just a couple back of LA in the West. I like the team's momentum right now as they're starting to win games much like they did in the postseason last fall. They aren't necessarily relying on the home run ball as much and seem to have more guys contributing throughout the lineup rather than just the middle and top four or five guys which seemed to be the case at the start of the season.
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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Pitching leading Giants back to relevancy

Well for the first couple weeks of the season, the Giants starting pitching was all over the place and it contributed greatly to their 4-10 start. However, over the last two weeks, the Giants have righted the ship in a big way.

MadBum Shuts Down SD
The orange and black are a cool 8-3 over their last 11 contests, bringing them back to .500 for the first time since the first week of the season. A big reason for that record has been the performance they've received from their starting rotation the last couple of weeks, most recently with Madison Bumgarner's gem on Monday night. The Giants ace, who was right in the center of the teams starting pitching deficiencies during his first few starts himself, took a no-no into the seventh inning vs. a tough Padres lineup, finishing the night allowing just 2 hits over 7 1/3 innings of work. MadBum improved to 3-1 and lowered his ERA to 3.03 with the effort, and the Giants pulled off their fourth straight victory. After the game, the talk was all about MadBum as his turnaround has sort of had a ripple effect on the whole starting staff. The one guy who really hasn't pulled his weight all season long has been Ryan Vogelsong, as he seems to be pitching for his career each time he takes the ball. Jake Peavy could be back in a couple of weeks, and Matt Cain, hopefully, will follow him shortly after, so it's very possible that if Vogey doesn't get on track over the next few weeks, his days in a Giants uni may be numbered.

Lincecum 2.40 ERA in April
As for the guys who have been pulling their weight, first and foremost has to be the guy who's surprised everyone a little bit I think with his strong start, and that guy is Tim Lincecum. Through his first five starts, Lincecum has looked as close to the pre-2012 version of himself than ever. He's  just 2-2, but is pacing the Giants' rotation with a 2.40 ERA and is carrying a 1.23 WHIP. He hasn't had a WHIP below 1.32 since 2011 and has a combined 1.39 WHIP over the last 3 seasons. His secret to success has been pretty simple, he's been much more economical with his pitches and seems to have a much better command of what he's doing out there. He almost looked like a rookie with that "dear caught in headlights" look a lot the last couple of seasons, but now he seems to have that swagger about him back. I don't know if it's the impending free-agency that has him in super focus mode right now, or if he's just turned some sort of corner but he really has looked like a much different pitcher in 2015 and I don't think this start has been a fluke. Now, I don't expect him to carry a 2.40 ERA throughout the summer, and he's probably gonna still have a hiccup here and there, but he really hasn't had one yet and that's just such a positive sign.

With Chris Heston throwing the ball well and Tim Hudson rounding into form after a slow start himself, the Giants rotation sure looks to be coming around and it's going to pose Bruce Bochy with some tough decisions on the horizon. Jake Peavy threw a bullpen session over the weekend and came out extremely optimistic and Matt Cain has begun to throw off flat ground with a bullpen session this week, although Cain is going to be brought along a bit more cautiously. Peavy could be ready for a rehab start, assuming all things go well with his next bullpen session and he avoids all set-backs, sometime next week and could rejoin the staff by the mid-to-late May. If Vogelsong doesn't get it together in his next two starts, then he very well could be looking at the end of his Giants' career. I don't think they'll move him  back to the bullpen if his ERA is in the 8's and 9's. He's just hurting the team much more than he's helping at the moment and has to show some sort of value this month for Boch and Sabean to deem reason to keep him on the roster.

Injury Updates: Back to Matt Cain, the Giants are expected to take it extremely slow with the big right-hander who they still owe about $64 million between now and the time his deal expires after the 2017 season (assuming they buyout the option for 2018 at a whopping $7.5M). So, with them on the hook for all that money, you can see why they'd rather take it slowly and have him miss the first few months of the season to ensure he's 100% and ready to really contribute in the second half and throughout the remainder of his contract.... Hunter Pence, who's coming along a little slower than originally hoped with the fractured wrist, is still a few weeks out himself, although he has started increasing baseball activities. The thing with Hunter is he really didn't have any spring training, and may need a rehab assignment of at least a week to ten days, if not two weeks. Needless to say, he's not going to make the 6-8 week timetable like originally hoped. At this point, I'd just like to see him in a lineup before the calendar flips to June. 
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, April 27, 2015

Giants could make big statement in LA

Obviously it's been a bit of an up-and-down first few weeks of the 2015 season for the San Francisco Giants, but they were able to get back on track last week vs. the Dodgers at AT&T Park with a much needed 3-game sweep. They now get LA for another three, this time in Southern California, and their hoping for similar results as they climb their way back towards .500.

Another Big Start for 55
With the rain-out in Sunday's rubber match in Colorado, it pushed Tim Lincecum's start back a night, which I think is a big deal. Not only did Timmy avoid throwing in the light air in Denver where he's been lit up in recent seasons, but this now allows Madison Bumgarner's start to be pushed back from Monday night to Tuesday when he'll be opposed by Clayton Kershaw, a much more reasonable matchup on the Giants end than having Kershaw go up against Vogey. Still, Vogey won't get an easy matchup in the finale as he takes on Zach Greinke, but I think the Giants will take the matchups they've gotten now rather than the ones they were scheduled to have. That being said, it's another big start for number 55, as he opposes Brian Anderson, a guy the Giants were able to rough up last week at AT&T (4 IP, 9 hits, 4 ER). So, with the Giants sitting at 8-11 and the Dodgers at 11-7, another 3-game sweep could bring the Giants to within a game of the their SoCal rivals, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Hopefully Timmy carries over the good vibes from his last outing vs. these very Dodgers, when he threw 6 strong, allowing just a run and 5 hits with 5 punch-outs.

On the other side of things, although they still don't have Hunter Pence back and Casey McGehee grounding into double plays on the regular and hitting just .175, the offense has been holding their own the last few games. One guy who can take a lot of the credit for the teams offense showing some signs of life is new outfielder Justin Maxwell. We mentioned J-Max a few times during spring as a potential right-handed power bat off the bench, but so far in the early going, he's providing much more than that. He's ousted Gregor Blanco from the starting lineup and has entrenched himself into the middle of the Giants order with a .303/.400/.615 slash line through his first 40 at-bats. Now, 40 ab's is hardly a fraction of a seasons worth, but he's come up with some clutch hits and is showing no signs of slowing down. He's big and powerful and can drive the ball out of the ballpark, plus he also plays the heck out of right field. He's making so much noise in fact, that the Giants may be forced with the task of possibly platooning he and Nori Aoki a bit once Hunter Pence does return from the DL.

Maxwell Carrying Offense
Pence's return is still roughly 2 weeks away, but eventually some decisions are going to have to be made, and Justin Maxwell has been about as valuable as any other bat in the lineup thus far. Boch said Sunday in Colorado after the rain-out that Pence's return will not push Maxwell back to a full-time bench role, but opened the possibility of doing sort of a three man rotation in left and center between Maxwell, Aoki and Angel Pagan. I mean, we're three weeks into the season only but between he and Aoki, I'd say the Giants hit on their two bargain outfield free agent pick-ups this winter and together those guys aren't even making $7M. In any event, having a jam-packed outfield is hardly a problem Bochy is fretting about. It's been a while since the Giants had the kind of depth they seem to have put together this season as Maxwell has filled in for Pence with flying colors and Matt Duffy has eased some of the pain of Casey McGehee's struggles.

Extras: On a medical note, Matt Cain, who hasn't thrown in a big league regular season game since last July, will give it another go as he'll begin to throw again over the next week. At this point, I'm not sure what the Giants are expecting out of Cainer, but I do fear that Tommy John may be inevitable and if that's the case and they want him back for any of hte 2016 season than that decision has to be made sooner than later. I just have a bad feeling with Matty right now and fear that we may not see him on the field for quite some time. Boy how I hope I'm wrong and he's back in the rotation by the end of May, but something still feels off with the former horse of this staff.

On the other end of the spectrum, Hunter Pence is on his way back, and should most certainly be back with the big league squad within two weeks, if all goes as planned. He's been able to stay in shape and on his feet, but his biggest obstacle will be getting his timing down at the plate. He didn't have but a handful of at-bats in March and will likely need at least a weeks worth of rehab games in Sacremento, I'm guessing... Jake Peavy, out with back spasms will hopefully be back, healthy and ready to go when he's eligible to come off next week.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Giants still searching for clutch hits

Well, much like the issue in San Diego, the Giants were again unable to get any kind of scoring going against the Rockies number 4 starter.

The Giants managed  to get 12 guys on base throughout the game, but the problem with that is that only 5 of those guys got on via base hit. That just gives you an idea of how tough it is for this team to come by hits right now, which with their lack of power is crucial. That's how you get 12 base-runners and don't score, you simply don't hit. Angel Pagan, who I admit I still like in the three spot, really failed miserably today, leaving 5 guys on base including once with the bases jammed. Also, Gregor Blanco, who for some reason was hitting 6th instead of Matt Duffy, left three runners stranded. They applied the pressure but just could cash in when need be, and that's a worrisome trend here early on in the season. I know it's gonna help a lot to get McGehee and Pence back eventually here but the concern coming into the season has clearly been the issue through the first 8 games.

On the other side of the coin, once again Chris Heston was very strong. The newly-turned 27 year-old right-hander yielded 7 hits, 2 walks and just 2 runs along with 5 punch-outs over 7 innings. Another quality, plus start for Heston, who got the tough luck loss, but you can obviously see why the Giants are so high on the right-hander. He's always posted respectable, yet underwhelming numbers in the minors, but had great spring and now has an 0.69 ERA over 13 innings pitched, allowing 10 hits, 4 walks and has struck out 10 batters. Obviously a small sample size of just two starts, but he's out-pitched even MadBum thus far, and looks like he's a guy who may be here to stay. The Giants have been pretty hush hush on exactly when Cain is set to come back, but something tells me we could see someone else (Jake Peavy could be a candidate if he can't get things going here in his next few outings). You'd have to assume Cain is going to need a rehab assignment, and that hasn't even been brought up yet so we can only hope for an April debut from their horse. Heston's performance will allow them to take it cautiously with Cainer, but they need that guy back out there and helping this team.

It's tough, but like I said in our previous post earlier today (or yesterday at this point I guess), they're going to put it together sooner or later and be better than the 3-5 start they've gotten of to. I don't know if this team, as is, is a playoff level team unless, Although that changes if Sabean adds the right piece or two at the deadline. However, I do think they're a +.500 team, as is, and should be winning at least slightly more than they lose, not the other way around.

Josh Hamilton: Worth the Risk? I don't know how many of you guys have been paying attention to the Josh Hamilton situation, but I feel like the way the Angels are handling it is terrible. The outfielder obviously has an illness and something that will be a life long issue, and he did the right thing in going to MLB for help, and now Arte Moreno and Co. are punishing him for it, removing his locker from the home clubhouse for the opener and openly trying to get out of the remaining $83M Hamilton is due over the next three seasons (even though if they do deal him, they'll have to eat maybe half of that salary). With that said, the guy is 34 years old and if he can get his shoulder right and his offseason slip-up is behind him, he's still an offensive force and perennial all-star with MVP capabilities... Anyway, it probably has about a .01% chance of happening, but how cool would that be to see Josh Hamilton in a Giants uni in Left Field!
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Monday, April 13, 2015

Giants hoping for some home healing

The 2015 season started just like the 2014 postseason ended, with Madison Bumgarner leading the squad over Arizona. However, since that opening day win, the Giants are just 2-4, and are hoping that coming home will cure some of their woes.

One of the issues that have haunted this team early have been nagging injuries. On the plus side, they did finally get Brandon Belt back for the first time since opening day on Sunday, however Casey McGehee went down with a knee strain on Saturday, so the Giants still won't be at full strength for Monday's opener. What the Giants need to do on this homestand is get their guys back. Hopefully Belt is back for good now, and McGehee's knee bruise will keep him down no more than another game or two, but there hasn't been much chatter on Hunter Pence, who was striving to be ready by the end of the team's first homestand, but that doesn't appear likely at this point. At the very least though, they should have their opening day lineup back in-tact at least within a few days. That is, of course, if they avoid anyone else going down which at this point, nothing would surprise me.

Aoki .400/.455/.467 Wk. 1
Now, in terms of assessing the team's performance after that first road trip, obviously things could have gone better than 3-4, but based on how poorly the team's starting pitching continues to look, they're lucky it's not worse. 2 of those losses were 1-run games too, which easily could have gone the other way and had them at 5-2 coming into Monday's home opener, but that's baseball. The bats looked pretty good in Arizona, but definitely cooled off in San Diego, where they only scraped together 7 runs over the 4-game set. Getting on the board early needs to be a priority for them to take some pressure off the starters right now. Unfortunately, not too many guys are swinging a hot bat right now and one of the guys that was off to a nice start, McGehee, won't be out there today. Nori Aoki (.400) has been a stud in the leadoff spot and Buster Posey and Angel Pagan are each north of .290, but everyone else in that lineup is down around .200. I'd like to see Joe Panik get hot again, as he's been quiet since his 3-hit opener, plus Brandon Belt needs to make his presence felt ASAP. Without Pence out there, the Giants middle part of their order is much less imposing, so each of those guys need to step it up until Hunter gets back.

I think coming home will be a nice boost for the club. They are facing a team off to a great start in Colorado, but Chris Heston is coming off a brilliant outing in Arizona and I think he's ready for his Home Opening assignment and hopefully those bats can get a shot in the arm back in front of their home crowd. I know things haven't started out terrifically, and people were plenty skeptical of the team coming in already, but all it's gonna take is them pitching up to their capabilities and getting a few more guys going in that lineup for them to shift this thing into the proper direction. Again, a few different bounces this last week and we're looking at a 5-2 start.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Bumgarner, Pagan Lead Giants in Opener

Just like they did the last time they took the field for a meaningful game, the Giants walked away with a tight, one-run victory. They ended up jumping out to an early lead and beating the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona at Chase Field, 5-4, in a tight ballgame that came down to Casilla fanning Goldschmidt for the final out.

It was a little different out there without Hunter Pence, and seeing seeing a face at third base other than Pablo Sandoval for the first time since 2008 when Jose Castillo opened the year at the "hot corner". Also new was a the leadoff man, Nori Aoki. New or old, most all worked out for the Giants on Monday night, starting with Madison Bumgarner. The Giants' ace, while not quite as dominant with the strikeout, picked right up where he left off last fall, with 7 strong, allowing one run on 6 hits along with a walk and 3 strikeouts. So it wasn't necessarily the lights out start by MadBum numbers wise, but you could just feel that he had control of the game out there. His strong start helped set the tone and allow enough room for error in the Giants bullpen, which they ended up needing. Jean Machi and Sergio Romo had Giants fans nervous there in the 8th inning allowing a 5-1 game to become a 5-4 game, but Jeremy Affeldt came in and managed to strand the tying run at second. Then, in typical Santiago Casilla fashion shut the door down 1-2-3 in the ninth, including a 3-2 strikeout of Paul Goldschmidt to end the ballgame.

So, outside of Jean Machi and, to a lesser extent, Sergio Romo getting slapped around a bit, there really weren't any complaints in the pitching department, as everyone did their job (although Javier Lopez failed to get Ender Inciarte and was charged with that run). On the offensive side of things, the Giants did exactly what they'll need to do in order to be successful, especially while Hunter Pence is out. They made the Josh Collmenter work, not offering at every single pitch even though they were playing on a nice night in a hitter friendly yard. Just looking at the newcomers games', Nori Aoki looked like a natural fit for the Giants in the leadoff spot, taking pitches and putting the ball in play in all 5 plate appearances, going 2-5 with a run scored. Casey McGehee meanwhile, reached base 3 times in 4 plate appearances, going 2-3 with a walk and run scored. One bat in particular really stood out to me was the one he had fifth when there was a runner on third base with two out and he took a walk. Brandon Crawford followed that up with a 2-out, 2-run double that ended up being the difference in the game. All I thought to myself was that Pablo would have never taken a walk in that situation. It showed me that while the Giants lost a lot of production in Morse and Sandoval, they gained two professional hitters that are far more polished in the strike zone than the recently departed.

As far as the returnees, all but Brandon Belt and Gregor Blanco got in on the action, and Buster Posey only went 0-4 although he did drive in a run with a sac-fly. The fact the Giants were able to put up five runs while getting very little out of their 4 and 5 hitters is very encouraging. The reason being, the top of the order was so darn successful. Between Aoki, Panik and Pagan they combined for an 8 for14 night with 4 runs scored and 3 extra-base hits. I was a huge advocate for hitting Pagan third, dating back to the day they signed Aoki, and it showed why today. I already mentioned how right Aoki looks in the leadoff spot, and while Pagan is no slouch as a leadoff man himself, he's got the ability to be a solid number 3 hitter. It makes sense for the Giants to try because if that's the case it stretches this lineup out nicely. Plus, all Pagan did on day one in his new spot was go 3-4 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and a run scored. He may not be a prototypical three-hitter from a power standpoint, but think along the lines of Jacoby Ellsbury. Not saying Pagan is at that level and will steal 40 bags, but outside of that I don't think the two are that far apart. If he hit 3rd all year, a .285/12/70/.775 line with 20+ swipes is within reach and would be just fine in front of Posey, Pence and Belt..

All in all, in terms of the game, I really liked what I saw. I didn't like how the D-Backs nearly erased a 4-run lead in a matter of minutes but that's what happens in a place like Chase Field sometimes. However, the Giants' worries were off the field before the game. News surfaced before Monday's opener that Matt Cain is experiencing forearm tightness, which had everyone worried about those three little words that are a pitchers nightmare: Tommy John Surgery. Now, the Giants hope that's not the case, and did get some encouraging news later on Monday evening, but nonetheless, Cainer seems destined for yet another DL-stint with a flexor-tendon strain. Best case scenario is Cain is back in the rotation wihin two weeks. That said, I doubt the Giants will trot him out there until they're certain he's not in danger of aggravating anything. They have too much invested in him that an extra week or two is well worth avoiding a possible season-ending issues.

Notes: Matt Cain isn't the only Giants' starter battling injury issues, as Jake Peavy's back has pushed his season debut back to at least this weekend and he too could be destined for a DL-trip should he not be ready by then. We all knew the Giants were going to need Ryan Vogelsong and/or Yusmiero Petit at some point this year, but I don't think anyone expected to need them both to start the year. I sure didn't. I think the Giants may as well take the safe route and just let Petit and Vogey make a couple starts for Cain and Peavy to start the year. Why not? It's not like Peavy and Cain were lighting the Cactus League on fire or anything... Boy would this be the year of all years for Tim Lincecum to redefine his career. Imagine if Timmy all the sudden was 2009 Timmy again. That's what opening day does, poses endless possibilies, although I highly doubt the latter is realistic...

Also, another little piece MLB news hit the wire Monday as Carlos Quentin was DFA'd by Atlanta before even suiting up for a single game, making him available via trade and then possibly free-agency. I don't know what his health situation is like right now, but he did have 40 spring at-bats and at least appears healthy. I remember posting about him possibly fitting a Pat Burell-type role after the Padres stocked their outfield, but of course only if it's low-risk and Atlanta eats 80/90% of  his $8M salary. The only thing is I don't know about his attitude and if he'd have a problem coming off the bench. This is a guy who was on pace for 25-30 HR/90 RBI seasons in both 2012 and 2013 before injuries wiped out half of each season and is a two-time all-star still with plenty left at just 32 years old... Just food for thought on a guy very attainable right now.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________