Spring Training Notes
Spring workouts have begun to intensify a bit with pitchers now throwing live batting practice instead of coaches, and there have been a couple of young guys who have put on some shows in BP. One of them has been one of the Giants' top-5 prospects, outfielder Thomas Neal. Neal has gone deep more than any other player in camp so far, and reportedly hit 5 jacks in one of his sessions of about 10-12 swings. Neal really generated a lot of interest last summer, after quietly putting together a nice 2008 season and AFL showing, and if he tears the cover off the ball this spring, he very well could be in the mix for a big league call-up at some point in 2010. His 2009 season reminded me a lot of Pablo Sandoval's 2008 campaign and we all saw how well Pablo fared when he got his call-up at the end of that season. I think Neal is right about where "The Panda" was at that point, and could be the next Giants farmhand to make his way into the starting lineup, quite possibly as early as the second half of 2010. Buster Posey has also impressed Bochy with his batting practice sessions, driving the ball to the gaps and flexing some power as well. A few other names Boch mentioned as far as youngsters who have really stuck out are outfielders Francisco Peguero and Roger Kieschnik.
One key area that Bruce Bochy and the coaching staff are prioritizing this spring are the basic fundamentals. On the very first day of full squad workouts, Bochy clarified that everyone will be doing some bunting and some situational hitting throughout the spring in order to cut down the failed attempts during the season. Last year, the Giants weren't the most fundamentally sound club out there and it cost them more than a few times. A lot of people overlook the small part of the game like the sacrifice bunt or moving a player over to third base with less than 2 outs. Although the Giants have added some more pop to their lineup with the additions of Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, they don't have the quickest base runners throughout their lineup and they're going to have to play fundamentally sound baseball in order to help make up for that. Andrew Baggerly wrote an article the other day about this in the Merc, citing a few different times last year when the Giants failed to get down a sacrifice bunt, and if you can remember back to those games, you see just how crucial it can be to fail to get something as simple as a sacrifice bunt down.
Bochy also scheduled the Giants' only intrasquad game to take place on March 1st, two days prior to their Cactus League Opener. He didn't say who will pitch in the scrimmage, but I'd assume it'll be someone like Joe Martinez, Todd Wellemeyer, Kevin Pucetas or Henry Sosa (who I'd love to see get a look this spring by the way). Tim Linceucm will start the spring opener on Wednesday and will be followed by Madison Bumgarner. All eyes will likely be focused on the radar gun for these two guys as there were reports at the end of last season that both of their fastball velocities were down. I don't really think the drop in speed is anything to get too worked up about though, as Bumgarner's was more a mechanical issue, and Lincecum's drop was probably due a little bit to fatigue. This is why I think it would be wise for Tim to try and bulk up as much as he can without messing with his mechanics. It's going to be tougher for him at his size to continue throwing the ball upwards of 95 mph in October after throwing 220 innings than it would be for someone like Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner. Even if he's at 92 mph though, Lincecum generates so much movement and is so tough to pick up for opposing hitters, that he's still just as tough to hit as he is when he's throwing 95-96. He should fill out though in the next couple of years as he gets into his later 20's though, and that's when this kid should become even better than he is now.
Injury Notes: Travis Ishikawa, who was going to miss up to three months if he needed surgery, and at the time it looked like that was going to be the case, may avoid going under the knife after all. He just had an MRI and his torn ligaments are healing and he could be playing within the next 2 weeks.
-Mark DeRosa hasn't hit on the field yet, only in the cages, as he recovers from his wrist surgery, but he should be ready within the first week of the Cactus League.
-Nothing really new on the Freddy Sanchez front, though he's still coming along nicely doing some light activities.