Spring Training Winding Down

8 days ‘til Opening Day!  WOOHOO!  Who’s ready for some Giants baseball??  Can’t wait to actually be able to watch my boys on TV again regularly.  You know the season start is close when you hear about people having their fantasy baseball drafts (as well as season ticket drafts, a concept I just learned about this year).

I’ll start today with some World Baseball Classic comments.  Anyone else like me and got into it more than expected?  I actually watched a couple of the games (even some without the US team) and truly enjoyed them.  The team and fan spirit for that tournament were simply amazing.  Even enjoyed the music and horns in the crowd, especially the Japanese fans’ band (though I don’t think I would enjoy it for an entire season!).  Congrats to the Dominican Republic and my boy Santiago Casilla for taking home the trophy.  Based on the popularity of the tournament in every country (especially the Latin ones), he must have rockstar status there right now!  An interesting observation I made during the tournament – the Japanese don’t spit.  I watched an entire game and did not see one guy on the team or on the staff expel the contents of their mouth.  Guess it’s a cultural thing.  Maybe they don’t chew tobacco in Japan.  Thanks, WBC Team Japan!  US – follow their lead, please!

Now that Spring Training is winding down we can get a feel for how ready the boys are for the season.  Two guys who have been watched closely are Timmy and Barry Zito – Timmy to see if he’s gotten his pitching act together and Barry to see if he can continue his comeback from last year.  So far, looks like both have remained pretty close to where they were last season.  Timmy has struggled to keep his pitches down and to pitch accurately (10.97 ERA – OUCH!) and Barry’s been looking pretty great (3.0 ERA,  with 17 strikeouts in 18 innings pitched – that high SO percentage is way better than usual).  I know everyone says that you can’t really judge things based on Spring Training stats alone, but sorry, I’m concerned.  Wonder how much leeway Bochy will give Timmy this season before he pulls him for another starter.  Hope something magical happens soon – maybe there’s some Harry Potter magic in those glasses!  And congrats to Barry on his continued success.  He went through so much crap the last few years – hope he’s thoroughly enjoying this.

Another name of note during Spring Training has been Brandon Belt.  He’s been under scrutiny for his batting, and he made some progress at the end of last season.  Well, the kid sure has shined this spring!  He’s hitting .433 with 7 homeruns (yes, 7!) and 17 RBI.  Again, we need to take this with a grain of salt since it’s only the Cactus League and he’s not always hitting against major leaguers at their best, but this sure sounds promising to me.  He’s already got the gold glove-level defense going for him, so hopefully this year will be his year to shine with the bat.  I’m rooting for you, Brandon!  On a slightly scary note, he was scratched from today’s game with neck stiffness.  Hope he recovers from this quickly and it’s nothing major.

Speaking of injuries, our boy Pablo has had some elbow issues and there is a chance he may start the season on the DL.  Why can’t the boy stay healthy?  It’s been said that part of it is he goes all out when he plays so is more likely to be injured.  Hope he’ll be back on the team soon.  He’s our best, most powerful hitter.  Will keep you in my thoughts, Kid.  His backup will most likely be Joaquin Arias who had a great season last year, or possibly Nick Noonan,  a minor leaguer who’s shown some promise during the spring.

Another interesting spring story is the battle for an extra outfield guy should the team need one.  At this point, it appears that besides the starters (who would probably be Hunter at right, Angel in center, and a platoon of Gregor and Andres in left depending on who’s pitching), they may need a backup guy.  The top contenders at this point are minor leaguers Francisco Peguero and Cole Gillespie.  Peguero has had a better showing this spring.  But Andrew Baggarly mentioned an interesting thing about this.  The position that’s open is only a backup position, meaning the guy won’t be playing every day.  Gillespie has been in the majors longer and is seen as more of a supplemental player.  Peguero has great potential, and might suffer from not playing every day.  So the likely scenario, as long as Gregor and Andres continue to look good, will be that even though Peguero looks better, he’ll go down to the minor leagues so he can play every day and Gillespie will get the extra outfield spot with the big boys.  Simply fascinating!

Ramon Ramirez, right-handed relief pitcher who helped the boys win their ring in 2010 and recently came back to the Giants after being traded to the Mets for Angel in 2012, was released on March 22nd.  Guess the competition for the extra bullpen spot was too much for him.  Rumor is that the Giants would like to sign him to a minor league deal if he doesn’t get a better deal.  Good luck to you, Ramon.  I hope you can make it back somehow.  You were a force in 2010.

On the lighter side, my boy Eli Whiteside continues his habit of making it into Giants broadcasts.  During the March 17th Spring Training game that was televised, they were showing highlights of the last game of the 2012 Division Series vs. the Reds.  As everyone ran to the mound to hug Sergio, he accidentally body blocked a guy who ended up on his keister.  The broadcasters said they had never noticed that before, and they reshowed the clip to identify the victim of the body block.  Of course, it had to be Eli!  Too funny!  The boys in the booth got a big kick out of it.

There have been several more Giants commercials released.  Their marketing people have really done a fantastic job this season.  Here’s one of my favorites.  They really captured Vogey’s serious side, didn’t they?  Love it!

Loving my boy George “Cutie Pie” Kontos more and more every day.  He recently gave an interview to Epicurious where he gave his mom’s Greek cooking major kudos.  He also retrieved the homerun ball of Ryan Cavan, a minor leaguer who was a last minute substitute for Marco Scutaro in a game.  George went into the stands, convinced the fan who got the ball to relinquish it, then wrote on the ball “First Major League Home Run” along with the date and the opposing pitcher’s name.  What a good boy!!  He’s been having a great spring as well.  I’m sure he’ll have another fantastic season.

So my sister Keen and brother Nick might tag along with Ginny and me when we attend the Opening Day Game showing at AT&T Park on April 1st.  Any other takers?  I’m so excited!  These 8 days can’t go by quickly enough.  Until next time, like I’ll be cheering at the top of my lungs in the park, GO GIANTS!!

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