Spring Postcard: Giants have pitching, but where's the power?
It's a funny thing: two of the best offensive backstops in baseball are in this organization, and neither is actually starting at catcher. The first is the free-swinging and hard-hitting
In fact, if there is any awkwardness around the past beating out the future ((and arguably present), neither Posey nor Molina, both genial fellows, will cop to it. Molina praises Posey for "being a very nice, humble kid who wants to learn," and this spring the curious young catcher has peppered the vet with queries about everything from pitch sequences to throwing technique ("He's always asking questions," Molina says). In other words, it's easy to see a mentorship taking root. Adds Molina: "I think he's going to be a superstar. I don't know when -- whatever time they say -- but, like me, he's a very humble kid, just trying to make it."
The NL West is arguably the deepest pitching division in all of baseball, and San Francisco possesses the best staff of them all (and the best one-two punch). Let's count it down:
No, Bumgarner doesn't officially have the five-slot nailed down yet -- and he is struggling with his velocity this spring (seemingly straining to hit 90 mph) -- but his presence in the rotation should be a matter of when, not if. Unfortunately ...
Note the disconnect between the statistics after win-loss record and the actual wins and losses: it's no secret that, after years of
After two years of disappointment -- and quite lucrative ones, at that -- Zito finally started looking like the pitcher he was in Oakland, posting a 2.84 ERA from July 18 to October 2. And now the 31-year-old is the closest thing this young staff has to an elder statesman. In the Giants clubhouse in Scottsdale Zito occupies the corner locker, with Lincecum immediately to his right (and Cain on the other side of The Freak). "It's a close-knit group," Rowand says, "and Barry's in the middle of that. His stats may say that he had a great second half, but he was good all year. We just didn't score runs for him in the first half. I can remember maybe two tough games all season where he didn't have his stuff."
No, his final stat line wasn't elite. But he did throw a no-hitter (on July 11, against the Padres) and the reason he looks to be more than another Bud Smith is his strikeout rate: 177 Ks in 163.1 IP. And now, at long last, he has an assured place in the rotation. "He should improve by just getting on the mound that many times," Righetti says. "The big thing -- as it is with young guys who come up real fast -- is that he'll get into those innings where you get into trouble and try to get out of it by really trying to overthrow. He still goes through that. But it started to minimize as the season went by."
While hanging in the Giants clubhouse, I was startled to see that first baseman