Aaron Rowand

Stolen BASGs: slugging middle infielders and a guy named Hector Belt

After watching the last four games of the San Francisco Giants’ 2012 Cactus League season, everyone looks ready for the season. Not in the sense that the Giants are playing better than they were a couple weeks ago, the last time I was here for Spring Training. Instead, it seems like the Giants are tired of playing games that don’t count and looked unfocused and almost bored — especially in the field.

The defense played from Thursday through Sunday — a stretch that saw the Giants go 1-3 — was the opposite of crisp. Balls were bobbled in the outfield, throws skipped past their intended targets.  The pitching (save for Matt Cain’s fantastic hey-Baer-how-you-like-me-now start on Thursday) was mostly mediocre, save for bright spots from Dan Otero, Jean “don’t call me Panda” Machi and Steve Edlefsen.

We caught a few innings of Tim Lincecum on Sunday at the end of my trip. Lincecum gave up several hits, but most of them were bloopers. Lincecum looks fine, with several sharply breaking curveballs and fastballs that looked like they had more life than a couple weeks ago (although there was no radar gun in Maryvale, so I could be wrong).

Barry Zito was incredibly bad, and his new crouch is noticeable in a bad way — like when a golfer switches from a regular putter to one of those long putters. Don’t worry, I won’t take anymore shots at The Falconer. No need to keep pecking at the poor guy.

With the help of some pictures, here’s what we observed as the Cactus League season came to a close.

— It was the weekend of Joaquin Arias. Giving my dad the “Arias can’t hit, check out his minor league stats” scouting report seemed like a good idea at the time as we drove to Thursday’s game from the airport. Then Arias crushed a homer to center in his first at-bat on Thursday against the Rangers. Two days later he slammed an even more impressive oppo-shot to right center off Jeff Francis, who inexplicably looked like Clayton Kershaw after giving up 11 earned in his last start. Here’s the tail end of that swing:



Think Arias was happy? Hensley Meulens (on the receiving end of the high five) was almost as pleased:



In other news, I’m pretty sure Arias is my dad’s new favorite player. Nothing better than seeing your son get his “maybe he doesn’t know everything about sports” comeuppance!

— We had to leave Sunday’s game early to pick up my stepmom at the airport, but we caught Brandon Crawford’s booming home run off Yovanni Gallardo. It was a Duane Kuiper special: HIGH and DEEP. Watching Crawford take infield was one of my favorite things about coming to Spring Training a couple weeks ago, so here’s a picture of that … since I didn’t bring my camera to Sunday’s game.



— Why couldn’t Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot switch the sides of the plate they hit from? Theriot’s a horrible, horrible fielder. It’s almost like he’s afraid of the ball.

— Even though the Giants lost the last three games we saw, there’s something wonderful about watching the Giants for an extended period of time and not seeing Aaron Rowand.

— Not that watching Aubrey Huff run is exactly uplifting.

— Now that Fontenot’s gone and the broken Giants are stashed away thanks to the 15-day roster loophole, the only questions left (besides the 12th man on the pitching staff) are whether Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez will make the roster. Brett Pill too, I guess … although I’d be floored if he didn’t make the roster since the Giants are bending over backwards to find reasons (like playing third base) to make him relevant.

— So it’s all about Hector Belt: two guys who represent the same thing to the agist Giants: a young, “inexperienced” guy who does nothing but throw out great at-bats that end in ringing contact. On a team that already looks offensively stagnant, the Giants could use both.

— Parade: prepare for heavy mist. Expecting the Giants to keep Hector Belt, and you won’t be crushed when it doesn’t happen. I had to talk my dad off the ledge on Sunday at Maryvale, especially after Sanchez walked against Gallardo to lead off the second inning (the Giants would score 3 times that inning). Does anyone reading this post expect the Giants to kick Eli Whiteside to the curb? They love the guy. His agent probably advises him against using “Just For Men” because the brass would lose respect for him.

— Just for fun, here’s Hector Sanchez hitting a single on Saturday.



— I don’t know if Gary Brown’s family was sitting on the lawn on Saturday, but a decent amount of fans were doing the “GA-RY BROWWWWN (clap clap clapclapclap)” chant when he was in center, complete with a girl doing cheerleader-style jumps and kicks. Nobody in the outfield could corral a gapper that day, but Brown did a decent job recovering and throwing the ball in after one of the 30 or so doubles the Reds hit on that scorching afternoon.



— Brown also crushed a home run to left field, which I caught here.



Sorry, that was a foul ball that went past Tim Flannery into the stands. Guess I’m a day late on this April Fool’s thing.

— I used “Stolen BASGs” based on a suggestion by Scott Warfe. Since CSN seemed pretty serious about taking “Extra Baggs” away from the Mercury News, we’ll see if I’m treading on thin ice here.


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