LOS ANGELESThe regular season is over, the CincinnatiReds are the Giants first-round opponent and there are no more games remainingto audition for the postseason roster.
All precincts have reported. Now its time for Giantsmanager Bruce Bochy and his staff to draft their names.
The composition has changed over this past week. Earlier onthis trip, Bochy said he was leaning toward 11 pitchers. Now all indicationsare that the Giants are more likely to keep 12. That would allow them to carrythe impressive George Kontos in addition to the experienced Guillermo Mota,along with all five starters, plus Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt,Santiago Casilla and Jose Mijares.
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Im a believer that you go with the guys who are throwingthe best, Bochy said.
You can lock in most of those 13 position players, too.Theres Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, RyanTheriot, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias, Gregor Blanco, AngelPagan and Hunter Pence.
Two spots remain, and Xavier Nadys right-handed bat makeshim a fitespecially given the Reds lefty-laden bullpen. Its less likelythat Nady will start, though, as the Reds have an entirely right-handedrotation. The hints thrown on Wednesday point to Blanco starting in left fieldas the Giants prioritize defense and speed, especially when they play the firsttwo games at AT&T Park.
That leaves one more roster spot. Aubrey Huffs success offthe bench in September made him a near lock just a week ago, but his lefty bat might not beas useful against the aforementioned Reds bullpen. Plus Huff's general lack of mobility would make it evenmore important that the Giants carry another speed guy. (Justin Christian wouldbe my guess to lead that derby over Emmanuel Burriss and Francisco Peguero.)
San Francisco Giants
Maybe in a series when you're facing a lefty starter or two, you couldstart Nady in left field and use Blanco as your speedy reserve. But against theReds, that wont be the case.
Here is one other idea thats being kicked around the staffmeetings: Have Eli Whiteside fill that final roster spot, freeing up the Giantsto use Sanchezs switch-hitting bat off the bench.
However they decide to line em up, the first decision willbe whether to carry that 12th pitcher. Even when Bochy said hed gowith 11 a week ago, I didnt buy it. Always, always, always bet on Bochy totake a pitcher over a spare position player. This is a manager whos won a lotof games because of bullpen management, after all, and he wants as many options aspossible.
The sixth and seventh innings might be the Giants greatestconcerns as they enter the postseason. As I mentioned yesterday, this currentbullpen did not post a 0.90 ERA in September or enter the postseason with 24consecutive scoreless innings, as the relievers did in 2010.
The Reds do not have a book on Pence this season.That's because, strangely enough, he hasnt faced them since 2011, due to the trade in Julythat sent him from the Phillies to the Giants. (Philadelphia hadnt begun itsseason series with the Reds, and the Giants were already done with Dustys gangby the time Pence arrived.)
They dont know whats coming, Pence said, smiling.
Game 2 starter Bronson Arroyo does. Pence is a .343 hitter(12-for-35) with two homers and four doubles against him. Hes fared OK againstGame 1 starter Johnny Cueto, too, hitting .276 (8-for-29) but with no home runsand 11 strikeouts.
Want to know who has the most experience against Cueto? Its Theriot, who owns a .302 average in 48 plate appearances. In fact, Theriotis tied with Milwaukees Aramis Ramirez for the most career plate appearancesof any active player against Cueto.
Not that Theriot would start over Scutaro. I dontthink Rogers Hornsby would start over Scutaro right now.
As mentioned in my story on Buster Posey and the battingtitle, Pence led a team effort to present Posey with a token of esteem.For all my journalistic efforts, I wasnt able to find out what they got him.It might have been a Rolex. Or a hamster. Or a Subaru Outback. Ive got mymoney on cowboy boots. I saw clubhouse man Mike Murphy lugging around a couple of huge boot boxesWednesday afternoon. Pence was sporting new crocodile boots, after the game, too.
Whatever the gift was, I hope Pence dropped some dimes on it.Poseys NL-best .408 on-base percentage had a little bit to do, after all, withPences ability to collect 45 RBIs despite a .221 average in 58 games as a Giant. Pence reached 100RBIs in a season for the first time. And thats gonna look mighty sparkly when he files forhis final year of arbitration.
Speaking of Pence and a lot of bread, you'll want to watch this.
Everyone is amazed by the As, and that includes their BayBridge rivals. In the hours before Wednesdays game at Dodger Stadium, when theGiants first-round still hadnt been set, the TVs in the visiting clubhousewerent tuned to the Washington Nationals game. They had the As on, and nearlyeveryone watched with great interest as they clinched the AL West aftertrailing by five with nine to play.
Its one of most amazing stories ever in baseball, Bochysaid.
Ryan Vogelsong finished with a 3.3690 ERAbarely nudging outMadison Bumgarner for the second lowest among Giants starters. Bumgarner was at3.3696.
But Bumgarner crushed Vogelsong, 11 hits to 5. (Matt Cain led thestaff with 13 hits.)
And when it comes to clubhouse bragging rights, the startersspend far more time and energy on that.
Bochy made Thursday afternoons workout optional andspecifically told a couple regulars to skip it. Fridays workout will be moreof a formal affair.
Time for me to fill out my BBWAA ballots. Ive got MVP andRookie of the Year. After the Nationals let Teddy Roosevelt win the PresidentsRace for the first time, I might just give both awards to him. (Not really.)
Cant reveal my ballots until after the awards are announcedin November. But if you have any last-minute suggestions, any at all, please leave them in thecomments section.