SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Shortly after announcing Matt Cain as the opening-day starter, Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Ryan Vogelsong would take the ball for the Cactus League opener Saturday against the Angels at Scottsdale Stadium.
The Angels were one of two teams that released the right-hander in 2010.
“Big news, Vogey, I just told them you’re starting the Cactus League opener,” Bochy said.
“All right! I’ve been hoping all winter. Dream come true!” Vogelsong said.
This was a practical decision. The Giants want to get Vogelsong ready as soon as possible since he’s their lone starting pitcher who will compete in the World Baseball Classic.
If you want one more bit of intrigue with the Cactus League opener, it could be the first time Buster Posey and Scott Cousins play on the same field since they collided at home plate in May, 2011. Cousins is in Angels camp trying to win a job as a spare outfielder. The Angels have a split squad that day, so we probably won’t know until that morning whether Cousins is on the team coming to Scottsdale.
Cousins recently told the LA Times that he was gladdened to see the Giants win the World Series, since the USF alum was a Giants fan growing up, and was happy that Posey has been able to recover from his devastating ankle injury.
Games haven’t started yet, but the competitive juices sure seemed to be flowing during the first day of live batting practice on Monday.
Cain threw a first-pitch curveball to Pablo Sandoval, which caused both men to break into a huge grin.
“That was on Buster,” said Cain, indicating that Posey called for the pitch. “Buster likes to throw a wrinkle in there. You know Pablo. He’s up there hacking. You’ve gotta keep him guessing.”
Cain wasn’t the only pitcher who threw a fair amount of offspeed stuff, as hitters noted. No pitchers on the main field used the L screen, either.
“I’ve thrown with it before and sometimes I feel you’re trying to throw around it,” Cain said.
Good thing Cain was ready when Sandoval hit a sharp one-hopper back to the mound. Cain got up his glove just in time to deflect it. He noted that a year ago, Hector Sanchez hit a line drive off his upper leg on the first day of live BP. Considering how the season went, perhaps Cain was happy to keep the tradition intact.
One hitter who looked ready was Angel Pagan, who hit a line single off Chad Gaudin and then drove one off the wall against Scott Proctor. Pagan liked that the pitchers were doing more than throwing fastballs.
“I don’t like to know what’s coming,” he said. “You want to know where you’re at, and if your hands catch up, you’re good. You don’t want to get too locked in here because it doesn’t count, but actually I do need to get locked in and feel ready because I’ll need to be for the World Baseball Classic.”
Pagan is leaving March 2 to join his Puerto Rico teammates.
Gaudin looked impressive. Everything was down in the zone and had movement. He even threw a breaking pitch that fooled Posey. When you can get the NL MVP to fling his bat into the cage netting, that’s usually a good sign.
It sure seems like Gaudin, Proctor and Ramon Ramirez are the leaders of the pack competing for the last bullpen spot.
Bochy said there was no specific reason that Tim Lincecum threw a side session while other pitchers in his group faced hitters. That’s just how pitching coach Dave Righetti wanted it.
No big controversy here. It’s just that Lincecum hasn’t thrown off a mound all offseason, so might as well give him another ‘pen and let him face hitters in a couple days.
I watched Lincecum’s session and he looked fine while throwing more breaking balls. He had been throwing just fastball-change in his earlier sessions. This time he was throwing pitches to simulated counts and imagining either left-handed or right-handed hitters in the box.
Ramirez, who just arrived after getting his work visa approved, looked like he’d been throwing over the winter, too. His mound session was impressive.
The Giants will play an intrasquad game on Friday, Bochy said. Usually minor league pitchers compete on both sides, and the Giants have no shortage of them in camp. They usually play four innings or so.
It occurred to me that this is Hunter Pence’s first spring in Arizona. I told him he’d appreciate the much shorter trips to visiting parks.
He gave a very Pencian response.
“Doesn’t matter,” he said. “A long bus ride is a chance to do some reading. Either way, I get to play baseball. That’s awesome!”