Saturday, March 10, 2007

When I Say "Knee!" Y'all Say "Crow!"

Game #1 - Giants vs. A's

We headed over to Scottsdale Stadium expecting to see Barry Zito's third start of the Spring. However, when we arrived, we learned that Zito had been pushed back one day and Russ Ortiz would instead be starting for the first time this Spring. This was the only Zito signing of the day.

Look down at the lower right-hand corner. Yep, that's Willie Mays hanging out behind home plate before the start of the game. Willie was meeting and greeting and looking very spry for a man of his years. No explanation was given as to why Zito was pushed back. Hey, it's Spring Training.

Ortiz worked three full innings, allowing three hits and notching one strikeout. All in all, it was an outing that most Giants fans would be very familliar with. Ortiz didn't have one comfortable inning, yet got out of each jam he got himself into. He didn't walk anybody, but the hits he gave up were all fairly loud. He was helped by double plays in the first and second, and survived the (again loud) double to lead off the third by getting his lone strikeout followed by two fly balls. I didn't record his pitch count, but I did keep track of the counts to a few hitters. Yes, he was deep in the count more than a couple of times. Hard to draw any conclusions from this small sample, but I'd say that Ortiz looked rather like the early 200os version of himself. If that's the pitcher he turns out to be (still an open question) you have to think he'd be the fifth starter, heading into April.
Klein, Sadler and Palmer followed Ortiz for one inning apiece and the A's scored all of their 5 runs against this trio. All three Giants looked very hittable, and the A's were basically whacking the ball all over the yard against them (7 hits total). Sadler added to his troubles by walking two batters and throwing an (ugly) wild pitch to boot. It's just Spring Training... lather, rinse, repeat.

The star of the day for the Giants had to be Lance Niekro. He was 2 for 4 with a long two-run bomb to Left, but he also flashed some real nice leather over at 1st. Lance started not one, not two but three very sweet (and timely) 3-6-1 double plays, bailing out Ortiz in the 2nd, Sadler in the 5th and Vinnie Chulk in the 8th.
Lance raised his Spring average to .467 with his performance. And... there seems to be absolutely no room for him in the Giants lineup. Talk around the ballpark was "gee, too Lance he blew his shot last year... maybe he's figuring it out, but it's too late." There's no way Lance makes the Opening Day roster (is there?), but he certainly seems determined to make a case for himself this Spring.
Barry Bonds crushed a solo homer straight down the right field line, over the new pavillion thing and off towards Fountain Hills. The only slight taint to the moment was the fact that Bonds was batting leadoff in the 4th inning after an opportunity for him to bat with the bases loaded in the 3rd was erased by Lance Niekro getting thrown out at the plate by plenty to end the inning. New 3rd base coach Flannery cleary was sending him all the way. Niekro made up for it by hitting his two-run bomb a few batters after Bonds' blast. Both 'taters were off Loaiza who came out of the game shortly after Niekro's shot. I read on that Loaiza claimed that he "hadn't warmed up properly" before entering the game. Whatever.
It was a really warm day today at the ballpark. The official temperature was apparently 83 degrees, but it felt warmer than that in our seats down the third base line. It was a bit much for our crew newly-landed from the Bay Area. And it's supposed to be a few degrees warmer on Saturday. Hydration, fellas!

Wow, it's great to be back here in this wonderful baseball atmosphere. You always meet great Giants fans at Spring Training, I mean look at the jerseys this crew was sporting a couple of rows in front of us:

We're all rarin' to go for tomorrow -- though some in our crew will no doubt be taking a few more shade breaks during the game. And possibly after the game we'll go sample one of the amusingly-named Mexican restaurants in Scottsdale.