SAN FRANCISCO – Of all the chosen six Giants players who had a hand in raising the World Series banner on Friday, it was Sergio Romo who appeared the most giddy.
He held onto a corner like it was a security blanket as Ryan Vogelsong attached the rings.
“I didn’t want it to fly away!” Romo joked. “It’s one of those things I’ll always remember -- just to be able to touch it.”
Angel Pagan, Matt Cain, Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum joined Vogelsong and Romo as they ascended a stepladder into the center field stands and climbed the steps through the bleachers to the pole atop the right field arcade.
The club made it a priority to bring back almost the entire World Series roster over the winter. So it made all the sense in the world to keep the home-opening ceremonies centered on those players. (Buster Posey was warming up Barry Zito, so they had to sneak peeks from the bullpen.)
The Giants also included Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro, their two postseason MVPs, by having them throw out ceremonial first pitches. Scutaro clowned his by turning into a sidearmer.
And the Giants made the community and the fans active participants, as the banner arrived on an SFFD tugboat and then the six flag raisers interacted with those they encountered on their pilgrimage to the pole.
“That was actually really, really cool,” Romo said. “There were a lot of high fives, a lot of grabbing and yelling.”
Romo said the Giants went to the players Friday morning and sketched out the plans. It was all a surprise until then.
“They just said, `We feel you guys should do this,’” Romo said.
And fittingly, Romo got to be the closer.
“They allowed me to pull up the last little foot or so,” he said. “Pretty sweet.”
Romo is 3 for 3 in save chances, and what’s more, he’s 9 for 9 in retiring hitters. Thanks in part to a nice snag by Pence, Romo provided a minimum of thrills and chills while saving Friday’s 1-0 victory.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants 1, Cardinals 0]
Recording efficient saves isn’t just good for manager Bruce Bochy’s ticker. It also will help Romo receive more save chances.
I asked Bochy if he’d be willing to send Romo out to pitch a fourth time in five days if the Giants have another save situation on Saturday. He said yes, without a doubt. If Romo had thrown 30 pitches, it’s probably a different story.
There might be a simple explanation for why Scutaro is just 1 for 15 with a bunt single in four games. He said his back, which locked up on him this spring, remains an issue. He’s dealing with good days and bad days. But mostly, he’s trying to rid himself of bad habits he picked up while trying to compensate for the tightness.
“I’m jumping too much at the plate,” said Scutaro, who happened to be Jake Westbrook’s only strikeout victim in 6 2/3 innings.
I asked Scutaro if Jon Jay’s takeout slide (a clean one) bothered his back in the first inning.
“During games your body’s hot,” he said. “You don’t feel much. The next day is when you say, `What happened?’”
I’m not sure whether it happened when Yadier Molina dug into the box or when Posey went up for his first at-bat, but the Cardinals catcher made a point to congratulate the NL MVP on his award. Molina received strong consideration from voters as well.
“He’s always been classy to me,” Posey said.
It was a surprise to Posey when reporters told him that the Giants were assembling all their former NL MVPs (Mays, McCovey, Mitchell, Kent, and, we assume, Barry Bonds) to be on hand Saturday, when the Giants present the 2012 award in a pregame ceremony. Posey seemed legitimately humbled to hear it, too.
“That’s really special,” Posey said. “I’ve had the privilege to meet all those guys, but not all together like that.”
You know Posey. He’s not much for hoopla. We asked if he was disappointed he had to catch Zito in the bullpen and couldn’t go into the stands to raise the banner.
“Aw, I had fun watching ‘em,” he said, smiling.
Yadier isn’t the only Molina brother here. His older brother, Bengie, is the Cardinals’ new assistant hitting coach and Friday was his first time setting foot in AT&T Park since the 2010 World Series. As you’ll recall, the Giants traded him in June to the Texas Rangers, officially starting the Posey Era, and Molina met them again with conflicted emotions in the Fall Classic as a member of the Texas Rangers.
Bengie did get a World Series ring from the Giants, as do all players who are on the roster at any point during a championship season. But unlike Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, who got theirs in on-field ceremonies when the Dodgers and Reds, respectively, came to town, Molina retired after the 2010 season. So he got his in the mail.
I got caught in a conversation and was a minute late to the press box for the start of Friday's ceremonies, but as many folks helpfully pointed out, Cardinals’ coaches were introduced and Bengie received a warm ovation.
Bengie said he would make a point to go over and say hello to Posey, his one-time protégé, whom he has never criticized even though the kid did take his job.
“I’m extremely proud of this kid,” Bengie said. “I know they beat the Cardinals (last year) and I know they beat me in 2010. But I’m extremely proud of everybody over there. I had tears in my eyes when they won.
“I knew what Buster was going to be. I knew what Pablo was going to be. The fans here treated me with so much respect. I don’t expect anything but good stuff, coming back here. The people here, they knew what I was about.”
Zito, on collecting a single and two sacrifice bunts:
“I just try to take the teachings of Tim Flannery,” he said. “I bring a sand wedge up there every time. See if I can dump it in left field.”
Good line from Bay Area News Group sports editor Bud Geracie, who joked that Bochy was the club’s original choice to raise the banner. But if he climbed the ladder and walked up all those steps, the opener might have turned into a night game.
Bochy said everyone’s “emotions were just flying,” and lugging the trophy from center field was incredible, if a bit taxing. That thing is heavy, after all. (I wondered if maybe Bochy’s vehicle ran out of gas like it did during the parade last October.)
“Well, I’ll be honest. I tried to palm it off today,” Bochy said. “I did. I felt I was ballhogging. But believe me, it’s an honor to walk in a packed house with the World Series trophy.”
Sandoval said he was touched to see some of his teammates crying. But he wouldn’t name names.
“I’m not going to tell you guys,” he said.
Fine, Pablo. We’ll just assume it was Belt.
“That emotion is the work you put together to get to this point,” Sandoval said. “I’ve been waiting all offseason for that moment – that and the rings. That is the one I can’t wait for.”
Sunday, Pablo. Sunday.