ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Giants manager Bruce Bochy hoped that Ryan Vogelsong would have to untangle himself from a long inning or two in his rehab start Sunday, just to build his stamina.
Vogelsong, so good at working out of trouble in the previous two years, struggled with pitching out of jams this season before he fractured his pinky in May.
No such luck, skipper. Vogelsong cruised once again in his second rehab outing for Double-A Richmond on Sunday, holding New Hampshire to a run on five hits and a walk in six innings. He only allowed one run, on a solo homer in the sixth.
Vogelsong threw 58 of his 85 pitches for strikes.
It’ll probably be enough to assume his rotation spot on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles at AT&T Park. But another rehab start for Triple-A Fresno hasn’t been ruled out yet.
[RELATED: Bochy postulates that WBC affected Vogelsong]
The Giants could go with a six-man rotation down the stretch and cherry pick home starts for Barry Zito, who has been at least competitive at AT&T Park this season. (Although recently, he’s struggled wherever he’s taken the ball.)
They liked what they saw Sunday from Guillermo Moscoso, too. The former A’s right-hander, acquired last month from the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, worked hard and threw 92 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. But he left with the game tied 3-3.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Giants drop rubber match to Rays]
It was a much better and more stable outing than what the Giants received from rookies Mike Kickham and Eric Surkamp earlier this season. So at least Bochy and GM Brian Sabean can feel better about their options now.
Moscoso got 10 fly outs and just one ground out, which is a good comment on his ability to change speeds. He paid for one offspeed mistake, though, when he hung a first-pitch curve to present and future star Wil Myers.
Myers hit a no-doubt, two-run homer in the first inning.
“I let my body get ahead of my arm,” Moscoso said. “That’s why I left it up. The rest of the game, I made an adjustment.”
Moscoso started two innings with walks and both of them scored. Jose Mijares had one of those on his ledger, too. Those three runs made the difference in the Rays’ 4-3 victory.
“We haven’t gotten away with them all year,” Bochy said of the leadoff walks.
Of Moscoso, Bochy said, “You know, he threw all right. He settled in and gave us a decent effort there. In the fifth inning, he started to get tired. But he left the game tied.”
Zito briefly pulled aside reporters to make sure there was no misunderstanding over his comments the other day.
He reiterated that he did not volunteer to go to the bullpen in a meeting with Bochy after another road loss Friday at Philadelphia. Instead, Zito asked Bochy to stick with him in the rotation despite a 9.97 ERA in nine winless road starts. Zito said he left that meeting hopeful that he would hang onto his spot in the starting five.
But once informed that he would be going to the bullpen, Zito said he did not complain and he planned to respect the manager’s decision.
As mentioned in the story about the Giants’ leadoff woes, Bochy is about to make a change atop the lineup. It’ll be Marco Scutaro or Hunter Pence.
During Sunday’s game, I was curious where Giants leadoff hitters ranked. Through Saturday, they were hitting .250 with a .310 on-base percentage – not great, but a third of the teams in the majors were worse.
At the bottom? The Minnesota Twins had a .202 average and .266 on-base percentage.
Didn’t they trade Ben Revere and Denard Span over the winter? Guess their backup plans didn’t work out so well.
A day after Jean Machi faced four batters and retired none of them in an extra-inning loss, Bochy was still trying to figure out what happened.
Machi walked the bases loaded – one of them was intentional – before allowing the game-winning single to Myers.
“He was just flying open and could not get back on line,” said Bochy, who otherwise likes Machi on his staff. “He’s got a good breaking ball and sinker, he’s got great equipment and three pitches. He fields his position well.
“I’m a Machi guy. I am.”
C’mon, Bruce. It’d sound so much better if you called yourself a Machi man.
Preferably while wearing a feather headdress.
Saturday’s game provided one of those rare instances when Sergio Romo warmed up but didn’t enter the game. The Giants are always concerned about Romo’s durability, which is one of the reasons he didn’t start the ninth inning Friday after working through a no-out, bases-loaded jam a night earlier in Philadelphia.
But Romo has kept his elbow sufficiently calmed down this season. One of those reasons: as the closer, it’s a little easier to avoid what pitchers call the dry hump.
“He’s smart about it,” Bochy said. “He’s going at a pace where he’s not getting hot unless he’s coming in. He knows the game. So I don’t have any concerns with him. Your closers, they’re usually pretty good about it. He knows if something happens fast, we’ll stall.”
The next starting pitcher you see form the minor leagues? Heck, it might just be left-hander Edwin “Esky” Escobar, who began the season in Single-A San Jose and is now thriving despite being one of the younger players in the Double-A Eastern League.
Escobar, who turned 21 in April, yielded just one hit in seven innings for Richmond on Saturday. He’s man-sized at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, and he’s especially tough on left-handed hitters.
I saw him pitch once in 2010 with short-season Salem-Keizer. The Giants had just gotten him the previous offseason, and they were excited about it. They had been all over Escobar as an amateur in Venezuela but there was a family connection with the Texas Rangers and so he signed with them.
But the Giants saw an opportunity when the Rangers wanted Ben Snyder, a right-hander with fringy stuff but good command. The Orioles had taken Snyder from the Giants in the Rule 5 draft but couldn’t keep him on the roster as the season began, so they had to offer him back. The Giants flipped Snyder to Texas for Escobar, and now they’ve got an arm who is only 21 but in his fourth professional season, and has a lot of upside.
There was a college game scheduled at The Trop after the Giants and Rays completed business on Sunday, and while we beat reporters stood in the tunnel waiting for the clubhouse to open, we witnessed a giant, 8-foot, blue pelican mascot being detained by a very dedicated security officer. Seems the mascot didn’t have a credential.
Where I come from, you let 8-foot blue pelicans go wherever they want to go.
A few minutes later, the other team’s mascot – a stingray waving its gray cape -- came sauntering through the tunnel with nary a mention. I guess stingrays don’t pose as much of a threat.