Giants & A’s

Matt Kawahara, Bay Area baseball beat writer

Giants’ Sanchez mindful of foul tips to the head

05/26/2014 6:35 PM

05/26/2014 6:40 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hector Sanchez said it’s something he has come to accept over the course of his career: Foul tips just seem to have a way of finding him. He tries to keep a sense of humor about it, but that’s not always easy, especially when the foul ball leaves you down on one knee and dizzy as one did in the fifth inning of the Giants’ 8-4 loss to the Cubs on Monday.

Sanchez, who caught Monday with Buster Posey getting a start at first base, called that a "scary moment." Nate Schierholtz’s foul appeared to clip him on the side of the facemask and trainer Dave Groeschner and manager Bruce Bochy spent a couple minutes checking on Sanchez, who stayed in and caught the rest of the game.

Afterward, Sanchez said he experienced some dizziness on the field. "A little?" he said. "No, I’d say a lot." But he said he’d gotten checked out by team doctors after the game for concussion symptoms and that, "He told me everything’s fine. Right now I’m feeling pretty good."

The punishment didn’t end in the fifth. An inning later, Sanchez wore another foul ball off the left arm and reacted visibly, shaking the arm in frustration.

Still, shots like that aren’t as concerning as the ones to the head, which Sanchez admitted is something "you have to think about." You don’t really have a choice these days, with concussions a prevalent topic in the NFL and the Giants having just wrapped up a series against the Minnesota Twins, whose All-Star Joe Mauer was forced to move from catcher to first base permanently this season after suffering a concussion last year -- on a foul tip.

"Almost all my hits are in the head," Sanchez said. "I have to try to do something."

The problem is figuring out exactly what. Sanchez said he wears a hockey-style mask for the added protection -- he tried switching back to a regular mask a few years ago and felt it didn’t guard the sides of his head and neck enough. He said he has discussed the topic with Posey who suggested he "get a little smaller" behind the plate when possible.

That’s not easy, though, in situations like the fifth Monday, when Schierholtz was batting with runners on and Sanchez had to spread out a little to prepare for a possible steal or a pitch in the dirt. And try as he might, no catcher will ever be completely safe from taking a foul ball to the body -- it’s a hazard of the job.

Sanchez said he had two concussions early in his career but has managed to avoid them since. It remains for Sanchez, however, a topic of concern.

* Tomorrow’s print story details the end of the Giants’ four-game winning streak and of the remarkable 16-game winless streak of Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija -- especially remarkable because Samardzija had entered Monday’s game with the majors’ best ERA at 1.46 through his first 10 starts.

Samardzija, who struck out 10 and helped his own cause with a two-out RBI double that keyed the Cubs’ three-run fifth inning, showed why he had no business going that long without a win. The right-hander threw his fastball in the mid-90s, touching 97 mph, and mixed in a slider and splitter in the mid-to-high 80s.

Said Sanchez: "He’s got gasoline in his arm."

* As mentioned in the pre-game notes, Buster Posey is in his second prolonged slump of the season already, entering Monday with four hits in his last 35 at-bats. He went 1-for-4 Monday, with a single to right-center off Samardzija in the fourth, to hold his average at .264 for the year.

Bochy said before the game that Posey’s timing has been off at the plate, and Posey was working with hitting coach Hensley Meulens to be a little taller in his stance after Posey had seemed to be crouching lower than normal recently, Bochy sounded encouraged by Posey’s at-bats Monday.

"I thought he looked good," Bochy said. "He felt a lot freer, getting his normal bat speed back. I think he felt a lot more comfortable today, and I thought he looked a lot more comfortable."

* If you’re wondering why reliever David Huff pinch-hit for starter Yusmeiro Petit in the fifth inning, this was Bochy’s explanation: First of all, Huff was going to come in to pitch the sixth anyway. Huff is also among the Giants’ better-hitting pitchers, better than Petit.

As for why Huff over a position player, Bochy said he didn’t want to dip into his bench at that point in the game. Michael Morse had fouled a ball off his shin earlier, and Sanchez had just taken the foul tip off the mask, so Bochy had to weigh the possibility of subbing for either later on. Also, the pitcher’s spot was coming up with nobody on and one out -- not as crucial an at-bat as if there were runners on base or in scoring position.

That said, it highlighted the fact that the Giants’ bench is pretty thin. They’re continuing to carry 13 pitchers, leaving them with four extra position players on a given night, and so far it hasn’t really hurt them. But it will force decisions like this one Monday, which probably looked worse because Samardzija blew Huff away on three pitches.

* Pablo Sandoval remains arguably the Giants’ hottest hitter. Sandoval went 2-for-4 with an RBI single and two-run home run, and has now driven in runs in six straight games, with a total of 11 RBIs in that span. He has also homered in five of his last eight games and hit safely in 15 of his last 16.

On May 6, his average was .167. As of today, it’s at .239, while his slugging percentage has inched up to .413.

* Bochy said Morse seemed fine after fouling the ball off his leg, and that he didn’t think it would force a day off for the "Beast." So expect Morse in the lineup Tuesday night as the Giants try to even the series behind right-hander Tim Hudson (4-2, 2.13). The Cubs are scheduled to start righty Jake Arrieta (1-0, 2.33). First pitch at 7:15 p.m.

About This Blog

Matt Kawahara has covered baseball for The Sacramento Bee for three years. Kawahara, a McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley graduate, joined The Bee in 2010. Before joining Sports, he was a general assignment news reporter. Reach Kawahara at Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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