San Francisco Giants

Bochy reassesses bullpen; Royals shuffle lineup before Game 3

SAN FRANCISCO -- The MRI on Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum’s back came back clean and Lincecum is most likely available out of the bullpen for Game 3 of the World Series this evening, manager Bruce Bochy said.

Lincecum had the MRI on Thursday after exiting Game 2 with back tightness. Bochy said the Giants were going to wait to make a final call on Lincecum until after he played catch during batting practice.

"We’ll talk to him afterward, see how it feels after he throws a little bit out there," Bochy said. "But my guess is he’s going to be fine to go."

Bochy also affirmed that Lincecum could be an option for middle-inning relief after his encouraging appearance -- retiring his first five hitters -- in Game 2. The Giants’ bullpen struggles in Game 2, particularly those of Hunter Strickland and Jean Machi, led Bochy to say afterward he might have to reassess how to bridge the middle innings between his starter and late-game relievers.

This afternoon, Bochy indicated Lincecum and Yusmeiro Petit might have a greater role in the middle innings.

"Those two could come into play, and whether we bump up Jeremy (Affeldt) and use him a little bit earlier," Bochy said.

"Petit hasn’t had that role. With that said, you have to change things sometimes and I think Petit could handle that."

Regarding Lincecum, Bochy said: ‘Now if we use him, there’s got to be a little sense of confidence for Timmy and us, the fact that he’s had some work, so you wouldn’t feel bad about putting him in a high-stress situation."

Otherwise, the Giants are going with the same lineup they’ve had for most of the playoffs against Royals right-hander Jeremy Guthrie:

CF Blanco

2B Panik

C Posey

3B Sandoval

RF Pence

1B Belt

LF Ishikawa

SS Crawford

P Hudson

The Royals, meanwhile, have a couple of lineup changes against Hudson:

SS Escobar

LF Gordon

RF Cain

1B Hosmer

3B Moustakas

2B Infante

C Perez

CF Dyson

P Guthrie

* Royals manager Ned Yost said the root of the changes was, "We knew we had to put our best defense out there." That meant subbing Jarrod Dyson into the lineup for Nori Aoki, who had some trouble in right field at Kauffman Stadium, shifting Lorenzo Cain to right field and putting the speedy Dyson in center.

AT&T Park has a reputation for a tough defensive right field, and has the big gap in right-center, and the Royals spent part of yesterday’s workout judging balls hit into the gap and off the jagged wall. Dyson and Cain both cover a lot of ground. Yost said the changes are for today and that they’ll be reassessed as the series continues.

As for shuffling his order, Gordon moves up to the second spot with Aoki out. Yost said that’s in part an attempt to get Gordon, a good fastball hitter, more fastballs. Ostensibly with speed guys like Escobar and Dyson getting on before him, pitchers might want to be quicker to the plate and give Buster Posey a better chance to throw those runners out on steal attempts -- thus more fastballs.

Moustakas also moves up to the fifth spot after batting ninth for both games in Kansas City. Yost said Moustakas is "really swinging the bat well right now (and provides) a little protection for (Hosmer)."

* Bochy was asked if he would still use Strickland in a high-pressure situation after Strickland’s meltdown in Game 2 and said yes, he would.

"Sometimes you’ve got to tweak your thinking in those situations, but sometimes you may not have that option," Bochy said. "If you’ve used guys and he may be your best option, I don’t want him to think I’ve lost confidence in him. I still think this kid has a chance to be pretty special, a late-inning guy."

* Bochy was also asked whether the Giants have considered using Madison Bumgarner on short rest to pitch Game 4 if the Giants were to lose tonight and go into that game down 2-1 in the series. That would also ostensibly leave Bumgarner available to pitch a potential Game 7, again on short rest. Bochy’s response:

"Well, sure, we talked about it. I mean, we discuss everything, our options. That would be an option. As I said, we have really ridden this guy pretty good .Doesn’t mean he can’t do it or won’t do it.

"I mean, it’s a little different in today’s game with the Wild Card and then you have two teams to go through (before the World Series). It is something that Dave Righetti and I have discussed. But right now Vogelsong’s our starter."

It would be a lot to ask of Bumgarner, who has thrown 256 innings already between the regular season and playoffs. A national report today, though, said Bumgarner skipped throwing his normal bullpen session to leave his options open just in case he is needed on short rest.

* Royals Game 4 starter Jason Vargas was on the media podium this afternoon and said he attended his first-ever World Series game by coming to AT&T Park for Game 1 of the 2010 Series between the Giants and Rangers -- as a fan.

"Just a fan of baseball," Vargas said. "Had never been to one. I live in Arizona; it’s not a very far flight. So we figured we’d come up and try to catch that with me and my wife.

"It was just an electric atmosphere."

Vargas now will find himself pitching in that atmosphere tomorrow night.

"We’re hoping to stop that," he said.

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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