I've Been a Miner For a Circle-Change of Gold 

It was a fabulous Northern California weekend, the kind that makes the rest of the country, sloshing through dirty snowmelt and suffering the umpteenth cold of the season, find you smug and self-satisfied because you write long tangents on your blog about 10-mile hikes in early March on Mt. Tam through soaring redwood forests, cascading creeks, and the first wave of what promises to be our generation's best wildflower season, all under high blue skies and gentle Pacific breezes.

But far be it from me to rub in anyone's face the soft loamy soil of a temperate rain forest or the salty piebald sand of our Pacific coast, where people on cool late-winter Saturday nights can gather around a bonfire and roast weenies -- until the goddamn cops break things up, because there's alcohol involved, then slather a little insult-mustard on our ego-dogs by asking, "And just how old are we here?"

"We?" I wanted to ask. "How about you go first, young man?" Instead, I used my many years of beach-party-and-alcohol experience to know that weisenheimerism often leads to the citation that the cop at first wasn't really going to write but simply mention as a little fear-of-God-or-at-least-whopping-fines behavioral inducement to keep things alcohol-free on the next bonfire occasion. [NEXT DAY'S ED. NOTE: Wow, that is a truly awful sentence.]

Nor did I answer, "Son, I'm older than Noah Lowry, Matt Cain, Merkin Valdez, and Jesse Foppert combined," because that wouldn't really have been true, though it would have been true to my mindset given how much I was thinking about these young Giant-men this weekend. The real excitement of spring training is not, believe it or not, watching Moises Alou refine the toe-step timing mechanism of his batting stance; no, it's tracking the progress of the much-discussed prospects (despite their ML experience I still lump Lowry and Foppert into that category).

Here's what happened over the weekend to the G's highly touted young arms:

Cain debuted with two shutout innings against the Cubs.

Foppert did, too.

Valdez threw two hitless innings.

Lowry gave up three runs in two innings.

The change-up is a tough pitch to control. It's a "feel" pitch that often feels awkward in one's hand no matter what you do . It's kind of like those days when you can't stop feeling your own tongue inside your mouth, tickling your palate, rubbing against your incisors, worrying the bits of food stuck in your molars. Just as you say on those days, "Argh! Why can't my tongue just be without my having to notice it?" so does Noah Lowry occasionally say, "Foodles! Why can't my circle-change just fit snugly in the warm palm of my young hand without my having to think about it?"

Hi-ho, it's not too early to introduce the greatest intrigue of the Giants' spring other than the annual rate of change in the size of Barry Bonds's earlobes: The Race for the Fifth And Perhaps Sixth Outfielder Spot.

I can't find box scores, so I have to go by what the local papers note at the butt-end of their daily reports. Todd Linden had a good day over the weekend with a couple hits and a nice catch. He's 3 for 9, all singles. Tony Tormato is 3 for 6, all singles, and Jason Ellison is 0 fer 5. Don't forget Adam Shabala, dark horse, 3 for 7 with a double and a game-winning rib.


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