From Comcast SportsNetSAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy plans to start a pair of 16-game winners in the first two games of the National League division series. After that, he says he's not sure what he'll do.Matt Cain will pitch Game 1 against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday and left-hander Madison Bumgarner will go in Game 2 on Sunday. The two tied for the team lead in victories and were instrumental down the stretch when San Francisco won the NL West for the second time in three years.Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and 15-game winner Barry Zito have also been key for the Giants. But Bochy said Thursday he's unsure whether he'll use the two in starting roles or out of the bullpen. That goes for Ryan Vogelsong as well."More than anything it's really vital for us to have all hands on deck here the first two games," Bochy said in explaining his reluctance to name a Game 3 starter. "If we want to use some guys in the rotation early here, then we'll do that. We wanted to keep our options open."The uncertainty over the back end of the rotation might seem strange given that starting pitchers are creatures of habit and generally stay on a carefully mapped out throwing routine in between starts.Zito, who was left off the Giants postseason roster entirely two years ago when the franchise won its first World Series title since 1954, doesn't think that will be an issue.The 34-year-old left-hander has started 172 games and made six relief appearances since signing a 126 million, seven-year contract with San Francisco before the 2007 season."I've (come) out of the bullpen many times as a starter here," Zito said. "A lot of the other guys have done that, too. You change your routine going into it. You can't be stupid about it. Other than that, if you're on the mound you're on the mound."The Giants gathered for a voluntary workout at AT&T Park and players took batting practice while Bumgarner threw a bullpen session as stadium workers hurried to get the stadium ready for Saturday's Game 1. Truckloads of merchandise arrived throughout the afternoon and red, white and blue bunting was hung around the waterfront ballpark.Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker was a surprise visitor to the workout.Baker, the former Giants skipper who recently rejoined the Reds after missing 11 games while recovering from a mini-stroke and irregular heartbeat, stood behind the batting cage and joked with current San Francisco scout Felipe Alou -- who replaced Baker as manager.If Baker hoped to get an insight as to what the Giants plans are for their rotation, he was disappointed.Cain, the NL starter in the All-Star game who earlier this season pitched the first perfect game in franchise history, was an easy call for Game 1. Likewise with Bumgarner, the 23-year-old who was second on the team in ERA, strikeouts and innings pitched."You look at the years that Matt and Madison have had, that's why they're going Game 1 and Game 2," Bochy said. "We feel like these two have earned these starts and that's why they're out there."The rest of the rotation is unclear for various reasons.Zito was one of San Francisco's top pitchers down the stretch to finish with his best season yet since the 2002 AL Cy Young Award joined the Giants. He won his last five starts and seven decisions in the regular season, and hasn't lost since Aug. 2.More critically for San Francisco, the Giants went 11-0 after Aug. 6 with Zito on the mound. That's vastly different from 2010 when he won only one game over the final two months."I'm just happy to be here," Zito said. "Happy to be here, happy to be on the roster, happy to be having fun playing baseball right now. Everything else is gravy."Lincecum, the Giants former ace who lost 10 of his first 13 decisions this season, rebounded well but still finished with a career-high 15 losses.The question for Bochy is whether to keep Lincecum in the rotation or put him the bullpen two years after the right-hander pitched the Giants past the Rangers in the Game 5 World Series clincher at Texas.Vogelsong, 35, would seem the most likely of the three to go to the bullpen. He struggled over the final seven weeks of the season when he had a 6.75 ERA over his final 10 starts."We may use Timmy in the pen, we may use Vogelsong in the pen or Zito," Bochy said. "They'll know exactly what's going on. We'll make sure that they're ready. That's right now what we think is the best way to about it."
This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo.
The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?
Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area.
"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."
Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman.
Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.
The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.
"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."
Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis.
Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.
Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday.
“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight.
"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”
CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.
An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.
Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”
“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”
James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.
He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?
Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.
“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”
To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.
“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”
We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.
Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, all Rutgers alumni, brought a smirk to Bill Belichick's face. Also, Mike Giardi and Tom E. Curran analyze Jimmy Garoppolo's peformance