Notes: Chulk at home in Miami
Giants reliever excited to be playing in front of friends, family
MIAMI -- When Vinnie Chulk stepped off the plane and started sweating, he knew exactly where he was.
"It's beautiful coming back here, you know?" he said. "It's my home."
And he means "home" in every sense of the word. Chulk grew up in Miami, 30 minutes south of Dolphin Stadium, and played college ball at St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. He still keeps a residence in the area, as does almost all of his family.
Florida had no professional baseball team when Chulk was growing up, so the only team he ever got to see on television was the Yankees. When the Marlins started playing as an expansion team in 1993, they had an immediate fan.
"I would try to watch every single game I could," said Chulk, who's 4-4 with a 3.78 ERA out of the San Francisco bullpen this season.
Road series with the Marlins now take on added significance for Chulk. Last season was his first chance to pitch here, and he threw a scoreless inning of relief on consecutive nights.
Of course, he had to fit all that around the legwork of making sure all his friends and family -- some 60 people in all -- had tickets to the game.
"It gets crazy -- phones ringing, guys you haven't talked to in four years," Chulk said. "I don't really leave tickets at all, ever, so to be able to leave 60 that one day was pretty cool."
This series gives Chulk a chance to spend time with his father, who's recovering well from recent heart surgery. Chulk expects a similar cheering section in the stands this time, but much of the hassle has been removed from his hands.
"I think I only left 15, 16 tickets," he said, then added, chuckling, "I told them to buy their own this time."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy also grew up in nearby Cocoa Beach, but said he much prefers the California climate now that he's become acquainted to it.
"I'll probably never leave," he said with a smile.
Welcome back: Rich Aurilia returned to the Giants lineup Thursday for the first time since Aug. 1, when he strained his right hamstring. Aurilia was slotted at second base and hit seventh.
Just before the game, rookie righty Tim Lincecum was placed on the bereavement list to make room for Aurilia. There was no immediate word how long Lincecum would be unavailable.
Before the injury, Aurilia had collected six hits in his last 10 at-bats to raise his batting average to .253 -- its highest point since May 15.
"We're going to get him some playing time," Bochy said. "It'd be big for Richie to finish up strong here."
It takes time: Eliezer Alfonzo has hit safely in all five games of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Fresno, but Bochy said it's unlikely the catcher will be recalled any time soon. Alfonzo's surgically repaired knee is still getting worked back into shape.
"It's doing much better," Bochy said, "but you can still see it affecting him."
By the numbers: The Giants are 42-8 when leading after seven innings, and a perfect 45-0 when leading after eight. ... San Francisco entered the series 72-45 all-time against Florida. ... The Giants' Class A team in Salem-Keizer, Ore., has won 11 straight games and has a 46-10 record in the Northwest League.
On deck: The Giants will play the second round of their four-game series with the Marlins at 4:05 p.m. PT on Saturday. Matt Cain (4-13, 3.77 ERA) will oppose Rick VandenHurk (3-3, 7.46 ERA).
Tom Keller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.