03/24/2013 8:59 PM ET
Zito wins dramatic clash with slugger Hamilton
By Chris Haft / MLB.com
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was a moment straight out of the regular season. Or, better yet, October.
The Giants trailed, 1-0, and were in danger of falling farther behind in Sunday's fifth inning as the Los Angeles Angels loaded the bases against Barry Zito with two outs and the formidable Josh Hamilton due up.
But Zito, as he has done since last season's second half, responded admirably. With a 1-1 count on Hamilton, Zito flung two curveballs past the slugger, who flailed helplessly at both.
That ended Zito's outing and a Cactus League campaign in which he posted a 3.00 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 18 innings. He's expected to make his next appearance during next weekend's Bay Bridge Series against Oakland.
Asked if the Hamilton confrontation enabled him to "mimic" regular-season pressure, Zito replied, "There's no mimicking in it. I'm in the fire out there as far as I'm concerned. I'm not comfortable. Every day's a grind. I need to prove myself every pitch."
Zito typically doesn't strike out batters at the rate he did this spring. But he didn't do anything extraordinary to achieve this.
"You just try to sequence your pitches as well as you can," he said. "Strikeouts will usually occur when you're doing that correctly."
Sore neck takes Belt out of Giants' lineup
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandon Belt finally encountered somebody who could stop his hot hitting: himself.
Belt experienced soreness in his lower neck overnight, forcing the Giants to scratch the first baseman from Sunday's lineup against the Los Angeles Angels.
"It pulls at me when I turn my head to the right or look down," said Belt, who added that he doesn't expect the discomfort to linger.
Belt entered Sunday leading the Cactus League with seven home runs, tied for the lead with 17 RBIs and fourth in batting with a .433 average. In Belt's previous five games, he hit .588 (10-for-17) with eight RBIs.
Nothing new in Sandoval's recovery from elbow pain
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sunday came and went without any conclusive developments regarding Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, whose injured right elbow has cast his playing status for Opening Day into doubt.
Head athletic trainer Dave Groeschner said in a text message that tests performed on Sandoval produced "no new unexpected findings." Manager Bruce Bochy said that Sandoval, who's bothered by an irritated nerve in his elbow that is complicated by a bone spur, was to undergo X-rays and a CAT scan at an area hospital.
Groeschner added in his text that Sandoval will continue with a program of rest and treatment for "a few more days" before the switch-hitter is re-evaluated.
Giants send southpaw Runzler to Triple-A
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Giants optioned left-hander Dan Runzler, who began the Cactus League season in promising fashion, to Triple-A Fresno on Sunday.
Runzler's 7.27 ERA in 10 appearances was deceiving. Through eight games he had allowed just one run in 7 1/3 innings for a 1.23 ERA. But he yielded six runs in his last two outings. That, and the apparent return to health of fellow left-handed reliever Jose Mijares, hastened Runzler's fate.
"Runz had a pretty good spring," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said, adding that despite those final two games, "he's the guy who's knocking on the door" to be the first reliever promoted to San Francisco during the regular season.
Runzler, who turns 28 on Saturday, has pitched for San Francisco in every season since 2009, when he ascended through four Minor League classifications -- low and high Class A, Double-A and Triple-A -- to reach the Majors.
The move left 31 players in camp.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.