4/10/2014 11:48 P.M. ET
Giants bid final farewell to Candlestick Park
By Alex Espinoza / Special to MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Old and new generations of San Francisco sports greats gathered at AT&T Park on Thursday night, when the Giants honored their former home of Candlestick Park, which shut its doors following the end of the San Francisco 49ers' football season earlier this year.
To commemorate their former home stadium, the Giants invited members of the 49ers like Joe Staley, Bruce Miller and Brent Jones to the park, while esteemed former Giants like Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and manager Roger Craig also took part in the festivities. Craig joined 49ers great Keena Turner in throwing out the ceremonial first pitches, with Turner tossing a football to Jones.
Hard to believe, but 2014 marks the 15th season for San Francisco at AT&T Park. Shortly before Thursday's contest against the D-backs started, Giants and 49ers alumni took the field together in a joint celebration. Giants president and CEO Larry Baer was also presented with Candlestick Park's original dedication plaque that will be featured beyond the right-field wall at the entrance to the new Candlestick Suite, which will showcase mementos and old seats from the stadium.
"Being a Bay Area kid, this is special." Jones said. "I have to say, nobody does this pulling together of the community like the Giants."
Jones, a South Bay native who played football in San Francisco from 1987-97, said he still remembers going to his first game as a 6-year-old in the summer of 1969 at Candlestick. If memory serves Jones correctly, he saw St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer Bob Gibson outduel Giants Hall of Famer Juan Marichal; those two faced each other at Candlestick on Aug. 10, 1969, in a 7-4 St. Louis win.
"The drive from Almaden Valley to Candlestick Park, back then, that seemed like an eternity to get to the game," Jones said. "It was such a big stage and an unbelievable place and venue. To just see the guys that you heard about, it was pretty special."
It's been 22 years since Craig was San Francisco's skipper, but he's still keeping up with the Giants. In fact, the 84-year-old offered his take on struggling righty Tim Lincecum, who has yet to crack his personal hex against D-backs slugger Paul Goldschmidt.
Craig had some old-school advice to offer Lincecum next time he faces Goldschmidt, who took him deep again Wednesday night in an Arizona victory.
"Pitchers have to learn to take the outside part of the plate away from the hitter," Craig said. "You have to pitch inside more. It's tough to teach young kids to pitch inside. They're not so much afraid to pitch inside; they don't want to hit [the batter] and put him on base. Don't worry about that. ... You'll send a message all around the league."
As for current manager Bruce Bochy, he doesn't have many fond memories of Candlestick Park. The first recollections that popped in his mind include the time he broke his hand trying to catch a bullpen session on Opening Day and another time when umpires took a line-drive hit away from him and ruled it foul.
"I don't know if I have any good memories of it," Bochy said with a smile. "That base hit was fairly significant. That would have put [my career batting average] at .240 or above."
Romo fine after long break despite illness
SAN FRANCISCO -- If it felt like it was a long time since Sergio Romo took the mound, it was.
The Giants closer made just two appearances in the first nine contests of the year and none since April 2 entering Thursday's contest against the D-backs, but manager Bruce Bochy planned to get Romo work against Arizona.
"We talked about it last night, but he's fine," Bochy said before Thursday's game. "He does his throwing and he'll be in there tonight. We're getting to a point where he'll have to get out there. I don't mind him getting some breaks like this. I know it's early, but during the course of the season, all of them I'd like to give them a four-, five-, six-day break. I think it's good for them."
As expected, Romo entered the game Thursday in the ninth inning. With the score tied at 5, the closer allowed a fly ball that resulted in a two-base error on a misplay by center fielder Angel Pagan, but Romo needed just eight pitches to get through the scoreless inning.
He appeared to be in pain upon returning to the Giants dugout, but Bochy said it was just a stomach bug that's been bothering him lately.
"Stomach virus. His stomach was cramping up on him," Bochy said. "Felt it warming up. Gave us a good inning, but that's what he was feeling out there."
In 2013, Romo completed his first full season as San Francisco's closer, completing 38 saves while posting a 2.54 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) and 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings. He was also rested for at least a week on two separate occasions during the year, besides the All-Star break, so long breaks aren't a complete unknown for Romo.
With his closer in need of work, Bochy said he has no reservations about using Romo in non-save situations. And even though Romo has had knee and elbow injuries in the past, Bochy said that's not the impetus behind this decision to rest him.
"Sure, he has [had issues], but he's healthy," Bochy said. "He's fine, he's good to go. Just the way the games have gone. There's going to be stretches when I call on him a lot. He's going to go three, possibly even four in a row."
Belt not surprised by Giants' power display
SAN FRANCISCO -- When thinking about the successful Giants teams of recent years, quality pitching is usually the first thing that comes to mind.
But entering play Thursday against the D-backs, National League West-leading San Francisco was tops among all Major League teams with 14 home runs to start the season.
"I don't think it's surprising," said Brandon Belt, who led the Giants with five long balls this year. "It's probably not something we've done in the past very much. But with the guys we have, it might be unexpected, but I don't think it's surprising at all."
Belt has looked sharp to begin the year. As of Thursday's first pitch, he was tied with Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez for the league lead in homers. Manager Bruce Bochy said he's not surprised to see Belt get off to a hot start.
"He's a talent. This kid's only going to get better, I think," Bochy said. "He's really getting on some pitches that really gave him trouble earlier. He's got a great plate coverage and he's a strong kid who can hit it out at any part of the ballpark."
Belt, who sported a .325/.325/.700 slash line heading into Thursday night's contest, said he's been able to find success by staying balanced at the plate and keeping it simple.
"See ball, hit ball," Belt said.
As for the team's success so far, Belt is happy to hear people are talking about the San Francisco lineup instead of the pitching staff.
"I think it's good that people see what we already knew -- that we have a lot of good hitters on this team," Belt said. "We're a very well-rounded team. We have good pitching and defense and now we're seeing that we have a good offense out there with a lot of power."
• Giants Triple-A outfielder Darren Ford left Thursday night's contest in an ambulance after running into a wall in foul territory while tracking down a fly ball. He suffered a concussion and multiple abrasions and was slated to travel back to Fresno with the team after being released from the hospital late Thursday. Before his injury, the 28-year-old Ford was batting .350 (7-for-20) in eight contests for the Grizzlies.
• Bochy learned Thursday that he had a hand in Major League history Wednesday night, as it marked the first contest to feature 10 Venezuelans on the field in the same game. Seven played for San Francisco and three appeared for the D-backs, something Bochy seemed to appreciate as a former Winter League player in Venezuela.
"That's a lot in one Major League game," Bochy said. "Tip your cap to the country and the baseball players that are coming out of Venezuela. Pretty amazing."
• Bochy said injured second baseman Marco Scutaro (back) is still undergoing "small workouts" as he tries to get back into playing shape and return from the 15-day disabled list. Scutaro played in just one Spring Training game due to the injury but is eligible to be reinstated.
Alex Espinoza is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.