A long time coming: Mark Melancon saves win for Madison Bumgarner

Buster Posey, Mark Melancon

When the San Francisco Giants signed Mark Melancon to a four-year, $62 million deal in December 2016, they saw the move a missing piece to make the Giants competitive.

After all, the Giants were coming off a 2016 season that saw them blow 30 saves, and that didn’t inclue the two they blew in the Division Series against the Cubs.

But with Melancon at the back of their bullpen, the Giants foresaw the following scenario playing out over and over again – ace Madison Bumgarner pitches well, leaves the game with the lead and Melancon comes in the ninth to lock down the win.

The Giants thought that scenario would first play out on Opening Day 2017 when Bumgarner pitched seven solid innings against the Diamondbacks and left with a 5-3 lead. The lead was 5-4 when Melancon enter the game in the ninth.

Melancon gave up two runs and the Diamondbacks won 6-5.

Melancon didn’t get another opportunity to save a Bumgarner win before Bum hurt himself in a dirt bike accident three weeks later.

Bumgarner would spend almost three months on the disabled list. By the time he returned in mid-July, Melancon was on the DL with a pronator strain.

Melancon came off the DL in August, but did not pitch in the closer role, which had been turned over to Sam Dyson. Melancon’s season ended in early September.

Both Bumgarner and Melancon started the 2018 season on the DL.

Melancon made his season debut on June 3. Bumgarner made his debut two days later.

However, Melancon made his first seven appearances of 2018 in a non-closer role as the Giants worked him back into form.

With the Giants’ bullpen in flux after closer Hunter Strickland punched a door and broke his hand, Melancon got his first save opportunity on Thursday against the San Diego Padres. It came after Bumgarner threw eight shutout innings on 100 pitches.

With a 3-0 lead, Melancon got three outs, allowing just one hit, to record his first save since May 27, 2017.

And it was his first save of a Madison Bumgarner win, the sight the Giants have been waiting 18 months to see.

It was Bumgarner’s first win since beating the Dodgers on Sept. 23, 2017. It was his first outing without allowing a run since July 30, 2017, and his first eight-inning outing since April 8, 2017.

 

 

 

 

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With Longoria out, Giants will turn to Sandoval and nasty left-right splits

Evan Longoria

San Francisco Giants’ Evan Longoria warms up during batting practice prior to a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in San Diego, Thursday, April 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

Ooooh, that looks really bad.

That was my first reaction after watching Evan Longoria get hit on the hand by a Dan Straily pitch on Thursday in Miami.

There are many factors that can lead someone to make a conclusion like that … how the player reacts, the angle that the ball deflects after hitting the player, the location of where the player got hit.

All of those factors with Longoria led me to believe it was bad.

But then Longoria shook it off and headed to first base. The trainer came out to have a look, but Longoria stayed in the game.

Then I felt “Oh, maybe we dodged a bullet there.”

But then while standing on first, I say Longoria gesture to the dugout.

After the game, Longoria said he decided to stay in the game because he didn’t need his hand to run the bases. But as he stood at first, he felt his hand get worse, not better.

So he exited the game and Alen Hanson took over at third base.

Typically what happens in cases like this is the player goes for X-rays. If the report is good, the club will make an announcement a couple of innings later saying that X-rays were negative and the player is day-to-day.

But no such report came. And the game limped on for SIXTEEN INNINGS.

So when the game finally ended and we learned Longoria had a fractured pinkie, it was no surprise.

And now Giants fans are left to ask a question they’ve been forced to ask all season.

Now what?

The 2018 season has been a minefield of injuries. Here’s a look at the top 16 players on the Giants’ payroll and the time they have spent on the disabled list this season.

TimeonDL

Try to find a week when at least three Giants were on the shelf at the same time.

The timeline for Longoria’s stint on the DL is about six weeks. That would put his return around Aug. 1.

With Brandon Belt making a rapid return from an appendectomy, the front line to step in to fill Longoria’s absense falls to Pablo Sandoval.

Bruce Bochy said so much on Friday. But that could be a cause for concern.

The 2018 version of Sandoval is not the same Sandoval from the Giants’ three tile runs. But the Panda has been productive in 2018.

In fact, from one viewpoint, Sandoval has been about as good as Longoria. To date, Sandoval has about half as many plate appearances as Longoria. If we doubled Sandoval’s production to match Longoria’s plate appearance, they are pretty comparable.

EvvPanda

But with any statistical analysis, the deeper you go, the more catches you find.

In Sandoval’s case, 78 percent of his plate appearances have come as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitching. And that’s because recently his switch-hitting splits have been very wide.

In his entire career, Sandoval has been better from the left side, batting .295 as LH batter and .251 as a righty. Of his 130 career home runs, 111 have come from left season.

This season as a lefty, Sandoval is hitting .301/.359/.484. But as a righty, he’s .160/.276/.200. That horrendous split is the main reason Sandoval has stopped becoming an everyday player the past couple of seasons.

When you consider that more than one-third of the starting pitchers the Giants will face over the next six weeks are lefties, an alternative must be sought.

The first choice would seemingly be switch-hitting Hanson, who has been a bright spot this season as a minor-league signee in the offseason.

Hanson’s splits are better, but not great. Some 77 percent of Hanson’s plate appearances this season have come from the left side, where he’s been very good — .357/.390/.768. But from the right side, it drops to .267/.333/.400 in a very small sample size.

Over his brief big-league career, Hanson’s split have been pretty even, even if the lion’s share of PAs came as a lefty.

So a possible option for the Giants is to have Sandoval start against righties, and Hanson against lefties.

Another option is to recall Kelby Tomlinson and give him some at-bats against lefties. But he’s actually hit righties slightly better this year.

Against lefties, Tomlinson is .209/.277/.256.

One more option is to recall Ryder Jones, who is hitting .286 in Triple-A. But he’s a lefty batter and last year his .312 Triple-A average became a .173 big-league average.

Right now, it’s Sandoval first. We’ll see where that goes.

Johnny Cueto will be out at least six weeks, and Giants fans breathe sigh of relief

Johnny Cueto

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto throws to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Friday, March 30, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The second opinion Johnny Cueto went to get on Monday on his elbow wasn’t nearly as bad as most San Francisco Giants thought it would be.

And who could blame them?

Normally when a player goes to see Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion, it almost always comes back “Yep, you need surgery.”

But that’s not what Andrews said on Monday.

Cueto, the Giants’ ace of 2018 so far, was diagnosed with a sprained elbow ligament on Monday, and Andrews’ prescription was rest.

That means Cueto will be sidelined six to eight weeks. He won’t be pitching for the Giants again until late June at the earliest.

On the surface, that seems bad. But when you consider surgery would have meant Cueto would have missed the rest of 2018 and likely half of 2019, rest sounds pretty good.

Cueto was reported to have been “ecstatic, excited and pumped” by the news, which lends credibility to speculation that the first opinion Cueto got on his elbow was much more ominous.

Need further evidence? Manager Bruce Bochy said Cueto asked to pitch in Atlanta last weekend before seeing Andrews. That translates into he expected the worst from Andrews and figured he couldn’t do any more damage by pitching through the pain, which he had done very well in his previous two starts before going on the DL.

Now Cueto and the Giants hope the elbow responds to rest and rehab. That doesn’t always happen, and a real possibility of surgery being somewhere in Cueto’s future still exists.

So what will the Giants’ do between now and late June, while Cueto rests.

Well, Andrew Suarez will remain with the big club for at least late May, until Madison Bumgarner returns from his broken thumb. Suarez will get the chance to prove to deserves to remain beyond that.

Suarez is 1-1 with a 3.06 ERA in three starts with the Giants this season. He has 18 strikeouts against two walks in 17.2 innings. That’s one fewer walk than what Jeff Samardzija allowed in the first inning on Monday in Philadelphia.

Four of the six runs Suarez has allowed have come on home runs. Once Suarez figures out what pitches he can’t throw to big leaguers, he could be really, really good.

The Giants hope he is, because the depth pool for starting pitching in the organization gets a little thin after Suarez. Tyler Beede would be next up, but he’s not dazzling with  his 1-2 mark and 4.84 ERA at Triple-A.

Beyond that, you’re looking at Dereck Rodriguez (4.26 ERA), Casey Kelly (9.25), Tyler Herb (5.59) and Jose Flores (4.50). Matt Gage got promoted from Double-A Richmond in April and has allowed just one earned run in 11 innings in two starts at Sacramento, so that’s something to watch. None of those pitchers are on the Giants’ 40-man roster.

And, of course, the Giants could kick the tires on Matt Harvey, who was designated for assignment by the Mets last week.

In the meantime, they’ll stick with the pitchers they have now, and hope the offense can give them good support, which they’ve been doing of late.

We suggest a new nickname for Pablo Sandoval: The Panda Express

Screen Shot 2018-04-28 at 7.13.30 PM

Saturday’s opening game of a split doubleheader was one to forget for San Francisco Giants fans.

It started out with the announcement that outfielder Mac Williamson would need to go on the 7-day concussion disabled list when he failed one last test on Saturday morning.

It got worse when the Giants announced the Joe Panik would need to go on the DL with a sprained thumb.

And things didn’t get any better when the game started. In the first inning, Chris Stratton had a hard time finding the strike zone, walking four Dodgers which led to three runs.

In the second inning, Stratton found too much of the strike zone and the Dodgers hammered him, sending him out of the game with one out in the second inning having allowed six runs.

And it didn’t get any better as the Dodgers tallied 15 runs on 20 hits and seven walks.

But then in the ninth inning came a little relief.

That’s when Pablo Sandoval became the first Giants position player to pitch in game since Greg Litton did it in 1992.

The Panda recorded a 1-2-3 inning.

“It’s not that easy, but I do everything I can to save some bullpen for the next game,” Sandoval said. “We lost the game, but we had a little fun at the end of the game.”

It provided a lot of reaction.

Manager Bruce Bochy said: “It did bring some levity to a real long game. With that said, it was pretty impressive what he did.”

Shortstop Brandon Crawford said: “”He was hitting corners. You do that, it’s tough to hit, tough to drive a ball, even if it’s 87 or whatever it was that he hit. He got us some ground balls.”

Pitcher Jeff Samardzija said: “A couple of more miles an hour, he’s serviceable.”

Even Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was impressed. “[I] like Pablo, like the arm stroke. Good secondary. Sometimes it’s amazing how certain people can make the game look so easy. It was a big inning for them. They needed him. It’s a crazy game. I was thinking [Austin] Slater, but Pablo was the right choice. Touching 88.”

It’s even more amazing when you remember that Sandoval was born a left-handed thrower. But as a child, he yearned to play shortstop, which is hard to do as a lefty. So his grandfather helped him learn to throw righty.

And he threw 88 on Saturday.

Because of that, we offer a new nickname for Pablo Sandoval.

The Panda Express.

Mac Williamson does not need to be offensive savior; he just needs to be better than Pence (not hard)

Giants Yankees Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Mac Williamson connects for an RBI-base hit against the New York Yankees during the twelfth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 23, 2016, in New York. Giants’ Trevor Brown scored on the play. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Mac Williamson has arrived with the big club, but is he the savior just about every San Francisco Giants hopes he will be?

Williamson performed very well this spring after spending the winter retooling his swing with help from the same coach who helped turn the Dodgers’ Justin Turner into an All-Star.

Many Giants hoped Williamson would have been on the Giants’ opening day 25-man roster.

But a combination of manager Bruce Bochy wanting to have more defensive flexibility and Williamson still having an option year left sent the outfielder to Triple-A Sacramento, where he tore it up.

In just 11 games, Williamson hit 6 home runs, drove in 16, hit .487 with a .600 on-base percentage. Slugging 1.026, he had a whopping OPS of 1.626.

What may be most impressive is the fact that Williamson walked seven times and only struck out five.

Five strikeouts. Compare that to River Cats teammates Steven Duggar (16), Kyle Jensen (19) or Chris Shaw (21).

Now last season, Christian Arroyo tore it up in Sacramento in April, prompting a May call-up to the big club. Then he proceeded to struggle and was sent back to Triple-A after hitting below the Mendoza line.

But that was a 21-year-old Arroyo in his first stint in the bigs. Williamson is 27 and has had brief stints of success with the Giants, so he knows what to expect.

For the move to pay off for the Giants, Williamson does not need to match his Triple-A numbers, not that anyone is expecting that. In fact, he doesn’t even have to come close.

He just has to give the Giants something, anything. Because the Giants have received NOTHING from left field this season.

If you look at all eight positions, nowhere is the Giants getting anything less than from left field with team lows in batting (.188, .208 is next worst), on-base percentage (.219, .270 is next worst) and slugging (.203, .324 in next worst).

And those left-field numbers are largely the product of one player — Hunter Pence. Pence was hitting .172 with a team-worst .197 OBP, a team-worst slugging of .190 and a team-high 22 strikeouts.

Now I am not part of the chorus of fans shouting to cut Pence, saying he’s washed up. But even veteran San Francisco Chronicle writer suggested that this DL move could be simply a way for the Giants to delay making a hard decision regarding the future of Pence in his final contract year.

I don’t believe that. But it’s very hard to ignore how bad those numbers are.

Pence went to the DL because of a sprained thumb he first injured in the home opener against the Mariners.

Pence said he didn’t know if his thumb was the reason for his struggles, but it’s hard to imagine that it didn’t make things worse.

Of Pence’s 10 hits this season, four came in the four games before his injury, including in his only extra-base hit.

Pence started the season 4 for 15 (.267) before hurting his thumb, and .140 since. Now 15 at-bats is a very small sample size, but you can’t find another series of 15 at-bats this season in which he’s produced four hits since his injury.

And what’s worse, his strikeouts have increased. He struck out six times in his first eight games (29 plate appearances). He has struck out at least once in his last nine games — 16 whiffs in 32 PAs).

He clearly need time off to fix something, and that’s hard to do with a sore thumb.

Yet, Pence played in all of the Giants’ first 17 games, starting all but two.

That’s why I believe the thumb injury is a legit one.

While Pence heals (and/or rights himself), Williamson will get at least a couple of weeks with the big club.

The hope is he keeps hitting, provides a much-needed offensive spark and makes it very difficult for the Giants to send him back down.

But as long as Williamson can give the Giants something, they’ll be better off.

During the opening weeks of the season, Pence had an -0.4 WAR. That’s wins above replacement. And the replacement is your average Triple-A call-up.

The hope is that Williamson will be better than an average Triple-A call-up.

But with Pence setting a very low bar, anything Williamson can contribute will be a good thing.

A series of lists to show how bad San Francisco Giants are with RISP (tease: it’s really bad)

Evan Longoria

The San Francisco Giants’ offense is struggling.

And while the Giants rank fourth in the National League in batting, their batting in run-scoring situations is horrible.

So we’ll look at just how horrible by using NL rankings in various statistical categories with runners in scoring position.

Not to play spoiler here, but it’s pretty horrible.

Batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP)

  1. Giants .158
  2. Cubs .193
  3. Nationals .210
  4. Brewers .220
  5. Dodgers .228
  6. Reds .228
  7. Rockies .229
  8. Cardinals .242
  9. Marlins .250
  10. Mets .255
  11. D-backs .263
  12. Padres .283
  13. Phillies .284
  14. Pirates .315
  15. Braves .333

On-base percentage with RISP

  1. Giants .263
  2. Brewers .295
  3. Dodgers .303
  4. Rockies .330
  5. Cardinals .331
  6. Nationals .335
  7. Marlins .336
  8. Cubs .341
  9. Reds .343
  10. Padres .348
  11. D-backs .376
  12. Pirates .381
  13. Phillies .388
  14. Mets .390
  15. Braves . 424

Slugging percentage with RISP

  1. Giants .219
  2. Dodgers .267
  3. Cubs .289
  4. Reds .316
  5. Brewers .341
  6. Nationals .364
  7. Marlins .370
  8. Rockies .375
  9. Cardinals .392
  10. Mets .415
  11. D-backs .447
  12. Padres .504
  13. Phillies .509
  14. Pirates .556
  15. Braves .558

Highest strikeout percentage (Ks divide by PAs) with RISP

  1. Giants .281
  2. Reds .264
  3. Cubs .250
  4. Marlins .236
  5. Brewers .229
  6. Phillies .228
  7. Cardinals .228
  8. Nationals .226
  9. Padres .224
  10. Rockies .212
  11. D-backs .211
  12. Mets .204
  13. Dodgers .200
  14. Pirates .173
  15. Braves .173

Lowest run percentage (runs divided PA) with RISP

  1. Giants .209
  2. Reds .221
  3. Brewers .271
  4. Nationals .282
  5. Rockies .305
  6. Cubs .310
  7. Marlins .323
  8. Dodgers .325
  9. Padres .329
  10. Cardinals .331
  11. Mets .358
  12. D-backs .387
  13. Braves .405
  14. Phillies .430
  15. Pirates .440

For those looking to point a finger at this struggle with RISP, here is how individual hitters with more than 10 plate appearances with RISP have fared for the Giants.

  • Brandon Belt 3 for 10, 2 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, .300 AVG, .429 OBP
  • Buster Posey 3 for 12, 4 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, .250 AVG, .375 OBP
  • Joe Panik 2 for 12, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K, .167 AVG, .231 OBP
  • Andrew McCutchen 3 for 22, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, .136 AVG, .208 OBP
  • Brandon Crawford 1 for 8, 1 RBI, 6 BB, 4 K, .125 AVG, .385 OBP
  • Evan Longoria 1 for 10, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 6 K, .100 AVG, .182 OBP
  • Hunter Pence 1 for 12, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K, .083 AVG, .143 OBP
  • Other hitters 4 for 18, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 4 K, .222 AVG, .318 OBP
  • Pitchers 0 for 10, 0 RBI, 0 BB, 8 K, .000 AVG, .000 OBP

Hapy Monday

Chris Stratton’s success leads us to look back at Giants’ first-round picks of the past decade

Chris Stratton’s seven innings of one-hit shutout ball on Thursday in San Diego made us think …. How have the San Francisco Giants’ first-round draft picks fared in the past 10 years.

Back in the 1990s, the Giants had some real clunkers in the first round — Calvin Murray, Steve Soderstrom, Matt White.

In the 2000s, they hit some good ones who helped the Giants become World Champions — Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner.

So let’s look back at the past decade, remembering that the Giants own the No. 2 pick this June.

Here are the Giants’ first-round picks of the past 10 years and how they have fared.

2008 – BUSTER POSEY (No. 5 overall)

giphyBUster

Enough said

2008 – CONOR GILLASPIE (No. 37, supplemental first-round pick)

After being drafted out of Wichita State, Gillaspie got a very quick call-up in September 2008. He spent 2009 and 2010 in the minor before being recalled in June 2011. After collecting a World Series ring with the Giants in 2012 (he played six games with them), Gillaspie was traded to the White Sox, where he was their primary third baseman in 2013 and 2014. After struggling to start 2015, he was traded to the Angels, who later designated for assignment. He signed a minor-league with the Giants in the spring of 2016, and spent most of the season as a bench player. When Eduardo Nunez was hurt late in the season, Gillaspie stepped up big, delivering the decisive three-run home run in the Wild Card game against the Mets. He returned to a bench role in 2017 but was DFA’d in August, cleared waivers and played out the rest of the season at Triple-A Sacramento. He remains an unsigned free agent in 2018 at age 30.

conor

Conor Gillaspie

2009 – ZACK WHEELER (No. 6 pick)

The right-handed pitcher was one of the Giants’ top prospects when he was traded to the Mets in 2011 in exchange for Carlos Beltran. He made his big-league debut in 2013, going 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA with the Mets. He went 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 2014 before missing all of 2015 and 2016 after Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2017 to go 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts. In his first start of 2018, Wheeler held the Marlins to one run on two hits over seven innings.

Zack Wheeler

New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler follows through with a pitch against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 20, 2014, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

2010 – GARY BROWN (No. 24 pick)

The speedy center fielder out of Cal State Fullerton was the Giants’ top prospect in 2011, being selected to the All-Star Futures Game. But he never progressed much once he reached Triple-A. He was a September call-up in 2014, going 3 for 7 in seven games. At the end of spring training, he was DFA’d by the Giants, claimed by the Cardinals, DFA’d again on April 21 and claimed by the Angels. He spent the balance of 2016 in Triple-A and released by the Angels in March 2016. He played independent baseball in Maryland before retiring last July.

BGrown.jpg

2011 – JOE PANIK (No. 29 pick)

Drafted as shortstop out of St. John’s with a pick that many draft experts felt was a reach in the first round, Panik made his debut with the Giants in June 2014 as they sought a replacement at second base for injured Marco Scutaro (Brandon Hicks, Dan Uggla etc.). Panik earned the job and hit .305 in 73 games and he was the starting second baseman as the Giants won the 2014 World Series. He’s been the Giants’ starting second baseman since, earning an All-Star Game selection in 2015 and a Gold Glove in 2016.

Joe Panik, Clayton Kershaw, Yasmani Grandal, Mark Wegner

San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik, second from left, hits a solo home run as Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, left, watches along with catcher Yasmani Grandal, right, and home plate umpire Mark Wegner, top right, during the fifth inning of an opening day baseball game Thursday, March 29, 2018, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

2011 – KYLE CRICK (No. 49 supplement first-round pick)

The right-handed pitcher was drafted out of high school. He became the Giants’ top prospect, per Baseball America, in 2013 and 2014. But as he moved to Double-A in 2015, he began to struggle with control. In 2017, the Giants turned him into a reliever and he made his big-league debut last June, finishing the season with 3.06 ERA in 32.3 big-league innings. In January, he was traded along with 2016 second-round pick Bryan Reynolds to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen. He’s currently pitching for the Pirates’ Triple-A team.

cricky

2012 – CHRIS STRATTON

2013 – CHRISTIAN ARROYO (No. 25 pick)

Drafted as a shortstop out of high school, Arroyo was a surprise pick to many as he was thought to be prepared to accept a scholarship at Florida. But he signed with the Giants and made quick and solid progression through the minors. At age 21, he made his big-league debut with the Giants on April 24, 2017. He got his first career hit on April 25 against Clayton Kershawn, then hit his first home run on April 26 against Sergio Romo. But then he began to struggle. He was sent back to the minors on June 4 with a .192 average. Injuries marred his 2017 season in Triple-A. In December, he was traded to the Rays as part of a deal to acquire Evan Longoria. He’s currently playing for the Rays’ Triple-A club.

arroyo

2014 – TYLER BEEDE (No. 14 pick)

A right-handed pitcher drafted out of Vanderbilt, Beede became the Giants’ top pitching prospect. In 2016, he lead the Double-A Eastern League with a 2.81 ERA and was second in strikeouts (135). After being limited by injury early in 2017, he went 6-7 with 4.79 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Sacramento. He made his big-league debut last Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, giving up two runs on three hits with five walks and three strikeouts in four innings. He is slated to make his second start on Sunday against the Padres.

Tyler Beede

2015 – PHIL BICKFORD (No. 18 pick)

The right-handed pitcher was the No. 10 overall pick in 2013 draft out of high school, but chose not to sign with the Blue Jays. The Giants picked him two years later out of the College of Southern Nevada. He was pitching in Class A in August 2016 when he was traded, along with catcher Andrew Susac, to the Brewers for reliever Will Smith. He was listed as the No. 54 prospect in baseball by MLBPipeline.com before he was hit with 50-game suspension for banned substances (not word what it was, but it may have been marijuana) and then he had surgery after breaking two bones in his hand after being hit by comebacker. That limited him to six appearances in rookie ball in 2017.

Bicky

2016 – No first-round pick (surrendered to sign Jeff Samardzija)

2017 – HELIOT RAMOS (No. 19 pick)

Drawing comparisons to Yoenis Cespedes, Ramos was drafted as a 17-year-old outfielder out of Puerto Rico. He hit .348 with six homers in 138 at-bats at rookie level last year. As Baseball America’s 79th-best prospect in baseball, Ramos was coveted by other teams in offseason trade discussions. The Giants kept him and he is starting the season at low-A Augusta.

Heliot.jpg

Giants’ Chris Stratton has suddenly developed into the kind of pitcher you’d expect from a first-rounder

Chris Stratton

About year ago, San Francisco Giants pitcher Chris Stratton could have changed his name to “And Chris Stratton.”

That’s because any discussion about prospects in the Giants system would end with “…. and Chris Stratton.” You know, it would go like “Christian Arroyo, Tyler Beede, Chris Shaw, etc. … and Chris Stratton.”

Stratton’s progression up the Giants’ farm system made him sort of an afterthought. Not a flop as a former first-round draft pick. Just an afterthought.

He could have been best described in a report on him by minorleaguebaseball.com in April of 2017.

“There’s nothing spectacular about Stratton. He has four adequate pitches and he throws strikes. He won’t dominate, but he is versatile, a good 11th man on a staff for mop up and long relief work who can make some starts if necessary.”

Not a glowing report for player who was taken with the 20th pick of the 2012 draft as an All-American out of Mississippi State. But you’d struggle to find many scouts or Giants fans who would disagree with that assessment.

That’s because his numbers in minors were just kind of OK. Not terrible, but not great. Just OK.

In six minor-league seasons, Stratton was 38-34 with a 4.07 ERA in 111 starts and 116 games.

There was a glimmer of hope in 2016 that Stratton might actually develop into the pitcher the Giants hoped he’d become when they picked him in 2012.

That season, he went 12-6 with 3.87 ERA in 20 starts for Triple-A Sacramento. Not glowing numbers, but pretty solid in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

Stratton got his first major-league call in 2016, when he had a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings of relief.

But then in 2017, his Triple-A number got very “meh” again — 4-5 with 5.11 ERA in 15 starts. He was 26 years and starting to run out of opportunities with the Giants.

But then last July, the Giants needed to call up a pitcher who could give them innings, and their top pitching prospects in Sacramento — Tyler Beede and Joan Gregorio — were on the DL. So Stratton got the call, as he was on the 40-man roster.

He made a spot start against Detroit and a four-inning relief appearance later in July against the Pirates.

After coming off a brief DL stint, he was put into the rotation in August and seized the opportunity.

He made nine starts in the last two months season, going 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA and 43 strikeouts, 20 walks in 44.2 innings. He had three scoreless outings of 6+ innings.

That thrusted him into competition for a spot in the rotation heading into this spring. Injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija locked Stratton into the rotation, but he probably would have made the rotation without the injuries.

In the early part of season, Stratton has established himself as the Giants’ best starting pitcher not named Johnny Cueto.

In three starts, Stratton has a 2.60 ERA with an 0.981 WHIP.

If there is a knock on Stratton, it’s that he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, which often leads to him burning a lot pitches. This was evidenced Thursday in San Diego when the Padres’ Austin Hedges fouled off seven pitches before flying out.

Even so, Stratton pitched seven complete innings for the first time in his big-league career, holding the Padres to one hit. That win, oddly enough, was Padres pitcher Clayton Richard, who entered the game in the third as a pinch-hitter and never actually pitched in the game. According to Elias, it was the first time since 1935 that a team was limited to one hit that came from a pitcher who didn’t start the game.

Put this season’s three starts with last season’s final nine starts, Stratton 5-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 12 starts (62 innings).

That’s All-Star like.

It’s good enough to allow us to say that right now the best starting pitchers the Giants have are Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto … and Chris Stratton.

 

 

 

 

Here are the Giants’ first-round picks of the past 10 years and how they have fared.

2008 – BUSTER POSEY (No. 5 overall)

 

Enough said

 

2008 – CONOR GILLASPIE (No. 37, supplemental first-round pick)

After being drafted out of Wichita State, Gillaspie got a very quick call-up in September 2008. He spent 2009 and 2010 in the minor before being recalled in June 2011. After collecting a World Series ring with the Giants in 2012 (he played six games with them), Gillaspie was traded to the White Sox, where he was their primary third baseman in 2013 and 2014. After struggling to start 2015, he was traded to the Angels, who later designated for assignment. He signed a minor-league with the Giants in the spring of 2016, and spent most of the season as a bench player. When Eduardo Nunez was hurt late in the season, Gillaspie stepped up big, delivering the decisive three-run home run in the Wild Card game against the Mets. He returned to a bench role in 2017 but was DFA’d in August, cleared waivers and played out the rest of the season at Triple-A Sacramento. He remains an unsigned free agent in 2018 at age 30.

2009 – ZACK WHEELER (No. 6 pick)

The right-handed pitcher was one of the Giants’ top prospects when he was traded to the Mets in 2011 in exchange for Carlos Beltran. He made his big-league debut in 2013, going 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA with the Mets. He went 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 2014 before missing all of 2015 and 2016 after Tommy John surgery. He returned in 2017 to go 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA in 17 starts. In his first start of 2018, Wheeler held the Marlins to one run on two hits over seven innings.

2010 – GARY BROWN (No. 24 pick)

The speedy center fielder out of Cal State Fullerton was the Giants’ top prospect in 2011, being selected to the All-Star Futures Game. But he never progressed much once he reached Triple-A. He was a September call-up in 2014, going 3 for 7 in seven games. At the end of spring training, he was DFA’d by the Giants, claimed by the Cardinals, DFA’d again on April 21 and claimed by the Angels. He spent the balance of 2016 in Triple-A and released by the Angels in March 2016. He played independent baseball in Maryland before retiring last July.

2011 – JOE PANIK (No. 29 pick)

Drafted as shortstop out of St. John’s with a pick that many draft experts felt was a reach in the first round, Panik made his debut with the Giants in June 2014 as they sought a replacement at second base for injured Marco Scutaro (Brandon Hicks, Dan Uggla etc.). Panik earned the job and hit .305 in 73 games and he was the starting second baseman as the Giants won the 2014 World Series. He’s been the Giants’ starting second baseman since, earning an All-Star Game selection in 2015 and a Gold Glove in 2016.

2011 – KYLE CRICK (No. 49 supplement first-round pick)

The right-handed pitcher was drafted out of high school. He became the Giants’ top prospect, per Baseball America, in 2013 and 2014. But as he moved to Double-A in 2015, he began to struggle with control. In 2017, the Giants turned him into a reliever and he made his big-league debut last June, finishing the season with 3.06 ERA in 32.3 big-league innings. In January, he was traded along with 2016 second-round pick Bryan Reynolds to the Pirates for Andrew McCutchen. He’s currently pitching for the Pirates’ Triple-A team.

2012 – CHRIS STRATTON

2013 – CHRISTIAN ARROYO (No. 25 pick)

Drafted as a shortstop out of high school, Arroyo was a surprise pick to many as he was thought to be prepared to accept a scholarship at Florida. But he signed with the Giants and made quick and solid progression through the minors. At age 21, he made his big-league debut with the Giants on April 24, 2017. He got his first career hit on April 25 against Clayton Kershawn, then hit his first home run on April 26 against Sergio Romo. But then he began to struggle. He was sent back to the minors on June 4 with a .192 average. Injuries marred his 2017 season in Triple-A. In December, he was traded to the Rays as part of a deal to acquire Evan Longoria. He’s currently playing for the Rays’ Triple-A club.

2014 – TYLER BEEDE (No. 14 pick)

A right-handed pitcher drafted out of Vanderbilt, Beede became the Giants’ top pitching prospect. In 2016, he lead the Double-A Eastern League with a 2.81 ERA and was second in strikeouts (135). After being limited by injury early in 2017, he went 6-7 with 4.79 ERA in 19 starts for Triple-A Sacramento. He made his big-league debut last Tuesday against the Diamondbacks, giving up two runs on three hits with five walks and three strikeouts in four innings. He is slated to make his second start on Sunday against the Padres.

2015 – PHIL BICKFORD (No. 18 pick)

The right-handed pitcher was the No. 10 overall pick in 2013 draft out of high school, but chose not to sign with the Blue Jays. The Giants picked him two years later out of the College of Southern Nevada. He was pitching in Class A in August 2016 when he was traded, along with catcher Andrew Susac, to the Brewers for reliever Will Smith. He was listed as the No. 54 prospect in baseball by MLBPipeline.com before he was hit with 50-game suspension for banned substances (not word what it was, but it may have been marijuana) and then he had surgery after breaking two bones in his hand after being hit by comebacker. That limited him to six appearances in rookie ball in 2017.

2016 – No first-round pick (surrendered to sign Jeff Samardzija)

2017 – HELIOT RAMOS (No. 19 pick)

Drawing comparisons to Yoenis Cespedes, Ramos was drafted as a 17-year-old outfielder out of Puerto Rico. He hit .348 with six homers in 138 at-bats at rookie level last year. As Baseball America’s 79th-best prospect in baseball, Ramos was coveted by other teams in offseason trade discussions. The Giants kept him and he is starting the season at low-A Augusta.

Giants are bad with runners in scoring position, and it’s worse than you think

Buster Posey

Nine games into the 2018 season, and the San Francisco Giants have been held to one or no runs in six of those nine games.

And so the call has gone out “The Giants need to start hitting.”

Well, that’s true and it’s not true — depending on how you look at it.

One stat that would indicate that the Giants are hitting, relatively, is their ranking in team batting average.

The Giants currently rank fifth in the National League in hitting. So that doesn’t sound so bad.

But the problem is that almost no one in the National League is hitting in the early days of the season.

The Pirates lead the NL in hitting at .283, then come the Braves at .267. In third are the Mets at .247.

Last season, a .247 team batting average would have ranked 14th in the NL at season’s end, one spot behind the Giants’ .249.

Given that, the Giants’ .239 team batting average this season doesn’t look so hot.

What’s worse is that the Giants have not been able to convert hits into runs.

The Giants rank 15th in the NL in runs scored with 25, and 10 of those runs have come in one game.

Why is that?

Well, the Giants’ ability to deliver hits in scoring situations is one big culprit.

The Giants are 8 for 67 with runners in scoring position. That’s a .116 average.

Very, very bad.

But it gets worse, if you can fathom that.

Of the Giants’ eight hits with runners in scoring position, only four have produced runs.

That’s right four hits failed to score a runner.

And when you consider, given the Giants’ lack of power, there whole offensive strategy is based on the idea of get-em-on, get-em-over, get-em-in.

Well, right now they are struggling mightily on that last piece.

Here are the eight hits this season with runners in scoring position.

HIT 1: Game 1, March 29 at Dodgers

In the second inning with Hunter Pence on second base, Brandon Belt blooped a single to right, Pence was held up at third.

HIT 2: Game 5, April 3 vs. Mariners

In the eighth inning, after Gregor Blanco led off with a double, Kelby Tomlinson singled to center. Blanco was held at third base.

HIT 3: Game 6, April 4 vs. Mariners

In the first inning, with runners on first and second, Buster Posey hit a slow chopper to third that Kyle Seager couldn’t get a handle on for a infied single, loading the bases.

HIT 4: Game 6, April 4 vs. Mariners

In the fifth inning, with runners on first and second, Pablo Sandoval homers to right.

HIT 5: Game 6, April 4 vs. Mariners

In the seventh inning, with runners on first and second and two out, Brandon Belt singles to center, scoring Nick Hundley.

HIT 6: Game 7, April 7 vs. Dodgers

In the seventh innning, with Austin Jackson on second and one out, Andrew McCutchen hits a bouncer over the bag at third for an infield single. Jackson stayed at second.

HIT 7: Game 7, April 7 vs. Dodgers

In the 14th inning, with runners on first and third and no outs, McCutchen homers to left.

HIT 8: Game 8, April 8 vs. Dodgers

In the eighth inning, with runners on first and second an no outs, Buster Posey single to right, scoring Pence from second.

Splash Hits in April are right in season with Panda at the plate

Panoval

It’s April, and it’s already Splash Hit season.

Pablo Sandoval launched the first Splash Hit of 2018 when he launched Felix Hernandez’s final pitch on Wednesday for a three-run home run into McCovey Cove.

The Panda even called it. Sort of.

“I ain’t gonna lie. He called it,” Andrew McCutchen said. “He said he was going to hit a homer today.”

https://www.mlb.com/giants/video/share/sandovals-three-run-dinger/c-1906902283?tid=8878828

It marked the first April Splash Hit since Brandon Crawford hit one on April 13, 2014, and only the second April Splash Hit since 2008.

Of the 77 Splash Hits, it was only the 11th in April.

It was the earliest Splash Hit by date, and the second earliest by schedule.

Barry Bonds had a Splash Hit in the Giants’ home opener in 2004. He also hit one in Game 2 in 2004, but that was in the seventh inning, so The Panda’s officially becomes the second earliest.

The Splash Hit also was Sandoval’s eighth Splash Hit, moving him into sole possession of second place in the Splash Hit list. It was his first Splash Hit since May 12, 2013. He, of course, spent 2015, 2016 and most of 2017 with the Red Sox. The nearly five-year gap between Splash Hits is the longest gap between Splash Hits by one player.

Of course, Bonds tops the list with 35, then comes Sandoval with eight and Brandon Belt with seven. Denard Span is the only other Giant with more than two. Span hit five and accounted for the last three Splash Hits.

EARLY SPLASH HITS

  1. Barry Bonds 2004, Game 1
  2. Pablo Sandoval 2018, Game 2 (fifth inning)
  3. Barry Bonds 2004, Game 2 (seventh inning)
  4. Barry Bonds 2001, Game 4
  5. Michael Tucker 2005, Game 5
  6. Brandon Crawford 2014, Game 6

Homers from Panik only part of a very unlikely start to 2018 for Giants

Johnny Cueto

The San Francisco Giants have nearly $52 million worth of pitching on the disabled list – in 2018 salary – and yet they are 2-0 because of a pair of 1-0 victories.

That seems about as likely as the fact that the Giants scored both runs off home runs by Joe Panik – one off Clayton Kershaw and the other off Kenley Jansen.

The Giants became the second team ever to open the season with back-to-back 1-0 victories. The 1943 Cincinnati Reds were the other team.

Since the 1943 Reds opened at home – as the Reds do every year – the Giants became the first team to accomplish the feat on the road.

Johnny Cueto took a perfect game into the seventh inning when Chris Taylor’s bloop single broke it up. Taylor was then erased on a double play by the next batter. Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland completed the shutout as the Dodgers sent the minimum – 27 batters – to the plate.

In 2017, the Giants were 0-23 when scoring just one run. So far in 2018, they are 2-0.

In 2017, the Giants didn’t record their first shutout win until June 2 – a 10-0 win at Phildelphia. They didn’t notch their second shutout until Aug. 21 – a 2-0 win over Milwaukee. They finished with five shutout wins.

It’s the second time in Giants history that they have opened with back-to-back shutout wins, and the first time they’ve done it on the road.

With John Burkett and Billy Swift starting, the 1994 Giants opened the season with 8-0 and 2-0 wins over the Pirates.

If the Giants can keep the Dodgers scoreless for 5.2 innings on Saturday, they will break the team record for most scoreless pitching innings to open a season, set in 1994.

Derek Holland gets his first pitching assignment for the Dodgers on Saturday. Hopefully, Holland can keep the streak going.

If he can’t, hopefully the Giants hitters – besides Panik – can get going against the first right-handed starter they’ll see this season – Kenta Maeda.

Look for Bochy to employ this lineup vs. righty

2B Joe Panik

1B Brandon Belt

RF Andrew McCutchen

C Buster Posey

3B Evan Longoria

SS Brandon Crawford

RF Hunter Pence

CF Gregor Blanco

P Derek Holland

On Opening Day, Joe Panik does something no San Francisco Giants hitter has ever done against Clayton Kershaw

Joe Panik

Of all the unlikely San Francisco Giants to belt a home run off Clayton Kershaw, Joe Panik might have been the unlikeliest.

Panik’s solo home run in the fifth inning of the Giants’ 1-0 victory over the Dodgers was only the second baseman’s 30th home run of his career.

Watch Panik’s homer: https://www.mlb.com/giants/video/share/paniks-solo-homer-off-kershaw/c-1898956883?tid=8878828

And although Panik became the 15th different Giants hitter to homer off Kershaw, he quickly moved to the top half of the list of Giants who have taken deep in terms of career home runs hit – even with just 30.

Career home runs by Giants who have home runs (as a Giant) against Kershaw.

  1. Hunter Pence 220
  2. Juan Uribe 199
  3. Bengie Molina 144
  4. Melky Cabrera 131
  5. Buster Posey 128
  6. Angel Pagan 64
  7. Joe Panik 30
  8. Mac Williamson 22
  9. Madison Bumgarner 17
  10. Matt Duffy 17
  11. Brandon Hicks 11
  12. Brett Pill 9
  13. Chris Stewart 9
  14. Ehire Adrianza 5
  15. Kelby Tomlinson 3

When you look at that list, with the likes of Chris Stewart, Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza on it, there have been some unlikely Giants to homer off Kershaw.

Even so, Panik’s home run seems even less likely when you consider:

Prior to Thursday, in his career, Kershaw surrenders a home run to a left-handed hitter at a rate of 1 for every 47 plate appearances.

Prior to Thursday, Panik only had two home runs against left-handed pitching, out of more than 500 plate appearances.

But when Panik took Kershaw deep, he became the first Giants to accomplish one feat. He became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw. The other 14 Giants to go deep did it from the right-hand side of the plate.

Here’s a list of  Giants players who have home runs off Kershaw and the year they hit it.

1, Buster Posey 3 (2013, 2015, 2017)

2, Madison Bumgarner 2 (2015, 2016)

3, Joe Panik 1 (2018)

3, Kelby Tomlinson 1 (2017)

3, Mac Williamson 1 (2017)

3, Hunter Pence 1 (2017)

3, Angel Pagan 1 (2016)

3, Matt Duffy 1 (2016)

3, Ehire Adrianza 1 (2016)

3, Brandon Hicks 1 (2014)

3, Melky Cabrera 1 (2012)

3, Brett Pill 1 (2012)

3, Chris Stewart 1 (2011)

3, Juan Uribe 1 (2010)

3, Bengie Molina 1 (2009)

 

Time to Panik, not panic — Blach, Giants beat Kershaw on Opening Day

Joe Panik, Clayton Kershaw, Yasmani Grandal, Mark Wegner

If you had the San Francisco Giants beating Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers 1-0 on Opening Day on a Joe Panik home run, collect your prize.

That’s how it all shook out Thursday at Chavez Ravine, as the Giants won their first Opening Day game in Dodger Stadium since 2002.

The outlook Thursday was not so bright when, after we knew Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija would start the season the disabled list, the Giants announced that closer Mark Melancon would be joining them on the DL with a flexor strain.

But Blach, who has been outstanding in his starts against the Dodgers, matched Kershaw 0 for 0 through the first four innings.

In the fifth inning, Panik turned on an inside pitch and drove it just inside the right-field foul pole.

From watching on ESPN, it looked like the ball might be foul, from how the camera angle was showing it.

But it stayed fair, and the Giants led 1-0. Blach kept the lead 1-0 after five innings. He gave up three hits, three walks while striking out three. He left after 80 pitches because he hadn’t thrown more than 60 during the spring.

Before the Giants’ run of pitching injuries, Giants manager Bruce Bochy told Blach he’d be starting in the bullpen and make his first start on April 10, when the Giants first needed a fifth starter.

That’s why Blach got the early hook. Then the Giants turned it over to the bullpen.

Four relievers — Josh Osich, Cody Gearrin, Tony Watson and Hunter Strickland — kept the shutout intact.

Osich was outstanding. Gearrin dodged around a couple of singles. Watson was outstanding. Strickland worked around a leadoff single by Matt Kemp to notch his first save since being proclaimed the closer in Melancon’s absence.

It was the Giants’ first Opening Day win by shutout since beating the Pirates 8-0 in 1994. John Burkett started that game. It was the first Opening Day shutout win against the Dodgers since 1958, the first major-league game played on the West Coast. The Giants also won that one 8-0.

Last year, the Giants went 0-23 when scoring just one run. This year, they are 1-0.

Last year, the Giants never spent a day above .500. This year, they’ve spent one.

Last year, the Giants never spent a day in first place. They are there today.

Who know what the future holds for the Giants, given so many uncertainties. But at least for one day, 2018 is going just fine.

Opening Day diversion: Guess the 12 different starting left fielders for Giants since 2007 (and other Opening Day starter facts)

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The San Francisco Giants announced the Opening Day lineup against the Dodgers.

CF Austin Jackson
2B Joe Panik
CF Andrew McCutchen
C Buster Posey
3B Evan Longoria
LF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
SS Brandon Crawford
P Ty Blach

It marks the 12th consecutive season the Giants have opened with a different player starting in left field, dating all the way back to Barry Bonds’ final Opening Day start in 2007.

If you are looking for an Opening Day diversion, try guessing the names of the 10 players sandwiched between Bonds and Hunter Pence. We’ll reveal the answer at the end of this post.

It’s actually Pence’s third consecutive Opening Day start for the Giants, after starting in right the past two seasons. He was hurt at the opening of the 2015 season.

It’s the eighth consecutive Opening Day start for both Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. It’s the seventh consecutive start for Brandon Crawford. It’s the fourth consecutive start for Joe Panik.

It’s the first-ever Opening Day start for the Giants for Ty Blach, Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson.

Third base is turning into a mini-left field for the Giants. Longoria is the fifth different player to start at 3B on Opening Day since 2014 — Pablo Sandoval, Casey McGehee, Matt Duffy and Eduardo Nunez.

Posey’s eight Opening Day starts at catcher are the most ever by Giant since 1908. Today’s start broke a tie he had with Wes Westrum.

Belt’s eight starts ties him with Will Clark for fourth-most ever at first base.

Getting back to left field. Bonds made 12 consecuive Opening Day starts from 1993 to 2004, and 14 of 15 starts until 2007.

The odds that this streak will be extended to 13 is very good when you consider that Pence is in the last year of his contract and will turn 36 next season.

Want to take any bets on who next year’s start left fielder is?

Mac Williamson?

Chris Shaw?

Austin Slater?

Brandon Belt?

Someone else?

All right. As promised, here is the answer to our left field question from above.

2007 – Barry Bonds
2008 – Dave Roberts
2009 – Darren Lewis
2010 – Mark DeRosa
2011 – Pat Burrell
2012 – Aubrey Huff
2013 – Andres Torres
2014 – Michael Morse
2015 – Nori Aoki
2016 – Angel Pagan
2017 – Jarrett Parker
2018 – Hunter Pence

Another Opening Day away from the bay for the San Francisco Giants

Bum2014

When the San Francisco Giants open the 2018 season at Dodger Stadium, it will mark their ninth consecutive Opening Day on the road.

So the question will be asked “Why don’t the Giants ever open at home?”

And the standard answer is that it’s the Giants choice. They prefer to play games at home later in the season than earlier.

But nine years in a row?

The last time the Giants opened the season at AT&T Park was on April 7, 2009 against the Milwaukee Brewers. The Giants won the game 10-6.

Since then, the Giants have spent four Opening Days in Arizona, one each in Houston and Milwaukee and this season marks the third Opening Day in LA.

I get the inclination to want more home games later in the season than earlier. But is there really a big difference between opening at home on March 29 and April 3?

You’d think that a franchise that had such a lengthy streak of “sellouts” it wouldn’t matter when the home games are played.

This decision by the Giants has robbed fans of some special Opening Days in 2011, 2013 and 2015. When they should have been hoisting a World Series banner at home, the Giants instead opened at Dodger Stadium in 2011, Dodger Stadium again in 2013 and in Arizona in 2015.

Since opening their ballpark by the bay in 2000, the Giants have only played four Opening Days there – in 2001 vs. the Padres (the Giants won 3-2), in 2005 vs. the Dodgers (the Giants won 4-2), in 2007 vs. the Padres (they lost 7-0) and the aforementioned game in 2009 vs. the Brewers.

To make matters worse, Opening Days in Dodger Stadium have not gone well for the Giants. They have managed to score just one run in three openers there since 2008.

This season marks the 60th anniversary of the both the Giants and Dodgers on the West Coast. And that first Opening Day back in 1958 was played in San Francisco. The Giants beat the Dodgers 8-0 in April 15, 1958. Shouldn’t the 60th anniversary game also be played in San Francisco?

The Giants and Dodgers didn’t play in another Opening Day matchup against until 1976.

Since then, they have meet on Opening Day in 1977, 1982, 1988, 1992, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and 2013.

Overall, the Giants are 6-5 on Opening Day against the Dodgers, although LA has won the last three.

The last time the Giants won on Opening Day in LA was in 2002, when Barry went yard three times.

The only time I have ever spent Opening Day in a big-league ballpark was at Dodger Stadium in 1988, when Dave Dravecky beat Fernando Valenzuela.

The Giants return to Chavez Ravine for another Opening Day on Thursday. Hopefully, they’ll score a run. Heck, maybe even two, if we dare to dream.

But at least we can be thankful of one thing – thank God the Astros beat the Dodgers last fall, or else the Boys in Blue would be hoisting their own World Series banner.

Instead, they’ll just hoist a National League pennant.

And the Giant fans can watch, tilt their heads to the side, glance at three World Series rings since their last Opening Day at home and say “Aw, isn’t that adorable.”

Giants’ Opening Day roster includes two rookies, just not the ones you were expected

Rookz

Late Tuesday night, after the Giants’ 3-0 win over the A’s to take the Bay Bridge Series, the Giants announced, more or less, who would be making the Opening Day roster.

It includes 12 pitchers, five outfielders and two rookies – just not the rookies you might have been expecting.

With injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija, rookie relief pitchers Pierce Johnson and Roberto Gomez were informed they would be joining the club Thursday for the opener at Dodger Stadium. Another rookie, outfielder Steven Duggar will be heading to Triple-A Sacramento, news that will frustrate some Giants fans (not this Giant fan. Duggar needs to play every day and Giants face a ton of lefties to open the season).

Here’s the 25-man roster, with one question remaining.

Starting pitchers (4): LH Ty Blach, RH Johnny Cuetro, LH Derek Holland, RH Chris Stratton.

Relievers (8): RH Mark Melancon, LH Tony Watson, RH Sam Dyson, RH Hunter Strickland, LH Josh Osich,  RH Cory Gearrin, RH Johnson, RH Gomez.

Catchers (2): Buster Posey, Nick Hundley.

Infielders (6): Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval, Kelby Tomlinson.

Outfielders (5): Andrew McCutchen, Austin Jackson, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez.

Disabled list (4): Bumgarner, Samardzija, Will Smith, Julian Fernandez.

The one question is Melancon, who remains uncertain for the opener.

Actually, there are two questions. The other question is which player will be dropped from the 40-man roster to make room for Blanco.

So who are these rookie pitchers?

Pierce Johnson, a 26-year-old righthander, is a former first-round pick (43rd overall pick) of the Chicago Cubs in 2012. He spent six seasons in the minors, most of them as a starter and most of them with good numbers. But his last two, at the Triple-A level, were less impressive. He was 4-6 with a 6.14 ERA in 22 games and 11 starts in 2016. He was 3-2 with a 4.31 ERA in 43 games (42 relief outings) in 2017. He spent three days in the majors with the Cubs last May, making one appearance and giving up two unearned runs in one inning. He was designated for assignment in September and claimed off waivers by the Giants.

He had a strong spring, pitching seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit and three walks with nine strikeouts. But he was also among one the Giants’ first cuts from big-league camp back on March 13 and was set to open the season at Double-A Richmond before getting his Opening Day assignment.

Roberto Gomez is a 6-foot-6, 28-year-old righthander. He was signed by the Rays out of the Dominican Republic in 2010. He pitched five seasons in the Rays system, mostly as a starter, before getting injured and released by the Rays in 2014. Injury kept him sidelined in 2015-16. He was signed by the Giants in November 2016.

He was 3-9 with 4.07 ERA in 38 games, 13 starts, for Triple-A Sacramento last season before getting called up by the Giants in September. He gave up five earned runs in 5.1 innings in four outings for the Giants.

Gomez was part of the second round of cuts by the Giants after giving up eight runs (three earned) in 8.1 innings this spring. He had 13 strikeouts. Like Johnson, Gomez was set to start the season at Double-A Richmond.

Both pitchers made the final 25 in part that both can pitch a couple of innings at a time. The Giants don’t have a true long man in the bullpen, so these two provide some of that given the Giants are opening the season with four starters and 12 total relievers.

Mark Melancon might open the season the DL, and here’s why that should have you very alarmed

MarkMelo

That’s it. The Giants simply should sign a closer on the free agent market.

It does not end well.

Develop them from within the organization, trade for them. Just don’t sign them as free agents.

The Giants developed Rod Beck (1992-1997), they traded for Robb Nen (1998-2002), promoted Tim Worrell (2003) and Matt Herges (2004) from within the organization.

Then they signed Armando Benitez for the 2005 season. He was a disaster.

They promoted Brian Wilson (2008-2011), Sergio Romo (2012-13) and Santiago Casilla (2014-2016) from within the organization and won three world titles.

But after they finished 2016 with everybody as the closer (and no one doing the job well, they went back to the free-agent market and signed Mark Melancon before the 2017 season. And it appears once again that it will be a disaster.

In the first year of his four-year contract, Melancon had a 4.50 ERA with only 11 saves in 16 chances mixed in with two stints on the DL before his season ended in September with an unusual surgery to relieve compression in his forearm.

And that’s not even the worst part of it. It’s what the doctors found during the surgery.

I’ll let Melancon tell it, as he told it to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“Well,” Melancon said, “my pronator muscle was basically getting pinched off or squeezed off where there was a lack of blood flow and oxygen getting to the muscle. And in turn, it was dying.

“When they went in there, that muscle had turned gray. It wasn’t completely dead but over time, it was dying. The doctor was shocked when he saw the grayness. His hope is that it turns back to the normal reddish color.

“He doesn’t know how long it’ll take. He’s optimistic about it. (Surgery was) to decompress and cut that fascia and allow that muscle to expose itself and have more oxygen and blood flow.”

That’s right. Dying muscle tissue. Gray muscle tissue. Doctor shocked. A hope that “it turns back to the normal reddish color.”

When I read that earlier this spring, I was like “Oh my God. That’s not good.”

Melancon had a quiet Spring Training as he worked himself by into shape. He was 5.79 ERA (he gave up three earned runs in just 4.2 innings).

So when we found out Tuesday that Melancon might not be ready to open the season and that he’s felt “mild discomfort” in his forearm since midway through Spring Training, there is significant reason for alarm.

The Giants were trying to play it down on Tuesday. General manager Bobby Evans said Melancon did not suffer a physical setback, and that the Giants are playing it safe with their closer. “Obviously, he’s post-surgery, so I think they’ll continue to make sure he’s in good shape.”

They are making it sound like Melancon hasn’t pitched since Friday so that if he’s not ready to start the season, they can backdate his DL stint and perhaps only miss the Dodgers series to open the season.

The Giants said Melancon played catch Tuesday and will repeat the exercise Wednesday to see where he’s at.

“We’re hoping he’s all good to go Thursday,” manager Bruce Bochy said Tuesday. “We don’t know at this point right now if that will be the case.”

So he’s going to go from playing catch to being ready to take the mound in a game on Thursday?

Seems highly unlikely to me.

Again … dying muscle … gray muscle …. hope it turns reddish again.

Anyway, the Melancon news, along with the news that flamethrowing reliever and Rule 5 player Julian Fernandez will open the season with a sprained elbow ligament is just the news you want to hear to open the season, to go along with the news that Madison Bumgarner might not be ready until June and Jeff Samardzija will miss the first three or four weeks of the season.

The news is also the reason the Giants have not set their Opening Day 25-man roster. And they may not until the deadline early Thursday morning.

Every team opens the season at 0-0. And it already feels like the Giants are 10 games back.

Ty Blach as Giants’ Opening Day starter is not the worst thing in the world

Ty Blach

San Francisco Giants pitcher Ty Blach throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Maryvale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Madison Bumgarner is not going to become the first San Francisco Giants pitcher to make five consecutive Opening Day starts since Juan Marichal started seven in a row from 1964-1969.

We knew that on Friday after Bumgarner suffered a broken pinky after taking a line drive off the hand.

On Sunday, we formerly found out who will be on the mound Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

It’s Ty Blach.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy called the decision “the simplest solution” by slotting Blach in Bumgarner’s spot while keeping Johnny Cueto, Derek Holland and Chris Stratton in their positions to start the Bay Bridge Series.

And here’s why that’s not the most horrible idea in the world.

Blach has an excellent track record against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In 36.1 innings pitched, Blach has a 2.23 ERA against the boys in blue.

In four starts against the Dodgers, the numbers get even better: 1.67 ERA.

Blachstartz

Some state geeks will scream “Small Sample Size,” and they wouldn’t be wrong.

But in Blach’s brief big-league career, he has not faced a team more than the 36.1 innings he’s pitched against the Dodgers. And the 2.23 ERA is the lowest for Blach against any team he’s faced in more than one outing.

Still, those aren’t the numbers some Giants fans think of when they think of Blach.

The numbers they remember are Blach’s 8-12 record in 2017 with a rather unimpressive 4.78 ERA.

In early August last season, Blach was 8-7 with a 4.15 ERA. But then he went through a five-start stretch that all resulted in losses and sent Blach to the bullpen for most of September.

Blach’s numbers during Spring Training were solid — a 3.63 ERA in five starts with 15 strikeouts in 17.1 innings and just one walk.

Even so, it looked like Blach might be relegated to bullpen duty to start the season before Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija got hurt.

Now, he’ll start Opening Day against Clayton Kershaw.

It’s a daunting task, but Blach has been up to the challenge before.

Blach beat Kershaw in a season-saving win on Oct. 1, 2016. He even went 2 for 3 off the Dodgers lefty.

Woe go Giants: Bumgarner has a busted finger — now what?!?!?

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner throws against the San Diego Padres in the first inning of a baseball game Saturday April 11, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)

Oh look at that. The sun DID come up on Saturday. They said it would.

It’s hard not to imagine San Francisco Giants walking under a perpetual cloud of gloom after a bad, bad couple of days to end Spring Training.

The Giants returned to the Bay Area for final preparations for the next Thursday’s season opener knowing they won’t have two of the top three starting pitchers on the active roster at the beginning of the year.

Jeff Samardzija will miss at least the first three weeks of the season with a strained pectoral muscle. Things got a whole lot worse on Friday, when Madison Bumgarner suffered a broken pinky finger on his pitching hand after getting tagged with a comebacker.

The outlook isn’t good for Bumgarner. He’ll have a pin placed in his hand this weekend, a pin he hopes can be removed in four to six weeks. Think May 1. And then he can start throwing again.

How long it takes for Bumgarner to get back to being game ready will determine how long he’s out, but right now the Giants have to be prepared for going the first two months of the season without their best pitcher.

Not exactly the way you hoped to start a season after coming off your worst season in three decades.

“Obviously, we know what he means to us …” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Unfortunately, you’ve got to deal with these things. But this one certainly was a downer today because we were all getting ready to go to San Francisco and now we’ve got to make some adjustments.”

So, now what?

The Giants started this week thinking their rotation would be Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Samardzija, plus the best two out of a trio of Chris Stratton, Derek Holland and Ty Blach, with the third starting the season in the bullpen.

Then Samardzija got hurt, and it looked like it would Bumgarner, Cueto, Stratton and Holland, which Blach as the swing guy early as the Giants don’t need a No. 5 starter until April 10.

Now the Giants are looking at Cueto, Stratton, Holland, Blach and SOMEBODY in the No. 5 spot, when needed. Bochy said the team likely will look from within, which means Tyler Beede or Andrew Suarez, both of whom were slated to start the season at Triple-A.

It also means the Giants almost certainly will open the season with 13 pitchers. That means they’ll have to choose one out of three reserve outfield candidates – Gregor Blanco, Steven Duggar or Gorkys Hernandez. Jarrett Parker was informed Friday he would be put on waivers.

For a team that many thought would need everything to go right to be a playoff contender against after a 64-98 campaign last season, the Giants are definitely getting off to a wrong start.

The goal now is to keep their heads above water until Bumgarner returns. If the team is anywhere near .500 on Memorial Day, Giants fans would have to feel ecstatic.

But even that might hide the bigger impact of losing Bumgarner and Samardzija so early in the season.

The Giants’ bullpen had enjoyed a very strong spring, and was a source of optimism for a club in an area that has been a sore spot in recent seasons.

The Giants lost two pitchers they could depend on giving six or seven innings most every outing and replacing them with pitchers they HOPE can give them six good innings.

That is going to put a heavier burden on the bullpen, the result of which might not be completely felt until the second half of the season.

In the meantime, the Giants will be asking back-of-the-rotation pitchers to step up, the bullpen to take on a bigger role and, of course, the offense to produce.

It’s a lot to ask.

Season hasn’t even started, and Giants suffer first big injury blow — Samardzija

Mariners Giants Spring Baseball

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija throws against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning of a spring baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz., Friday, March 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Every year, we reach a point in Spring Training when you just want to say “Can Spring Training be over before something bad happens?”

Too late.

Word broke Thursday afternoon that Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija had an MRI on his shoulder, and the Giants were awaiting results.

But it can’t be good that the Giants’ No. 3 starting pitcher is getting an MRI this late in Spring Training.

UPDATE: Results of Samardzija’s MRI came in late Thursday, and they weren’t so bad — a strained pectoral muscle. Samardzija will rest of a week, and “crank it back up” as Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. Given that timeline, the righty could be back with the Giants by the latter half of April if all goes well.

The announcement of the MRI came one day after Samardzija looked very good for three innings against the Cubs’ Triple-A lineup, and then gave up two home runs in an inning, a common occurrence all spring for the big right-hander.

Apparently on Thursday, the Giants had a heart-to-heart with Samardzija and he admitted pain in his shoulder.

“I think he’s been dealing with it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Thursday. “He hasn’t said anything. That’s who he is. He kept pitching with it.”

But the results, and some lost velocity on his fastball, tipped the Giants that something was amiss.

Now we wait on word of the depth of what is ailing Samardzija, and how long it will keep him sidelined.

But it’s all but certain with the season set to open in a week that Samardzija will start the season on the DL.

While there are some outside options, Bochy said Thursday the team is likely to fill the void from within. It make sense, since Derek Holland, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach had been battling for the remaining two spots in the rotation.

Now all three figure to secure spots in the rotation. However, the Giants had been considering the option of keeping the loser of the rotation battle to head to the bullpen to provide long relief. If all three are in the rotation, it may lead the Giants to carry 13 pitchers to open the season.

That would come at the expense of keeping five outfielders. That could be bad news for the likes of Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker, both of whom were fighting for a job as a reserve outfielder.

With a couple of scheduled off-days early in the season, the Giants won’t need a No. 5 starter until April 10. So the Giants could open with a four-man rotation, which would buy them almost two weeks before needing to make a decision about 12 or 13 pitchers on the roster.

The Giants are also debating keeping Rule 5 flamethrower Julian Fernandez, who would have to be returned to the Rockies if he doesn’t make the Giants’ 25-man roster.

If the Giants go with the four-man rotation at the start of the season, they could keep Fernandez in the pen and still keep five reserve position players. But Bochy may still want to bolster the pen with another arm.

That’s the decision the staff has to make, and the fact Bochy will have Brandon Belt start in left field for the Giants’ Cactus League finale on Friday hints that it’s something they are seriously considering.

Down to Final 31 (30 actually) as Giants send more players down to minors

Giants Yankees Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Mac Williamson connects for an RBI-base hit against the New York Yankees during the twelfth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 23, 2016, in New York. Giants’ Trevor Brown scored on the play. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The San Francisco Giants shaved down their spring training roster to 31 players, six away from the final cut of 25 for Opening Day, which now looms just 10 days away.

With one of the 31 players being reliever Will Smith, who will open the season on the disabled list, the number of players the Giants will actually have to cut is five.

The players optioned to the minors on Monday were pitchers Tyler Beede, Derek Law, Roberto Gomez and outfielders Austin Slater and Mac Williamson.

Players reassigned to minor-league camp were pitchers  Andrew Suarez, Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, catchers Justin O’Conner, Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez, infielders Orlando Calixte, Chase d’Arnaud, and Kyle Jensen and outfielder Chris Shaw.

That leaves the following players still in camp. And we’ve included * next to players who are a lock to make the final 25 (16 players), plus other players’ roster status.

LHP Ty Blach

LHP Madison Bumgarner*

RHP Johnny Cueto*

RHP Sam Dyson*

RHP Julian Fernandez (Rule 5 player)

RHP Cory Gearrin  (out of options)

RHP Mark Melancon*

LHP Josh Osich

RHP Jeff Samardzija*

LHP Will Smith (DL)

RHP Chris Stratton

RHP Hunter Strickland (out of options)

LHP Tony Watson*

LHP Derek Holland (not on 40-man)

C Buster Posey*

C Nick Hundley*

IF Brandon Belt*

IF Brandon Crawford*

IF Evan Longoria*

IF Joe Panik*

IF Pablo Sandoval*

IF Kelby Tomlinson

IF Josh Rutledge (not on 40-man)

IF Andres Blanco (not on 40-man)

OF Gorkys Hernandez (out of options)

OF Austin Jackson*

OF Andrew McCutchen*

OF Jarrett Parker (out of options)

OF Hunter Pence*

OF Gregor Blanco (not on 40-man)

OF Steven Duggar (not on 40-man)

 

Here are the key areas where the Giants need to make a decision soon.

STARTING PITCHERS: There are two spots in the rotation open, and they will be filled by Stratton, Blach or Holland. It’s possible that if the loser in this battle will open the season in the pen. In fact, with the Giants not needing a No. 5 starter until April 10, it’s possible two could open the season in the pen.

FINAL BULLPEN SPOT: With Smith headed to the DL, the Giants are left with 13 pitchers in camp. In past seasons the Giants have opened the campaign with 13 pitchers on the roster. But again, given the early days off in the schedule and other tough decisions in the roster elsewhere, it seems likely that the Giants would go with 12. So loses out? Lefty Josh Osich has options left, but he’s been lights-out this spring. So it seems unlikely he gets sent to Sacramento. Has Holland shown the Giants enough to keep him, either in the pen or as a lefty reliever? Are the Giants still intrigued with flame-thrower Jose Fernandez? Fernandez has been lit up this spring (11 earned runs in 5.1 innings), but as a Rule 5 player, he would need to be sent back to Colorado if he doesn’t make the Opening Day 25.

INFIELDERS: Monday’s moves make it a pretty good bet that Kelby Tomlinson has made the club. While non-roster players Andres Blanco and Jeff Rutledge remain in camp, none has handled shortstop duties as much as Tomlinson this spring.

OUTFIELDERS: There are two jobs open and four in contention: Gorkys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, Steven Duggar and Jarrett Parker. The deal Blanco signed in January is a minor-league one, so he could in theory be sent to Sacramento. So can Duggar. Hernandez and Parker are out of options, so they would need to clear waivers before heading to Sacramento. Duggar has played a stellar center field this spring while his bat has cooled after a hot start (he’s hitting .270). Hernandez’s bat has picked up this spring. He’s hitting .278. But the chances of the 30-year-old clearing waivers are actually fairly decent. The same cannot be said for Parker, whose power potential would be intriguing to other clubs. He’s struggled this spring, hitting .222 with 20 strikeouts in 43 plate appearances. Blanco has outshined others at the plate, hitting .348 with .429 OBP.

Our call

Barring injuries in the final, here’s how we see things shaking out.

The Giants send Fernandez back to Colorado; Holland makes Final 25, filling Hernandez’s spot on the 40-man. Stratton and Holland fill out back end of rotation, Blach goes to pen, much like he did last year.

Tomlinson makes the club over Rutledge and Andres Blanco.

The Giants keep Blanco and Parker; Duggar is sent to Sacramento, and Gorkys goes through waivers.

Giants make first spring cuts as battles for final roster spots intensify

Giants Diamondbacks Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Gorkys Hernandez (66) celebrates his run scored against the Arizona Diamondbacks with teammates, including Jarrett Parker, right, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The Giants announced their first set of spring training cuts, sending 13 players to Minor League camp.

The most significant cut was left-handed reliever Steven Okert, who appeared in 44 games last season.

But with minor-league options remaining, it was an easy decision, leaving Josh Osich and veteran Derek Holland battling for a spot as a left-handed reliever.

So let’s take a look at the remaining 47 players in Big League camp as the battle for the final 25 roster spots intensifies in the next two-plus weeks.

CATCHERS (2 like to make final 25)

Locks: Buster Posey, Nick Hundley.

Also in camp: Trevor Brown, Hector Sanchez, Justin O’Conner.

This one is pretty clear cut. Posey and Hundley were going to make the big club. The only question is whether the Giants wanted to go with three catches, which seems highly unlikely. Brown, Sanchez and O’Conner will head to minors.

INFIELDERS (6)

Locks: Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria.

Front-runners: Pablo Sandoval, Kelby Tomlinson.

Also in camp: Andres Blanco, Orlando Calixte, Chase d’Arnaud, Kyle Jensen, Josh Rutledge.

It looks like Sandoval will make the team as a backup corner infielder, which leaves the Giants to look for a middle infield reserve. Tomlinson looks good to fill that role, although Chase d’Arnaud is having a solid spring.

OUTFIELDERS (5)

Locks: Hunter Pence, Austin Jackson, Andrew McCutchen.

In the mix: Jarrett Parker, Gregor Blanco, Mac Williamson, Gorkys Hernandez, Steven Duggar.

Also in camp: Chris Shaw, Austin Slater.

This is the roster battle that is most interesting. When the Giants signed Austin Jackson, it was done with the idea that Jackson would be the utility outfielder, filling in at all three outfield positions and getting starts in center against lefties. That means the Giants are looking for a center fielder who can start against righties. Blanco and Duggar seem like front runners for that over the right-handed Hernandez. If the Giants settle on Blanco, sending Duggar to minors, it would come as Hernandez’s spot on the 40-man roster. For the fifth outfield spot, Parker is the front-runner, as he is out of options. But Williamson has been making noise with his revamped swing. But Williamson has one option year left.

STARTING PITCHERS (5)

Locks: Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija.

Front-runners: Chris Stratton, Ty Blach.

In the mix: Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez and Derek Holland.

Beede and Suarez have a couple of weeks to challenge for spot in the rotation. But Stratton and Blach have been solid this spring, while Beede and Suarez have struggled. Holland is looking for a job as a starter or a left-handed reliever.

RELIEVERS (7)

Locks: Mark Melancon, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, Derek Law, Hunter Strickland.

In the mix: Cory Gearrin, Josh Osich, Derek Holland.

On the DL: Will Smith.

Also in camp: Manny Parra, Jose Valdez, Roberto Gomez, Julian Fernandez.

With two spots open in the pen, one almost certainly will go to a leftie, as Watson is the lone lefty lock. That means Osich or Holland, at least until Will Smith is set to return. The Giants are targeting a May 1 return date for Smith. Gearrin looks like a good bet to claim other pen spot. The other factor is whether or not the Giants will start with 12 or 13 pitches on the 25-man roster. In past seasons, they have gone with 13 to open the season. But with four days off scheduled in April and no games in Colorado (which can drain a bullpen), and the fact the Giants have some tough outfield decisions, I expect them to go with 12 pitchers. But I’ve been wrong before.

Steven Duggar is the most interesting Giants propect to watch this spring

Steven Duggar

San Francisco Giants’ Steven Duggar heads to third from first on a single by Brandon Crawford during the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Maryvale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Well, it’s March. Opening Day of 2018 is less than a month away.

I guess it’s time MoreSplashHits wake from its blogging hibernation.

The 2017 season was possibly the most difficult for Giants fans in three decades, maybe longer when considering that most started 2017 with hopes of competing for a postseason berth. That was not the case in 1985.

Everything went haywire in 2017. EVERYTHING.

But as they say, hope springs eternal. So this spring, here is to hope that 2018 will find the Giants once again contending.

In order for that to happen, the Giants will need something they didn’t get in 2017, a surprising contribution from someone within their own organization.

That remains the case in spite of the addition of veterans Andrew McCutcheon (in a trade with the Pirates), Evan Longoria (in a trade with the Rays), Tony Watson (signed as free agent from Dodgers), Austin Jackson (signed as free agent from Indians).

And the prime candidate to make that internal contribution is center fielder Steven Duggar.

When the Giants added Jackson, it first appeared as if the Giants had their starting outfielder – Hunter Pence in left, McCutcheon in right and Jackson in center.

But then Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he planned to use Jackson in a versatile outfield role – starting some in center while provide respite for Pence in left and McCutcheon in right.

Jackson coming off a 2017 season that saw hit a career-high 318. But that was in a platoon role with the Indians. Jackson raked left-handed pitching, not so much against righties.

So it would appear the Giants will be looking for a left-handed batting centerfielder to split time with Jackson.

That leaves two leading candidates in camp this spring – Duggar and veteran Gregor Blanco, who re-signed with the Giants (although to a minor-league candidate) after spending 2017 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

So who is Steven Duggar, and what are his chances of making the Giants’ opening day roster?

Let’s explore.

Duggar is a 24-year-old rookie who was a sixth-round selection in the 2015 draft out of Clemson.  Here’s what scouts were saying about him in a pre-draft report.

“Though Duggar had arguably the best all-around tools in the Cape Cod League last summer, he never really has lived up to them in three years at Clemson. A team that believes he can fulfill his untapped potential at the plate could draft him as high as the second round. Duggar has advanced speed and strength for power and drives the ball in batting practice, but does not do it during games. There’s a lot going on in his left-handed swing, and he’s susceptible to breaking balls. While he does have a knack for drawing walks,  he also gets too passive at the plate and strikes out too often.  A well above average runner, Duggar has the speed to steal bases and cover ground in the outfield. He’s played mostly right field for the Tigers and his strong arm is an asset there, although he’ll probably move to center field as a pro. How much his bat develops will determine whether is future is as an everyday player or an extra outfielder.”

Duggar hit .293 with a .390 on-base percentage in 58 games in short-season A ball in 2015. He hit .302/.388 in 130 games split between High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond in 2016. Elbow and hip injuries limited him to 44 games in 2017 split mostly between San Jose and Triple-A Sacramento.

In 900 minor-league at-bats, he’s hit .292/.384, but he has 223 strikeouts in 232 games, a high rate for a hitter who does not hit for great power.

But it was his performance in the Arizona Fall League that made the Giants rethink their approach to center field in 2018. Duggar received a non-roster invite this spring

And, so far, Duggar has made the most of his spring invite, hitting 3 home runs and batting .350/.409 in 20 spring at-bats.

If we’ve learned anything about spring stats over the years, it’s that we should pay too much attention to them.

Don’t believe us? We offer you two words then — Chris … Marrero. As you may recall, Marrero had the hot spring last year, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster as a right-hand power bat off the ranch.

But Marrero spent more time striking out than anything else, batting .132 in 38 at-bats before being cast off.

So spring stats aren’t worth getting excited about, especially spring stats so early in the spring.

The smart money is the Giants turning to Blanco as a safe move. For what it’s worth, Blanco is hitting .538/.611 in 13 spring at-bats this spring.

It’s safer to turn to Blanco, send Duggar to Sacramento and require the rookie to do something to require the Giants to change their minds.

But it all makes for something to watch over these final three weeks of March.

A look back at last time San Francisco Giants were sellers at trade deadline

Rougned Odor, Eduardo Nunez

Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, top, goes up for an overthrow as Minnesota Twins’ Eduardo Nunez (9) slides safely into the bag for a double in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

So as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches just two weeks away and the Giants are 180 games out of first place (which is amazing considering the season is just 162 games long), I thought it might be time to break out of my blogging slump to ask a lingering a question.

The Giants are clearly out of the postseason running (even Vegas oddsmakers have removed them from their books for winning the World Series), which puts the team in a very unfamiliar situation of being sellers at the trade deadline.

Johnny Cueto, Eduardo Nunez, Hunter Strickland and Jeff Samardzija have all be rumored to be on teams’ radar list as potential trade commodities.

So the big question this July is what will the Giants do at the deadline? And fans have been wondering when was the last time they made a deadline deal in which the Giants could be considered sellers.

In short, it hasn’t happened that often, which makes this question hard to answer.

First, you have to understand the history of the non-waiver baseball trade deadline.

This is largely a product of the labor agreement that ended the 1994-1995 work stoppage.

That is evidenced by the fact that after the 1987 trade that brought Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts and Kevin Mitchell to the Giants, the team did not make a July trade of any kind until 1995.

Since 1995, the Giants have only made three July trades that can be catorgized as seller trades.

And that’s largely because since 1995, the Giants have been mostly competitive, posting winning records in 15 of 22 seasons since then.

But even in those seven losing seasons since 1995, the Giants have only chosen to make seller deals three times.

The first was in 1995, when the Giants sent pitchers Mark Portgual and Dave Burba and outfielder Darren Lewis to the Reds for five players, largely minor-league prospects — none the amounted to much.

The Giants stayed away from being sellers for another 12 years, when in 2007, they sent pitcher Matt Morris to the Pirates for outfielder Rajai Davis and pitcher Steve MacFarland. MacFarland didn’t amount to much, but Davis has had a solid career. Unfortunately, not for the Giants, as they put him on waivers the following spring.

The last seller trade by the Giants came in 2008, when they dealt second baseman Ray Durham to the Brewers for pitcher Steven Hammond and outfielder Darren Ford. Again, neither prospect amounted to much, although Ford made some late contributions in the Giants’ first World Series season in 2010.

So that’s basically it. And that is what makes this July so interesting for Giants fans, because it’s a boat the team has not been in often in the past.

Here is a rundown of July trades of the place two-plus decades.

 

2016

  • Acquired IF Eduardo Nunez from Twins for P Adalberto Mejia
  • Acquired P Matt Moore from Rays for IF Matt Duffy, IF Lucius Fox, P Michael Santos
  • Acquired P Will Smith for Brewers for P Phil Bickford and C Andrew Susac

 

2015

  • Acquired P Mike Leake from Reds for P Keury and IF Adam Duvall

 

2014

  • Acquired P Jake Peavy from Red Sox for P Edwin Escobar and P Heath Hembree

2013

  • None

2012

  • Acquired IF Marco Scutaro from Rockies for IF Charlie Culberson
  • Acquired OF Hunter Pence from Phillies for C Tommy Joseph, P Seth Rosin and OF Nate Schierholtz

2011

  • Acquired IF Jeff Keppinger from Astros for P Jason Stoffel and P Henry Sosa
  • Acquired OF Carlos Beltran from Mets for P Zach Wheeler
  • Acquired IF Orland Cabrera from Indains for OF Thomas Neal

2010

  • Acquired P Chris Ray and P Michael Main from Rangers for C Bengie Molina
  • Acquired P Javier Lopez from Pirates for OF John Bowker and P Joe Martinez
  • Acquired P Ramon Ramirez from Red Sox for P Daniel Turpen

2009

  • Acquired IF Ryan Garko from Indians for P Scott Barnes
  • Acquired IF Freddy Sanchez from Pirates for P Tim Alderson

2008

  • Acquired P Steven Hammond and OF Darren Ford from Brewers for IF Ryan Durham

2007

  • Acquired OF Rajai Davis and P Steve MacFarland from Pirates for P Matt Morris

2006

  • Acquired P Vinnie Chulk and IF Shea Hillenbrand from Blue Jays for P Jeremy Accardo
  • Acquired P Mike Stanton from Nationals for P Shairon Martis

2005

  • Acquired OF Randy Winn from Mariners for P Jesse Foppert and C Yorvit Torrealba

2004

  • Acquired OF Ricky Ledee and P Alfredo Simon from Phillies for P Felix Rodriguez

2003

  • Acquired P Matt Herges from Padres for P Clay Hensley
  • Acquired P Sidney Ponson from Orioles for P Ryan Hannaman, P Kurt Ainsworth, P Damian Moss

2002

  • Acquired OF Kenny Lofton from White Sox for P Ryan Meaux and P Felix Diaz

2001

  • Acquired P Brian Boehringer from Yankees for P Joe Smith and C Bobby Estalella
  • Acquired IF Andres Galarraga from Rangers for P Todd Ozias, OF Chris Magruder and P Erasmo Ramirez
  • Acquired P Wayne Gomes from Phillies for OF Felipe Crespo
  • Acquired P Jason Schmidt and OF John Vander Wal from Pirates for OF Armando Rios and P Ryan Vogelsong
  • Acquired P Jason Christiansen from Cardinals for P Kevin Joseph

2000

  • Acquired P Doug Henry from Astros for P Scott Linebrink

1999

  • Acquired P Livan Hernandez from Marlins for P Nate Bump and P Jason Grilli

1998

  • Acquired OF Joe Carter from Orioles for P Darin Blood
  • Acquired IF Shawon Dunston, P Jose Mesa and P Alvin Morman from Indians for OF Jacob Cruz and P Steve Reed
  • Acquired OF Ellis Burks from Rockies for OF Darryl Hamilton, P Jim Stoops and P Jason Brester

1997

  • Acquired C Brian Johnson from Tigers for C Marcus Jensen
  • Acquired P Pat Rapp from Marlins fro P Brandon Leese and P Bobby Rector
  • Acquired P Cory Bailey from Rangers for P Chad Hartvigson
  • Acquired P Wilson Alvarez, P Danny Darwin and P Roberto Hernandez from White Sox for OF Brian Manning, P Lorenzo Barcelo, IF Mike Caruso, P Keith Foulke, P Bob Howry and P Ken Vining

1996

  • Acquired P Jim Poole from Indians for OF Mark Carreon
  • Acquired C Rick Wilkins from Astros for C Kirt Manwaring
  • Acquired P Kirk Reuter and P Tim Scott from Expos for P Mark Leiter

1995

  • Acquired OF Dave McCarty, P Ricky Pickett, P John Roper, OF Deion Sanders and P Scott Service from Reds for P Dave Burba, OF Darren Lewis and P Mark Portugal
  • Acquired P Luis Aquino from Expos for P Lou Pote

Hooray! San Francisco Giants call up Mac Williamson, but there’s bad news, too

San Francisco Giants’ Mac Williamson connects for an RBI-base hit against the New York Yankees during the twelfth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 23, 2016, in New York. Giants’ Trevor Brown scored on the play. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Mac is back.

Many San Francisco Giants fans will revel in the news that Mac Williamson has been called up from Triple-A Sacramento. They’ve been calling for that for weeks.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is took Hunter Pence going on the disabled list to get Williamson back to the bigs.

Pence was placed on the 10-day DL on Monday after battling a mild hamstring strain for the past several days.

Pence has not appeared in a game since making a brief appearance in Friday’s 17-inning marathon. That means the DL stint could be backdated to Saturday, meaning he could come off the DL as early as May 23 in Chicago. But given Pence’s battles with hamstring issues in the past, it seems more likely he won’t return until the Giants come home for a Memorial Day weekend series against the Braves on May 26.

Pence becomes the 12th Giants to head to the DL this season, joining Will Smith, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Aaron Hill, Jarrett Parker, Denard Span, Mark Melancon, Conor Gillaspie, Trevor Brown and Williamson.

Giants fans have been clamoring for the team to recall Williamson from Triple-A Sacramento ever since he was first sent there on April 21 after spening the first three weeks on the DL with a leg injury.

But after a very solid spring, Williamson took a while to find his swing at Triple-A.

On May 7, he was hitting just .208 with a .240 OBP. He had more strikeouts (14) than hits (10) in 50 plate appearances. Yet, Giants fans STILL wanted to call him up.

He then he got hot, collecting hits in his last six games with the RiverCats, including four multi-hits games. He is 10 for 25 (.400) with six strikeouts and four walks in that stretch, moving his average from .208 to .274.

Sunday’s win over Cincinnati nothwithstanding, the Giants have struggled to score runs this season. So they could use a hot bat.

You can expect Williamson to play, particularly with the Dodgers sending lefties on Tuesday and Wednesday.

And a break right now might be the best thing for Hunter Pence. His average had dropped to .243 on the season. He had been hitting .184 over his past 10 games, .207 over the past month, averaging about a strikeout a game.

Michael Morse, Christian Arroyo give Giants most dramatic win of season, and MoreSplashHits was on fire on Twitter

Yasmani Grandal, Michael Morse

The San Francisco Giants got their most dramatic win of the season to date – and it might be the most dramatic win at season’s end.

Two dramatic home runs, rallying from a 3-0 deficit after six innings, a walk-off win, against the Dodgers. That will be hard to beat.

The Giants were 5-57 last year when trailing after seven innings. But they won last night.

This season, before last night, the Giants were 0-12 when trailing after six innings, 0-13 when trailing after seven innings.

But that didn’t keep MoreSplashHits from sharing signs of optimism.

When Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pulled starter Alex Wood after six scoreless innings and brought in former Giant Sergio Romo, MoreSplashHits tweeted.

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As much as we love Sergio and all he has done for the Giants over the year, the memory of last season was still too fresh.

To make the tweet that much sweeter was what Christian Arroyo did when he stepped up in the seventh with a runner on base.

Apart from being an exciting moment for the rookie – and Giants fans – it was also encouraging to see Arroyo with the long ball.

He had never hit more than nine home runs in any of his previous four minor league seasons. Last year, he hit only three for Double-A Richmond.

But he hit three in Sacramento so far this season, which made us worry that part of his hot Triple-A start was partially inflated by the hitter-friendly PCL and might signal that his hot start might not translate to the majors, particularly for a player hitting in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

But then Arroyo went yard Wednesday.

Then in the eighth inning, with the Dodgers leading 3-2, Michael Morse came up as a pinch-hitter in his first at-bat for the Giants since the 2014 World Series and his first at-bat in the majors since being released by the Pirates in April of last year.

MoreSplashHits tweeted this.

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That was referencing one of Morse’s last at-bats at AT&T Park in a Giants uniform, when he came up as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the 2014 NL Championship Series with the Giants trailing the Cardinals 3-2.

Morse would hit a game-tying home run off Pat Neshek.

In that case, it was Morse’s first plate appearance in almost a month as he battled an oblique injury, his first at-bat at AT&T Park in about six weeks.

On Wednesday, it was Morse’s first at-bat at AT&T Park in almost two seasons. And yet, he did this.

Yasmani Grandal, Michael Morse

That means in Morse’s last four pinch-hitting appearances as a Giant at AT&T Park, he’s gone …

  • Home run
  • Walk
  • Single
  • Home run

Hmmmm, maybe we should tweet that.

Why did San Francisco Giants call up Christian Arroyo? It’s all about one number

 

No13

Recently, San Francisco Giants Bobby Evans spoke about the possibility of bringing up prospect Christian Arroyo.

“I’m not saying that Arroyo is not ready. I’m not going in that direction,” Evans told reporters. “I’m just saying you want him to push you to make that decision. What he’s done so far is a great beginning to that, but we’re only two weeks in.”

That was just five days ago.

On Monday, the Giants called up Arroyo to the big league and put him in the starting lineup at third base against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’ll wear No. 22.

Arroyo

So what happened between then and now?

Well, Madison Bumgarner fell off a dirt bike in Denver and the Giants were swept by the Rockies, falling to 6-13, their worst 19-game start since moving to San Francisco.

Oh, and Arroyo kept on hitting in Sacramento, including going 4-for-6 on Sunday.

This decision by the Giants really boils down to one number: 13.

In their past seven games, that’s the total number of runs the Giants have scored.

It is also the total number of hits Arroyo has collected in his past seven games with the RiverCats.

With Brandon Crawford expected to leave the team on a bereavement leave for his sister-in-law’s funeral later this week, the timing made sense to call on Arroyo.

The Giants actually made two moves on Monday, also calling up outfielder Drew Stubbs. Stubbs also was in Monday’s starting lineup, batting eighth and playing center field.

Chris Marrero was designated for assignment, and Aaron Hill was placed on the disabled list with a forearm strain.

Why was Marrero and his .132 average DFA’d instead of Gorkys Hernandez and his .108 average? Well, Gorkys can play defense, and his bat has shown a little bit more life recently (which is not saying much, I know).

It also means Denard Span’s shoulder injury must not be that severe. The Giants will continue with a four-player bench. Monday night it consists of Span, Hernandez, Conor Gillaspie and Nick Hundley. Not a lot of pop there.

So what can expect from Arroyo, the first 21-year-old position player to be called up by the Giants since Hector Sanchez in 2011?

Well, his game is a lot like that of Joe Panik or Matt Duffy.

Although Arroyo has three home runs already for the RiverCats, he only hit three homers all of last season with Double-A Richmond and has never hit more than nine in any of his four professional seasons (that came In 90 games at High-A San Jose in 2014). He’s a put-the-bat-on-the-ball guy, striking out once every 6.7 plate appearances as a pro.

By comparsion, Marco Scutaro, a prolific bat-on-ball guy, struck once every 9.6 PAs in his big-league career. Free-swinging Jarrett Parker fans once every 3.04 PAs in his short big-league career.

Arroyo also doesn’t walk much (one walk in every 17.5 PAs).

He turns 22 on May 30, so much of that minor league resume came at age 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy has him hitting sixth between lefties Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik. And he’s playing third base, where the Giants hope he finds a permanent home with them. Eduardo Nunez moves to left field to make room for Arroyo in the starting lineup. Look for Nunez to cover shortstop when Crawford goes on leave.

Arroyo’s arrival also means they will have four of their own first-round draft picks in the lineup Monday

  • SP Matt Cain (2002)
  • C Buster Posey (2008)
  • 2B Joe Panik (2011)
  • 3B Christian Arroyo (2013)

Not to mention 2012 top pick Chris Stratton is in the bullpen.

So good luck, Christian Arroyo. We hope you’re here to stay.

Black Friday: How do the Giants survive without Madison Bumgarner?

Bum2014You’ve heard of Orange Fridays, right San Francisco Giants fans?

Well, April 21, 2017 was Black Friday for the Giants.

First came news that – actually when I saw the first tweet about this I thought it was a joke, a bad, bad joke – that Madison Bumgarner would be placed on the disabled list with sprained pitching shoulder and bruised ribs sustained in a dirt-bike accident during the Giants off day Thursday in Denver.

Then, on Friday night, when Giants fans needed a glimmer of hope to raise their spirits, the Giants lost in particularly painful fashion to the Colorado Rockies.

It started with the Giants’ team bus backing into a parked car on the way to Coors Field.

First the Giants teased their fans by taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to contributions from players who hadn’t contributed much of anything over the last week (or three weeks) – Eduardo Nunez, Chris Marrero and Denard Span.

But that all unraveled in the fourth inning when the Rockies became the first National League time in 67 years to hit a grand slam and an inside-the-park home run in the same inning. And just to make matters more painful, in 29 other big-league parks, both home runs likely would have landed in the glove of Hunter Pence.

The first was Trevor Story’s grand slam to right, which off the bat looked like a routine fly ball to right. But it kept carrying to the short porch to right – a lot like Miguel Cabrera’s home run in the 2012 World Series – for a grand slam. It was the first grand slam that Johnny Cueto has allowed in his career.

Later in the inning, Charlie Blackmon hit a line to Pence in right. Pence, fighting the lights the entire way, slipped on the soggy turf and the ball shot past him for a two-run inside-the-parker. To make matters even more fun, Pence said his knee was “a little twisted” on the play. Pence was out of the lineup Saturday.

But the fun didn’t end there. The Giants were in position to tie the game in the eighth with two on and nobody out. Bruce Bochy pulled back Conor Gillaspie as the pinch hitter and sent up Gorkys Hernandez with his .067 batting average (0-for-23 since the 2nd day of the season) to bunt.

Hernandez took two balls, tried to take a third but couldn’t get out of the way and the high-and-tight pitch went off his bat for a foul ball. Then with a 2-1 count, he TOOK a strike instead of bunting, then flied to right. The Giants didn’t score.

And it does not stop there. Melvin Upton Jr., signed to a minor-league deal to add depth to the Giants’ suffering outfield, was hit on the hand with a pitch at extended spring training. He’ll be out eight weeks after having surgery.

Ugh.

It all left Giants fans asking one question: Now what?

And by “now what” they meant what will the Giants do without their best pitcher for two months.

Two months. That’s estimated time Bumgarner will be out, according to a couple of national baseball writers.

But Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle says such estimates are pure projections until Bumgarner is seen by the team doctor. That won’t happen until next week.

In the short term, the Giants called up Chris Stratton from Triple-A Sacramento fill Bumgarner’s spot on the roster. Stratton will be used in relief, likely just long relief as he has been starting for the RiverCats.

Ty Blach will take Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation on Tuesday against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.

For anyone looking for a ray of sunshine, the last time Blach and Kershaw went head-to-head on Oct. 1 of last season, Blach held the Dodgers to no runs on three hits over eight innings as the Giants won 3-0.

Blach has been pitching out of the bullpen this season, allowing three runs (all earned) on two hits and three walks over 5.2 innings. However, three runs, two hits and two walks came in one outing in Arizona. Take that out,and Blach has thrown 4.2 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk.

But replacing Bumgarner isn’t about replacing him strikeout for strikeout, earned run for earned run.

It’s about giving the Giants the chance to win.

As I mentioned, tongue in cheek, in a tweet: “Just remember that without Bumgarner, the Giants would be 6-10 right now.”

That’s because that Giants are 0-4 in Bumgarner starts this season — not that any of that was Bumgarner’s fault.

But last season, the Giants were 20-14 in Bumgarner’s start, which is on par for most seasons. They were 19-13 in his starts in 2015 and 2012, 20-13 in 2014 and 11-7 in 2010.

So 20-14 is a .588 winning percentage. Now if Bumgarner misses two months, that would be about 12 starts.

To maintain a .588 winning percentage over those 12 starts, the Giants would need to 7-5 in the starts that Blach (or potentially Tyler Beede) makes during Bumgarner’s turn in the rotation.

That doesn’t seem unattainable.

Baseball is a team sport. And when one players goes down, it’s up to the team to pick up the slack.

If the Giants could stay in the playoff hunt well into September without Buster Posey in 2011, they could certainly stay in the mix until late June without Bumgarner.

But they need contributions from up and down the roster. That includes the five players who were projected to make up the Giants’ bench when the season started – Nick Hundley, Aaron Hill, Conor Gillaspie, Chris Marrero and Gorkys Hernandez.

Right now, only Hundley (.257) is holding up his end of the bargain. The other four have combined to hit .126.

Buster Posey is back, Bruce Bochy is out as Giants return to Kansas City

bustawin

The San Francisco Giants are back in Kansas City, seeking some good karma.

And the last time the Giants were in K.C., there was a lot of good feelings, plus technology and stuff.

The Giants make their first appearance at Kaufman Stadium since beating the Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series with a historic performance from Madison Bumgarner.

But that was 2.5 years ago, and things are not going so well for the Giants now.

They are 5-9, in last place in the NL West, their starting left fielder is out more than two months with a broken collarbone, their best player hasn’t been in the lineup in more than a week, they haven’t won a game this year started by their ace Bumgarner, and now their manager is out after having a procedure performed on his heart.

Bruce Bochy will miss the series in Kansas City after having a minor heart procedure (yeah, we say “minor” because it wasn’t our heart that the procedure was being performed on) to alleviate some discomfort he was experiencing due to an atrial flutter. He will rest at home for a couple of days before rejoining the club Friday in Colorado.

Ron Wotus will assume managerial duties in Kansas City. And if you’re looking for a good sign through all this gloom, Wotus has a good record as Giants skipper. Last season, when Bochy was admitted to a Miami hospital for an undisclosed illness, Wotus took over the reins and led the Giants to an 8-7 win over the Marlins in 14 innings during which Brandon Crawford became the first MLB player in 41 years to get seven hits in a game.

And if you want more good news, Buster Posey is back.

lineup

Posey was activated off the 7-day concussion disabled list and will bat fourth in the lineup vs. the Royals as the designated hitter. Posey said he was unsure if he would catch Bumgarner on Wednesday or not. It’s probably a wait-and-see thing.

The Giants didn’t announce a corresponding move to make room for Buster on the 25-man roster. But we can assume that Tim Federowicz will be designated for assignment. The Giants hope he clears waivers and will return to Sacramento for added depth.

In unsurprising move, Bruce Bochy sticking with Matt Cain after solid outing

Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the second inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Before Wednesday’s game with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Giants manager Bruce Bochy was noncommittal about the prospect of skipping Matt Cain’s spot in the rotation next week when the Giants have off days around a two-game series in Kansas City.
But the Giants beat writers seemed pretty certain that they would.

 

 

But I was less certain.

In fact, I wasn’t even so sure that if Wednesday’s game had been rained out – it was a soggy, windy night – that Bochy would not have skipped Cain and started Madison Bumgarner on his normal rest on Thursday.

But the game was played and afterwards Bochy was unequivocal – Cain will start next Tuesday in Kansas City after giving up one run on five hits and three walks over five-plus innings of work.

“I think you have to (change your thinking), the way he threw the ball,” Bochy said. “His command, he had four pitches going tonight, he had a good curveball along with the changeup and the fastball command. If you look at his last few games, here he gives up a run but he just bowed his neck and went out there and pitched very well. He found a way to get it done.

“I thought that was just a huge outing for him and a good one to build on.”

In his report for the San Jose Mercury News, Andrew Baggarly hit the nail on the head when he wrote “When a manager has a predilection for loyalty, he doesn’t need to see much to be convinced.”

Bochy said of Cain: “Well, I think it’s something he’s earned. You look at what he’s done for us. We’ve got some championships because of this guy. Some guys earn certain things.

“I go back to Barry Zito. He had his ups and downs, but we stayed with him, and he helped us win a World Series (in 2012), with those starts at St. Louis and then against Detroit. I feel the same about Matty. I think we all do. He’s well-liked. He’s a Giant. He’s a big part of our success. He deserves a longer look.”

But it’s more than loyalty. Yes, Bochy has struck with struggling veteran pitchers with a long track record with the club like Cain, Zito and Barry Zito. But in the past, he has also chosen not to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation regardless of who is pitching in that spot. He just doesn’t like to do it.

But in this particular case, it seems to make good sense, even before Cain’s solid effort on Wednesday.

By staying on turn and pitching Cain next Tuesday – and again a week from Sunday — it means the Giants will send their top four into the series against the Dodgers – Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija. That includes two lefties against the lefty-vulnerable Dodgers.

Looking even farther into the future, if the Giants stay one turn, they would throw Moore, Samardzija and Cain against the Dodgers on May 1-3 in Los Angeles.

Bochy has said that, while he prefers to keep his pitchers on turn, he would consider inserting lefty Ty Blach into the rotation in certain situations. May 3 in Los Angeles could be such a situation.

But that’s a long way off. And for now, with Cain in the rotation, it allows Blach to remain in the pen as the Giants’ lone lefty.

While Cain, the Giants and Bochy were buoyed by Cain’s start on Wednesday, it’s important to remember that in recent years the key to Cain’s success has been his ability to keep the ball in the yard.

On a cold, wet, windy night, the chances of anyone hitting the ball over a wall were not good. And that helped Cain.

Last season, in starts in which he did not allow a home run (excluding an injury-shortened start in Colorado), Cain was 2-1 with a 2.59 ERA. His lone loss came in a game in which he got “Cained” – the Giants lost 3-0.

So pitching at home helped Cain. But dating back to 2015, Cain has allowed 18 home runs in his last 15 road starts, excluding the injury-shortened start.

Cain’s next two starts come on the road – in Kansas City and (gulp!) Colorado.

We told you so: Giants place Buster Posey on 7-day concussion DL

Bruce Bochy, Buster Posey

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, left, checks Buster Posey on the ground at home plate after he was hit by Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in the first inning of a baseball game Monday, April 10, 2017, in San Francisco. Posey was taken out of the game. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

We hate to say “we told you so” but we told you so.

Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants placed Buster Posey on the 7-day concussion disabled list and called up Tim Federowicz from Triple-A Sacramento.

To make room for Federowicz on the 40-man roster, pitcher Clayton Blackburn was designated for assignment.

We sort of predicted this move on Monday.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 4.19.05 PM

The one surprise in this move is the choice of Clayton Blackburn as the player to be DFAd.

A 16th-round pick out of Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe High School, Blackburn became one the Giants’ top pitching prospects. Prior to the 2013 season, Baseball Prospectus listed him as the 95th best prospect in baseball.

After posting a 10-4 season with a 3.37 ERA with Triple-A Sacramento in 2015, it was thought that Blackburn could see time with the Giants in 2016. That didn’t really materialized, although Blackburn did spend four days with the big club last May, never seeing any game action.

Blackburn went 7-10 with 4.36 ERA for the RiverCats last season.

It’s not unheard of that players DFAd could clear waivers and return to Sacramento. It happened to Chris Heston two seasons ago. He later returned to throw a no-hitter for the Giants.

In the meantime, it will be Hundley as the Giants’ No. 1 catcher with Federowicz the backup for at least the next week.

Here’s another prediction. The best-case scenario for the Giants is for Posey to spend the next week resting up and be ready to return April 18 in Kansas City. Posey could then DH for two games before returning behind the plate on April 21 in Colorado.

The worst-case scenario? Well, with concussions, it’s hard to say.

Buster Posey “doing good … fine” after beaning; Giants doing fine after winning home opener

San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey, right, goes falling after getting hit by Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Taijuan Walker in the first inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 10, 2017, in San Francisco. At left is Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Jeff Mathis. Posey was taken out of the game after being hit. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It was yet another Happy Home Opener for the Giants on Monday. Well mostly happy.

It got a little scary in the first inning when Buster Posey was hit on the top of the head with Taijuan Walker fastball.

The ball hit Posey on the top, back part of the batting helmet. He sat on the ground for a while, adjusting his jaw. Trainer Dave Groeschner talked to Posey for a bit, then escorted the Giants catcher off the field, walking under his own power.

Given the Giants’ experience with concussions – last season Joe Panik had a DL stint after being hit in the head with a pitch from Matt Moore when the lefty was pitching with the Rays – it was not surprising for the Giants to take the cautious approach.

After the Giants’ game – a 4-1 win over over the Diamondbacks – Giants manager said Bruce Bochy said Posey was “doing good, he’s doing fine,” adding that if Posey weren’t a catcher, he might have been OK to stay in the game.

Translation: Given the number of foul tips catchers take off the mask in a normal season, the Giants were taking no chances with a pitch to the noggin.

Bochy said Posey is likely to sit out Tuesday game. And considering that backup Nick Hundley has been catching Matt Cain, Wednesday’s starter, most of the spring, we can expect the Giants to take the very cautious route and give Posey Wednesday off as well.

“It’s a scary moment, dangerous moment,” Bochy said. “It’s one of the worst sounds you can hear in baseball, the ball hitting the helmet. It’s a scary moment. There’s been a lot of damage to hitters hit in the head.”

True, and sometimes that damage is not quickly revealed.

When Panik was plunked in the head by Moore, he bounced right up and headed down to first base, remaining in the game. It wasn’t until eight days later when Panik complained of not being able to track pitches that the Giants placed him on the concussion disabled list. He spent a month on the DL.

So if Posey ends up just missing two-plus games, that would be great. But don’t be surprised if the Giants decide in a day or so  to place Posey on the 7-day concussion DL. That would sideline him through the last six games of his homestand and be ready to return on April 18 for a two-day series at Kansas City.

It would also require someone the Giants clearing a spot on the 40-man roster to clear room for catcher Tim Federowicz, who is currently at Triple-A Sacramento.

We’ll wait and see.

Also we learned that Aaron Hill is next in the line of catchers for the Giants behind Posey and Nick Hundley.

“He just found out today,” Bochy said. “Found out late.”

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate another win in the home opener, making it eight wins of the past nine.

Matt Moore was excellent, limiting the Diamdondbacks on one run on three hits over eight innings. Mark Melancon came on in the ninth to record his second save in two days.

Moore also had the biggest “hit” of the season.

Coming to the plate with the bases loaded and one out, Moore hit a swinging bunt to the right of the mound. Walker fielded the ball and threw wildly to the plate in an effort to get Brandon Crawford trying to score. The wild throw allowed Joe Panik to score. Catcher Jeff Mathis’ errant throw trying to get Panik allowed Jarrett Parker to score all the way from first on a ball that traveled 45 feet.

The play was set up by Parker drawing a walk right before Panik. Parker later added his first hit of the season in the sixth.

The Giants also went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position. But the Giants got the win, and that’s all the matter.

And we’ll just wait and see about Buster.

Happy Home Opener? It’s been that way six of past seven seasons for Giants

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

It’s been eight years since the San Francisco Giants have opened the season at home.

That’s by choice by the Giants. They’d rather play games at home later in the season than earlier, so they are willing to give Opening Day to other clubs.

But it’s worked for the Giants. In the seven home openers since the Giants’ last Opening Day at home, they have won six times — twice in walk-off fashion.

What kind of excitement will the home opener in 2017 bring? Who knows, but let’s take a look at the past seven home openers.

April 7, 2016 – GIANTS 12, DODGERS 6

Jake Peavy made the start as the Dodgers took a 4-0 lead in the fifth before the Giants scored three in the fifth and four in the sixth to rally. Joe Panik and Buster Posey were 3 for 5, and Hunter Pence went deep.

Bum2014

April 13, 2015 – ROCKIES 2, GIANTS 0

After seven games on the road in Arizona and San Diego (sound familiar?), the Giants hoisted their 2014 World Series championship banner. Then they were shut out by Eddie Butler and four relievers as the Giants would lose their first five home games of 2015, part of an eight-game losing streak.

April 8, 2014 – GIANTS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 3

The Giants scored twice in the first inning, Brandon Belt hit a two-run home run — batting in the No. 2 hole — and Tim Hudson won his AT&T Park Giants debut.

2012flag

April 5, 2013 – GIANTS 1, CARDINALS 0

The Giants raised their 2012 World Series banner, then shut out the Cardinals as Barry Zito re-created his gem from Game 5 on the National League Championship Series from the previous fall.

April 13, 2012 – GIANTS 5, PIRATES 0

The Giants scored twice in the first inning and Matt Cain did the rest, throwing a one-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts.

Bwilly

April 8, 2011 – GIANTS 5, CARDINALS 4, 12 inn.

The Giants hoisted their 2010 World Series banner, then pulled out the first of two back-to-back walk-off wins as Aaron Rowand, again, singled home Nate Schierholtz in the bottom of the 11th.

April 9, 2010 — GIANTS 5, BRAVES 4, 13 inn.

Trailing 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Edgar Renteria offered a preview of future heroics with a two-run home run off Braves closer Billy Wagner to tie. In the 13th run, Aaron Rowand singled home Juan Uribe with two outs for the walk-off win.

Seeking outfield help, San Francisco Giants reportedly sign Melvin Upton Jr.

Toronto Blue Jays’ Melvin Upton Jr., center, celebrates his two-run home run with teammate Jared Saltalamacchia as Pittsburgh Pirates’ catcher Elias Diaz looks on during the fourth inning of an exhibition baseball game in Montreal on Saturday, April 1, 2017. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Almost one week into the season, the San Francisco Giants have discovered that maybe Chris Marrero isn’t their best option in left field against left-handed pitching.

Heading into Saturday’s game against the San Diego Padres, Giants left fielders collectively — and that includes Marrero, Jarrett Parker, Gorkys Hernandez and Aaron Hill — are 0 for 20 with 10 strikeouts, one walk and one sacrifice fly.

By comparison, Giants pitchers are 3 for 10 with just four strikeouts.

With other options like Michael Morse and Mac Williamson still battling injuries and maybe a month away from being options, the Giants continued to seek out alternatives.

On Saturday, they found one in Melvin Upton Jr. (aka B.J. Upton).

Upton was released by the Blue Jays out of spring training last week. And when that happened, the Giants didn’t appear interested. Instead, they signed Drew Stubbs, who released by the Twins.

But when Marrero’s early struggles led manager Bruce Bochy to give Aaron Hill his first career start in left field on Friday, it became clear the Giants would need to explore other options.

And that led them to sign Upton.

Upton has had a very up-and-down career. After a solid start with the Rays, his move to the National League was a disaster during his two seasons with the Braves, with whom he hit .184 and .208 in 2013 and 2014.

Things got better when he moved to San Diego, where he hit .259 in 2015 and .256 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI in 92 games with the Padres before being traded in a deadline deal to Toronto. Things didn’t go so well there. He hit just .196 in 57 games for the Jays before being released at the end of spring training this season.

Upton not only gives the Giants a right-handed hitting option to throw into the left field mix, but he’s also made more than 1,112 career starts in center, providing some needed depth there.

According to Twitter reports, Upton signed a minor-league deal with the Giants and will report to Triple-A Sacramento to shake off some of the rust.

Before you think of it, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has long history of not skipping No. 5 starter

San Francisco Giants’ Matt Moore warms up during the first inning of a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, April 5, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

An interesting dialogue occurred before Wednesday’s game between the media and Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

The topic of discussion was the manipulation of the starting rotation for the Dodgers series on April 24-27.

Most interesting was that Bochy didn’t respond to the media inquiry by saying: “Dudes! I’m worried about today’s game, not one three weeks away.”

But the skipper took a different tact and fielded the questions.

The question revolved around whether Bochy would use two off days that bookend a two-game series in Kansas City on April 18-19 to skip the No. 5 spot in the rotation (currently occupied by Matt Cain) to set up the possibility of the Giants sending their top four starters into that series vs. their NL West rivals.

If the Giants stay on their regular turn, the Giants would send Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore into the April 24-27 series at AT&T Park.

Bochy responded that he generally doesn’t like to monkey with the rotation so that his pitchers stay on their normal routines. And that’s true. In his years as Giants skipper, Bochy has rarely used off days to skip spots in his rotation, unless injury forced his hand.

However, Bochy added that he would consider having Ty Blach start in place of Cain in certain situations. One of those situations could be against the Dodgers, who struggle notoriously against lefties. That was evidenced by their shutout loss against the Padres’ Clayton Richard on Tuesday.

But another thing to consider is that Giants have two series against the Dodgers over the next few weeks. San Francisco travels into Chavez Ravine for three games on May 1-3.

If the Giants skipped Cain in Kansas City and started their front four in the April series at AT&T Park, it would mean they would start Moore, Jeff Samardzija and the No. 5 spot in the May series.

However, if they stayed on turn, then it would be Cueto, Moore and Samardzija.

So, either way, the most lefties that Giants could throw at the Dodgers over those seven games is four, and both would involve swapping Blach for Cain.

Bochy did qualify his remarks by adding that the Dodgers series was still a long way off.

And he’s right. We don’t what decision the Giants may arrive at, or be forced to arrive at, by then.

Cain’s first two starts of the season will come Friday in San Diego and next Wednesday at home vs. Arizona.  If those two starts don’t go well for the veteran, the Giants could use the off days around those Kansas City dates to reassess their starting rotation, regardless of potential matchups against the Dodgers.

Wednesday’s takeaways

Hot takes after the Giants’ 8-6 loss to Arizona on Wednesday.

  • Many fans were upset that Brandon Belt’s error in the fifth inning that allowed Arizona two score two runs cost the Giants the game. But remember that on Tuesday it was an Arizona error on a potential inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Cueto that sparked the Giants’ five-run inning. So you win some, you lose some.
  • I was actually surprised that Bochy send Matt Moore out to pitch in the sixth. The error notwithstanding, the Diamondbacks were starting to make solid contact in the fifth when they tied the game. At 85 pitches and having to labor through the fifth in his first start of the year, I would have thought Bochy would have hooked Moore and gone to the pen. Remember, he pulled Bumgarner after 88 pitches on Sunday, although that was after seven innings of work. Moore may have been pulled had the Giants not gone 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth. Moore was slated to bat fourth that inning. As it was, Moore was charged with two more runs in the sixth, although the bullpen didn’t help him with inherited runners.
  • The struggles in left field continued Wednesday as they went 0 for 5 with two more strikeouts, making LFs 0 for 14 with 10 strikeouts on the season. Chris Marrero should get the start against Thursday against lefty Robbie Ray.
  • The Giants signed another veteran outfielder Wednesday. Drew Stubbs was signed to provide organizational depth at center field. The Giants currently carry two true center fielders in Denard Span and Gorkys Hernandez, although Jarrett Parker can play center in a pinch. Justin Ruggiano is at Triple-A Sacramento and can play all three outfield positions. Stubbs, who was recently cut by the Twins, can make $1 million plus bonuses if he gets called up by the Giants. He’ll start at extended spring training before joining Sacramento.

 

 

Calling Barry Bonds! San Francisco Giants left fielders being outperformed by pitchers — at the plate

Giants Diamondbacks Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Gorkys Hernandez (66) celebrates his run scored against the Arizona Diamondbacks with teammates, including Jarrett Parker, right, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s early. Two games. And as such, it’s easy to read too much into early stats and trends.

But there’s one that could be a worrisome harbinger for the San Francisco Giants.

Coming into the 2017 season, the Giants had one unsettled position in their starting lineup: left field.

And while many Giants fans had hoped the team would improve that position through free agency or trade, the Giants preferred to fill that spot from within — with Jarrett Parker or Mac Williamson or both.

The Giants entered camp with that intention, bringing in some veterans for support.

By the end of spring, all had performed well — Parker, Williamson, Mike Morse and Chris Marrero. Williamson (quad) and Morse (hamstring) had their springs ended early by injury and aren’t expected back until late April at the earliest.

That left the Giants to open the season with a left-field platoon of Parker and Marrero, but early results have not been good — proving once again that success in spring training does not always translate into success in the regular season.

In 10 plate appearances in the first two games of the season, Giants left fielders — which includes Gorkys Hernandez — had struck out eight times.

Eight Ks in 10 PAs.

The left fielders have represented 42 percent of all Giants strikeouts in the first two games of the seaso (8 of 19).

By comparsion, Giants pitchers (Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto) have not had a single strikeout in six plate appearances in two games.

Here’s how they compare:

  • LF 0-9, SF, RBI, 8 Ks, 0 BB
  • SP 3-5, 2 HR, 3 runs, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 0 K

Again, it’s early. A 3-for-5 game can change these numbers quickly for Giants left fielders. But the lopsided nature of all those Ks is disturbing.

The Giants will see a mixed bag of righties and lefties over the next few days.

Arizona

  • RH Taijuan Walker (Parker)
  • LH Robbie Ray (Marrero)

San Diego

  • RH Luis Perdomo (Parker)
  • RH Jhoulys Chacin (Parker)
  • LH Clayton Richard (Marrero)

2017 starts exactly like how 2016 ended for San Francisco Giants — with a 6-5 loss

APTOPIX Giants Diamondbacks Baseball

Arizona Diamondbacks’ Jeff Mathis, right, reaches up to catch a high-hopper hit by San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik (12) during the fourth inning of an Opening Day baseball game Sunday, April 2, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The calendar says 2017, but it still feels a lot like 2016.

The San Francisco Giants blew a major league-high 32 saves in 2016.

So far in 2017, they have two blown saves, and they’ve only played one game.

Derek Law gave up the tying run in the bottom of the eighth against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

And then after the Giants seized the lead back in the top of the ninth thanks to a Joe Panik triple, the Giants blew another save in the ninth when new closer Mark Melancon gave up two runs – all with two outs – as the Giants fell to the Diamondbacks 6-5.

Yes, 6-5 – the same score that ended the Giants’ 2016 campaign.

All of this overshadowed a history-making day by Madison Bumgarner when the big lefty became the first pitcher in major league history to hit two home runs on Opening Day.

He became the first Giant to hit multiple home runs on Opening Day since Barry Bonds in 2002.

He became the fifth Giant since 1920 to hit multiple Opening Day home runs, joining Bonds, Matt Williams, Willie Mays and Bob Elliott.

But all of that was long forgotten because the Giants have not yet solved their bullpen issues.

It started in the eighth when Bumgarner was pulled after seven innings and 88 pitches.

Manager Bruce Bochy’s first option out of the pen was Derek Law. That’s not a bad choice looking at Law’s 2016 body work. Law was 4-2 with 2.13 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 55 innings with 0.964 WHIP.

But Law has looked off this spring, posting 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings.

Yes, we know that spring stats don’t mean anything. But it also must be taken into consideration that just because games go from being exhibitions to counting doesn’t mean that a struggling pitcher can just flip the switch and be good again.

Law walked almost as many batters in 10.2 innings this spring (8) as he did all of last season (9).

Even Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle was surprised that the Giants sent Steven Okert to the minors instead of Law to open the season, just to give Law a little more time to find his touch.

But no. The Giants kept Law. And then to put a cherry on top, Bochy put him into the first game as the eighth-inning set-up guy.

And guess what? I didn’t work out.

Law gave up two crisp singles to AJ Pollock and Chris Owings. Then he gave up a seeing-eye single to Paul Goldschmidt to tie the game. Three batters, three hits, no outs.

Lefty Ty Blach came in to face Jake Lamb and got Lamb to hit into a double play. Hunter Strickland entered and got Yasmani Tomas to hit a comebacker. Inning over.

The Giants went up 5-4 in the ninth and brought on new closer Mark Melancon to close it out. Melancon got two quick outs before giving up a double to Jeff Mathis (aided by some less-than-stellar outfield defense by Gorkys Hernandez, in the game for his defense), a single to Daniel Descalso, a single to Pollock and a game-winning single to Owings.

Ouch.

Of course, all of these bullpen struggles could have been a non-issue if the Giants also have brought out another big piece of their 2016 woes – batting with runners in scoring position.

The Giants were 1 for 10 with RISP on Sunday, and that doesn’t even include the two outs they made that scored runs – sacrifice flies by Panik and Conor Gillaspie.

The Giants had the bases loaded and one out in the ninth off a struggling Fernando Rodney with Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford coming up. But Posey flied to shallow right and Crawford hit a one-foot groundout in front of the plate.

Ugh. Enough with 2016 already.

Let’s move on with 2017. The season continues Tuesday.

Look at Giants’ roster battles, part III: The outfield

San Francisco Giants’ Jarrett Parker hits during a spring training baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Sunday, March 12, 2017, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Opening day is less than two weeks, there appears to be one position battle that appears to be over.

Barring some unforeseen turn of events, Jarrett Parker will be the starting left-fielder for the San Francisco Giants in 2017.

Parker came into spring training expected to battle Mac Williamson for the left-field job. They both put on spirited battle this spring.

The numbers (through Sunday)

Parker – 12 for 38 (.316), 4 HR, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 10 Ks, .435 OBP, .658 SLG

Williamson – 11 for 34 (.324), 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 7 Ks, .378 OBP, .559 SLG

Considering that Parker is out of minor league options (and Williamson still has one left) and the fact that Williamson is now hampered by a quad injury, it would only take an injury by Parker in the last couple weeks of spring to keep him out of the Opening Day roster.

Ever since he was drafted in second round out of Virginia in 2010, Parker has been a free-swinging, all-or-nothing power hitter who struck out nearly 30 percent of the time in six minor league season.

But this spring, Parker has displayed greater discipline at the plate, resulting in .435 OBP.

“His discipline has improved so much,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News. “Even though he’s shortened up, he’s not sacrificing power. It’s maturing as a hitter, and he’s doing that. Coming into this spring, he knew what was at stake and he’s doing the job.”

The biggest question remaining for Parker is can he be an everyday left-fielding.

He has a.267/.371/.494 slash line in 205 big league plate appearances over the past two seasons. But his splits against righties and lefties remain a concern.

Vs. righties: .294/.411/.532 in 151 PAs.

Vs. lefties: .200/.259/.400 in 54 PAs.

And that makes the decision regarding the backup outfielder positions key.

Assuming Williamson starts the season in Triple-A (because he has the option) or on the DL, Michael Morse appears to be the frontrunner in the home stretch to secure a reserve role. Morse has 2 HRs, 6 RBI and is hitting .276 this spring, and has the edge of the fading Chris Marrero.

The question regarding Morse is whether makes the team depends on what decision the Giants make regarding the bullpen.

In past season, Bochy has opted to leave Arizona with an eight-man bullpen, leaving four position players on the bench.

If the Giants do that, a four-player bench likely means a four-man outfield. And if the Giants go with Hunter Pence, Denard Span, Parker and Morse, it will leave them on shaky ground in center.

Span is not the most durable center fielder, and Parker has only logged 11 innings in the majors in center.

That leads you to believe the Giants would lean with someone with center field experience. And that leaves Gorkys Hernandez and Justin Ruggiano, neither of whom is impressing at the plate this spring. Even so, Hernandez would have the edge here.

But if the Giants go with a five-player bench, they could break camp with Pence, Span, Parker, Morse and Hernandez.

Look at Giants’ roster battles, part II: The bullpen

FILE – In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Mark Melancon throws during spring baseball practice in Scottsdale, Ariz. The closer got a big free-agent contract from the Giants. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

In the past years, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has generally chosen to break camp with an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench.

But this year, the schedule is a bit more favorable. The Giants open on Sunday, April 2, get April 3 off, and then play games over the next 13 days before getting two days off around a two-day trip to Kansas City.

The Giants first 14 games are played in Arizona, San Diego and San Francisco, meaning a call to Sacramento will be quick and convenient if reserves are needed. So the Giants may opt for the more traditional 7-man bullpen.

Working off that premise, let’s start building a bullpen. We’ll begin with the gimmes: Closer Mark Melancon, righties Derek Law and Hunter Strickland and lefty Will Smith – although Smith has been slowed this spring by elbow soreness. Smith expects to pitch in games later this week, which should give him time to be ready by opening day. Still, it’s something to watch.

Assuming Smith will be ready, that leaves three spots left. And as I can’t remember a time when the Giants didn’t have at least two lefties in the pen, we’ll assume one of those three spots goes to a lefty.

And the lefty candidates include Josh Osich, Steven Okert and non-roster invitee Mark Reynolds. Osich made a solid debut in 2015 but struggled last year, leading the Giants to acquire Smith. Okert impressed in his September call-up with his 14 Ks in 14 innings. Reynolds seems like a candidate for Triple-A. The edge here has to go to Okert.

That leaves two spots left to righties. The candidates are George Kontos, Cory Gearrin, Albert Suarez and non-roster invitees David Hernandez and Bryan Morris. None of these players can be sent to Triple-A, at least without their consent. Kontos, Gearrin and Suarez would need to clear waivers.

Conventional thinking is that the last two righty spots will go to Kontos and Gearrin. But that would leave the Giants without a long man in the pen.

And that’s where Ty Blach could be a factor. Assuming Cain claims the No. 5 starter job, the Giants could opt to keep the lefty starter in the pen as a potential long man option, but also a sixth-inning guy or used against a specific righty.

If we had to make a call right now, we’d say the final bullpen spots go to Kontos, Gearrin and Blach, with Okert in the wings if Smith has any continuing elbow issues.

Look at Giants’ roster battles, part 1: The No. 5 starting pitcher

Yaaaaaaaaawwwwwn. What time is is?

March 7? Well, I guess it’s time MoreSplashHits emerged from our winter baseball hibernation and start blogging about the San Francisco Giants.

Let’s start with some key positions battles as the Giants work toward their opening day 25-man roster for their April 2nd opener in Arizona.

And we’ll begin with the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation.

This past offseason, the Giants lost three members of the Three Ring Club – i.e. players who were on all three of the Giants World Series championship teams of 2010, 2012 and 2014 – when Sergio Romo left to sign with the Dodgers, Santiago Casilla left to sign with Oakland and Javier Lopez retired.

That leaves just three remaining – Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain.

The big question now is whether or not Cain will be part of that club when the team opens the season in less than four weeks.

The Giants certainly hope so. Cain is in the final guaranteed year of the five-year contract he signed prior to Opening Day in 2012. The Giants owe him $28.5 million between the $21 million for 2017 and the $7.5 buyout of the $21 million option for 2018 that the Giants are certain to pay Cain.

But the Giants will pay Cain that money whether he’s pitching for them or not. And now the 32-year-old right-hander must prove he can recapture some of his old form.

Cain is the longest-tenured Giant, making his debut in 2005. When the Giants signed him to that five-year contract in 2012, it started out looking like a good deal.

In 2012, Cain had a career year, going 16-5 with 2.79 ERA. He started the All-Star Game, placed sixth in Cy Young voting, threw a perfect game that June and started all three of the Giants’ postseason clinching series.

He was the Opening Day starter in 2013, but got completely lit up in his second start that season. And things didn’t get much better.

After going 14-8, 13-11, 12-11, 16-5 In 2009-2012, he’s gone 8-10, 2-7, 2-4 and 4-8 since. His ERA, which was 2.89, 3.14, 2.88 and 2.79 from 2009-12, has inflated to 4.00, 4.18, 5.79 and 5.64 since.

He’s struggled to stay healthy and the early returns this spring did not been good.

His fastball lacked life and location. And with decreased velocity over recent seasons, Cain has to have command to be successful.

Luckily for Cain, the World Baseball Classic has prolonged spring training this season, which will give him more time to get himself ready.

In Cain’s third spring start on Monday, things appeared to make a turn for the better. Cain became the first Giants pitcher to throw into the fourth inning this spring, giving up two runs on two hits in 3.1 innings pitched.

The first run Cain allowed was aided by a bloop single that Hunter Pence lost in the sun. The second run came in when Cain walked the final batter he faced, and Ty Blach allowed an RBI double two batters later.

Blach followed with 2.2 scoreless innings of work, allowing three hits.

Make no mistake: The Giants want Cain to win the No. 5 spot. Loyalty and sentimentality aside, they feel better off with Cain in the No. 5 hole, Albert Suarez in the long-man role and lefty Ty Blach in Triple-A in reserve.

But Cain must show he can get big-league hitters out. And in the early results, Blach has shown a better ability to do that.

Blach impressed the Giants late last year by sporting a 1.06 ERA in four games – two starts – earning a spot on the postseason roster. The 26-year-old lefty would be the Giants’ No. 1 option if Cain falters, although Suarez, former top prospect Clayton Blackburn or current top prospect Tyler Beede would be options.

But Monday’s outing seemed to show Cain is starting to work things out.

“I feel like we’re moving in the right direction,” Cain said. “Instead of sitting there hoping I can physically make the next start, it’s nice to be able to work on things between starts and be able to fine-tune things.”

It should be noted that the lineup the Indians rolled out Monday we made up for mostly players who are not expected to make the big-league roster.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy noted that the Giants could consider keeping Blach on the big-league roster in a relief role. Blach has been relieving Cain in the previous two starts, but Monday was his first in which Blach came in mid-inning.

“I think a guy like Tyler can give you some different options,” said Bochy, who proceeded to name them: starting, working in long relief, becoming a specialist against opposing left-handed batters, or being the first man out of the bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning.

It’s an interesting revelation as the Giants’ bullpen options are limited in lefties. Right now, they are limited to Will Smith, almost certain to make the big-league club, and Josh Osich, who is less certain. Steven Okert is another lefty bullpen option.

Giants fans, looking for a good sign for Game 4? Here you go

Joe Panik

San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik, center bottom, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a double to score Brandon Crawford during the thirteenth inning of Game 3 of baseball’s National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs in San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. The Giants won 6-5. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

If you are looking for a sign for the San Francisco Giants in Tuesday’s Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Cubs, we’ve got one.

The San Francisco Giants have played eight best-of-5 playoff series, and each one has ended  with one of two results.

Result No. 1 – The Giants are eliminated by losing three consecutive games.

Result No. 2 – The Giants win and advance.

Check is out.

THREE STRAIGHT LOSSES

1971 NL Championship Series

Giants win Game 1.

Pirates win Games 2, 3 and 4.

1997 NL Division Series

Marlins win Games 1, 2 and 3.

2000 NL Division Series

Giants win Game 1.

Mets win Games 2, 3 and 4.

2003 NL Division Series

Giants win Game 1.

Marlins win Games 2, 3 and 4.

GIANTS WIN AND ADVANCE

2002 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Braves in 5 games

2010 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Braves in 4 games

2012 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Reds in 5 games

2014 NL Division Series

Giants beat the Nationals in 4 games

 

Real question: Should have Cubs manager Joe Maddon even pitched to Joe Panik?

Brandon Crawford, David Ross

San Francisco Giants’ Joe Panik (12) hits a double to score Brandon Crawford in front of Chicago Cubs catcher David Ross during the thirteenth inning of Game 3 of baseball’s National League Division Series in San Francisco, Monday, Oct. 10, 2016. The Giants won 6-5 in 13 innings. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Everyone wanted to talk about about Joe Maddon’s decision to bring Aroldis Chapman for a six-out save on Monday night.

It’s a decision that didn’t work out for the skipper as the Giants beat the Cubs 6-5 in 13 innings for the 10th consecutive elimination game win

But I want to talk about another decision Maddon made.

It’s the decision to pitch to Joe Panik in the 13th inning.

Brandon Crawford led off the bottom of the 13th by hammering a hanging curveball by Mike Montgomery into the right field corner for a leadoff double.

Then Panik came to the plate.

First base is open, and Panik’s run doesn’t mean a thing.

Walking Panik puts runners on first and second and no outs. It would set up a force play at third and second.

It would set up a possible double play.

But more importantly, it pushes the Giants deeper into their lineup.

It would have brought up Gregor Blanco, who was 0 for 4 with a sacrifice bunt.

Does Blanco bunt again with runners on first and second?

Normally, yes. But if he does that in this situation, next up is the pitcher’s spot – Ty Blach.

If Blanco’s bunt is successful, do you hit for Blach?

Again, normally, yes. But with Angel Pagan a late scratch, Giants manager Bruce Bochy presumably had no position players left to hit.

So if he hits for Blach, then it has to be one of the pitchers. And with Madison Bumgarner out of the game, that would be Jeff Samardzija. And if the move doesn’t work and the Giants don’t score, then Blach is out and George Kontos is in.

Or you let Blach hit for himself with a drawn-in infield. He did get two hits in his most recent start against the Dodgers.

If Blach doesn’t get the job done, then it falls on Denard Span to get a two-out hit.

And that’s all assuming that Blanco is bunting, and given who is coming up behind him, Blanco may have been swinging away.

But instead of setting all of that up, Maddon chose to have Montgomery pitch to Joe Panik, who was 2 for 3 and two walks coming into that last at-bat.

Panik hit the ball of the Willie Mays Wall for the game-winning hit for just the fifth walk-off postseason win in San Francisco Giants history.

POSTSEASON WALK-OFF WINS BY SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

  • Game 5 of 2002 NL Championship Series, 2-1 over St. Louis Cardinals, Kenny Lofton singles home David Bell.
  • Game 4 of 2010 NL Championship Series, 6-5 over Philadelphia Phillies, Juan Uribe sacrifice fly drives home Aubrey Huff
  • Game 3 of 2014 NL Championship Series, 5-4 over St. Louis Cardinals in 10 innings, Gregor Blanco reaches on error, scoring Brandon Crawford
  • Game 5 of 2014 NL Championship Series, 6-3 over St. Louis Cardinals, Travis Ishikawa three-run home run.
  • Game 3 of 2016 NL Division Series, 6-5 over Chicago Cubs, Joe Panik doubles home Brandon Crawford

Story of Giants’ wild-card win over Mets: CG & CG

cgcg

In his post-game remarks, Mets manager Terry Collins pointed out how the Mets only had three players on the field for Wednesday’s NL wild-card game who played in the World Series last year.

“We overcame a lot of things,” Collins said of the Mets’ injury problems this season. “So to get here took a lot of character. … We’re disappointed, but we’ll go get healthy and we’ll be back.”

The irony of that remark was that the player who beat them on Wednesday started the season at Triple-A and was in the lineup Wednesday because of an injury.

Conor Gillaspie signed a minor-league deal with the Giants in the offseason. He opened the season in Sacramento and got the call-up on April 22.

In July and early August, when the Giants were having players coming off the DL and being acquired by trade, some Giants fans wondered if Gillaspie might be a candidate to be designated for assignment.

But the Giants knew his value.

Gillaspie has not been spectacular, but he’s been solid. And that’s what you want for a bench guy.

He had 6 home runs and 25 RBI in 205 plate appearances, hitting .262 with .307 OBP. Project that out over a full season with 600 PAs, that’s 18 HR and 75 RBI.

Solid.

Gillaspie followed in the paths of Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Travis Ishikawa, as unlikely postseason hero when he delivered a three-run home run off Jeurys Familia.

Gillaspie was in the lineup because Eduardo Nunez was left of the roster for the wild-card game with a lingering hamstring injury. It is unclear if Nunez will be on the roster for the next round.

So Conor Gillaspie was one CG for the Giants.

The other belonged to Madison Bumgarner. CG as in complete game.

Bumgarner tossed his third postseason shutout to go with the 2014 wild-card win over the Pirates and Game 5 of the 2014 World Series vs. the Royals.

Combined with his five innings of relief in Game 7 of the World Series, Bumgarner has thrown 23 consecutive shutout innings in the postseason.

On the road in the postseason, Bumgarner has been historic.

His 0.50 ERA is the most in baseball history for a pitcher with 20 or more innings thrown. Next on the list?

Oh, just Bob Gibson (0.97), Mariano Rivera (1.02) and Sandy Freakin Koufax (1.04).

With a 3-0 lead and Sergio Romo in the bullpen, Bumgarner made quick work of the Mets in the ninth, retiring the side in order on 12 pitches.

And if not for one CG, we might have not seen the other CG.

If Gillaspie doesn’t come through in the ninth, it looked like Bruce Bochy was planning on hitting for Bumgarner with two on and two out.

Instead, we got CG and CG.

Like he’s done twice before, Vin Scully makes his final call in San Francisco

vinny

I watched the Giants clinch their fourth postseason berth in seven years on Sunday. But when I did, I was not watching the CSN Bay Area feed with Kruk and Kuip.

I watched the Dodgers feed to see Vin Scully’s final call.

Growing up a Giants fan in Dodger Country, I always appreciated Scully as a broadcaster. He was never a “homer” broadcaster. He remained fair to the game. If a big play was made by the opposition, he called it as a big play.

So I wanted to watch as he made his final sign-off.

Scully has made several goodbyes over his almost 70 years as a broadcaster. And when I thought about it, some of the most significant goodbyes — whether he knew it was a goodbye at the time or not — came in San Francisco with good results for the home team.

In addition to his 67 seasons as a Dodgers broadcaster, Scully has also had long stints calling games for a national TV audience.

From 1975 to 1982, he called golf and NFL games for CBS. The final NFL game he called was on Jan. 10, 1982 in San Francisco.

The 49ers beat the Cowboys and went on to win Super Bowl XVI, their first Super Bowl championship.

But after that game, Scully decided to move to NBC to call baseball games. He would call All-Star Games in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989, the World Series in 1984, 1986 and 1988 and the National League Championship Series in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1989.

The final national TV broadcast of his career came on Oct. 9, 1989 in San Francisco.

The Giants would go on to beat the Cubs 3-2 to advance to the World Series for the first time in my lifetime.

After 1989, Scully returned largely to broadcasting just Dodgers games on TV.

And that long career came to an end on Oct. 2, 2016 in San Francisco, once again.

The Giants clinched the wild-card spot.

So thank you, Vin, for all you gave over the years.

And thanks for being part of some big moments in San Francisco sports history.

 

No big surprise: Just another stellar start by Giants lefty in October

lefties

The San Francisco Giants proved once again that they have a lot “left” in October.

Rookie left-hander Ty Blach kept the Giants in the lead for the final NL wild-card berth with a masterful performance against the Dodgers.

Blach pitched eight innings, giving up no runs on three hits with one walk and six strikeouts as the Giants beat the Dodgers 3-0 to remain one game ahead of St. Louis with one game to play.

While a rookie out dueling Clayton Kershaw would come as a surprise to many, the very fact the Giants had a lefty on the mound in October should have made Giants fans very confident.

Over the last 10 starts in October by a left-handed pitchers, those pitchers are 8-1 with an 0.83 ERA and 65 strikeouts over 76 innings.

While the bulk of those starts have come from Madison Bumgarner, that list now includes Blach and Barry Zito.

Here is how the previous nine starts break down:

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 26, 2014

Game 5 World Series vs. Royals

9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 21, 2014

Game 1 World Series vs. Royals

7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 16, 2014

Game 5 NLCS vs. Cardinals

8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, ND

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 11, 2014

Game 1 NLCS vs. Cardinals

7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 6, 2014

Game 4 NLDS vs. Nationals

7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, LOSS

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 1, 2014

NL Wild Card Game vs. Pirates

9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K, WIN

Madison Bumgarner, Oct. 25, 2012

Game 2 World Series vs. Tigers

7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K, WIN

Barry Zito, Oct. 24, 2012

Game 1 World Series vs. Tigers

5.2 IP, 6 H 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, WIN

Barry Zito, Oct. 19, 2012

Game 5 NLDS vs. Cardinals

7.2 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 6 K, WIN

On Sunday, the starting pitcher for the Giants will be Matt Moore, a left-hander.

And if the Giants win that game, their next game will be Wednesday in New York against the Mets. The starter that day? Bumgarner.

Are trades that brought Eduardo Nunez, Matt Moore and Will Smith good deals for San Francisco Giants?

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The San Francisco Giants made some big moves in the past few days, adding the likes of Eduardo Nunez, Will Smith and Matt Moore.

So are they deals good for the Giants?

Well, it depends on who you ask, and it also depends on how you rate trades.

If you look at the deals from the perspective of “Did the Giants make their 2016 roster better for the stretch run?” the consensus is these deals are good for the Giants.

Peter Gammons on MLB Network said the moves were “very good” for the Giants.

“Under the radar, I thought they were really good moves,” Gammons said. “First of all, I think Matt Moore (has been) throwing better and better as the season has gone on, coming off Tommy John surgery.  … Pitching in that ballpark (AT&T Park), which is really important, having Buster Posey behind the plate, who builds relationships with pitchers as well as anybody in the game, and it’s a great park to give up fly balls in. So it should be great for him. After (Madison) Bumgarner and (Johnny) Cueto, their starting pitchers had an ERA of almost 5.00, so getting this extra starter, particularly one who can match up, is important.”

Gammons pointed out that Will Smith has not been great this season against left-handed hitters, but added that he’s “battle-worn.”

“I think what’s really important is he just gives Bruce Bochy another way to go in the sixth to the ninth inning,” Gammons said.

Critics also called the addition of Nunez a perfect fit for the Giants, adding some needed pop and speed.

So the players the Giants added make them better.

But if you look at the deals from the standpoint of what they gave up, then the analysis is not so favorable.

Guys who rate prospects didn’t think the Giants did so well.

Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline said for the Brewers to get Phil Bickford for Will Smith was a good trade for the Brewers. But to get Andrew Susac on top was a bonus.

Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline said the Brewers getting Bickford for Smith “boggles my mind.”

But anytime a team makes a trade, the team not only considers the value of the players they are giving up, but also whether the voids left by those players in the system can be filled.

Now if you looked at a consensus of a variety of prospect rankings, Bickford rated as the No. 2 propsect in the Giants’ system. But right with him, tied at No. 2, is Tyler Beede, and Beede is further along than Bickford, pitching in Double-A as opposed to just making the move to High-A ball. Infielder Lucius Fox was the No. 4 prospect. But their top prospect is also an infielder in Christian Arroyo.

Last week, Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean went to Richmond to look presumably at Arroyo and Beede, and many thought it was to decide if the Giants would deal those players.

Instead, it was to decide how close to ready Arroyo and Beede were, so the team could decide to deal other prospects.

With Joe Panik at second, Brandon Crawford at short and Nunez at third through 2017 – then Arroyo in the system to move in at 3B – the Giants felt they were covered well enough to deal Matt Duffy and Fox to Tampa for Moore.

With Beede in the system, as well as others, the Giants felt they could part with Bickford.

And here’s one thing to keep in mind. None of the trades the Giants made this past week will be able to be rated in the ways that the Carlos Beltran/Zack Wheeler deal was or the Mike Leake/Adam Duvall trade.

In both of those deals, the players the Giants got were two-month rentals and eligible for free agency at the end of the season in which they were acquired.

Nunez is under club control through 2017. Moore and Smith are both under club control through 2019.

So these deals not only were made for the stretch run of 2016, but into the future as well.

And that’s why the price for these players were as high as they were.

San Francisco Giants take a turn to the left on wild trade deadline day

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I went into Monday thinking that if the Giants didn’t make a deal at the trade deadline, that wouldn’t be the most terrible thing in the world.

But then things took a turn to the left.

The Giants made the biggest splash on trade deadline day perhaps ever, acquiring two left-handed pitchers – starter Matt Moore from the Rays and reliever Will Smith from the Brewers.

And the price for both was steep. Heading to the Rays is third baseman Matt Duffy, infield prospect Lucious Fox and minor-league pitcher Michael Santos.

Going to Milwaukee is pitcher Phil Bickford, the Giants’ top prospect, and Triple-A catcher Andrew Susac.

So let’s break down these deals.

Who the Giants got?

MATT MOORE: Moore is a 27-year-old left-hander who is 39-28 with 3.88 ERA in six big league seasons. He was an All-Star in 2013 when he went 17-4 with 3.29 ERA. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014 and came back to make 12 starts in 2015, going 3-4 with 5.43 ERA.

This season, he is 7-7 with 4.08 ERA. But in his last six starts since June 29, Moore is 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA.

He has a very friendly contract. He is making $5 million this season and the Giants hold team options of $7 million in 2017, $9 million in 2018 and $10 million in 2019.

WILL SMITH: Smith is also a 27-year-old lefty who has a 3.94 ERA in five big-league seasons. He began his career in 2012 as a starter with the Royals, going 6-9 with 5.32 ERA. After moving the bullpen in 2013, he was traded to the Brewers for the 2014 season. That year, he led the league in appearances with 78. Last year, he went 7-2 with 2.70 ERA.

He had a very Jeremy Affeldt-like start to the 2016 season. During spring training, he was heading to the shower when he stood on one foot to remove his cleat. But the shoe didn’t come off easily – loosen the laces, Will? – and he twisted his knee. That led to arthroscopic surgery, and he didn’t make his 2016 debut until June. He’s been pitching with a knee brace since the surgery.

He is 1-2 with 3.68 ERA and 12 holds this season. But on June 23, he had a 1.93 ERA, then he had an ugly outing, giving up five runs, four earned, without recording an out against the Cubs. With just 22 innings worked this season, that outing caused his ERA to balloon.

But I took a closer looking at that outing, something that sabermetricians often do not do.

In that outing, Smith came into the game with one out and no one on base. He gave up a solid single to right by Miguel Montero. Then Matt Szczur hit a ball sharply to third, which was booted by the third baseman. So instead of an inning-ending double play, there are now runners on first and second. Tommy La Stella followed by hitting a ball – not especially hard – over the first baseman’s head for a double, and one scored. Kris Bryant was walked intentionally, then Anthony Rizzo followed with the double to the right-center field wall, clearing the bases. Again, Rizzo’s ball was not scorched. It went about 270-300 feet, then rolled the rest of the way to the wall, perfectly placed. Smith was pulled, and Rizzo eventually scored the fifth run of the inning.

So if the third baseman turns the double play – as he should have – Smith’s ERA right now would be 1.99.

Over his career, Smith has been able to get lefties out as well as righties, much like Affeldt. But this season, things have been kind of backward. Lefties are hitting .316 against Smith, while righties are .143. However, the OBP split is .333/.288 lefty-righty.

Smith is make $1.475 million this season and is arbitration eligible 2017-2019.

Where do the new guys fit on the roster?

MOORE: He goes into the rotation. Moore last pitched last Wednesday vs. the Dodgers. It would not be a surprise to see Bruce Bochy drop Moore into the rotation right after Johnny Cueto, which would make his Giants debut on Thursday against the Phillies.

Jake Peavy or Matt Cain go to the bullpen as the long reliever/swing man. It’s a role neither has played. Peavy has only made one relief appearance in his career (in 2011). Cain has only made three relief appearances, and two came last season when he was coming back from injury. I would bet it’s Peavy who gets bumped for the rotation. He is a free agent after this season, while Cain is under contract for three more seasons. Maybe Peavy could be moved in a waiver trade.

Look for Albert Suarez to head to Sacramento to make room for Moore on the 25-man roster. No need to clear spot on 40-man as Moore replaces Duffy.

SMITH: He goes into the pen. With Josh Osich on the DL, Smith will fill the role as left-handed set-up man, pitching in the seventh or eighth inning. Matt Reynolds will return to Sacramento. No need to clear spot on 40-man roster, as Smith replaces Susac.

Who did the Giants give up?

MATT DUFFY: Duffy became a more movable piece after the Giants picked up Eduardo Nunez last week. Nunez will be the Giants’ third baseman for the rest of the season. Duffy was runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2014. He was hitting .253 with 4 HR and 21 RBI in 70 games before going on the DL with a strained Achilles in mid-June. Duffy had been hitting well early in his rehab stint in Sacramento. He is not arbitration eligible until after the 2017 season. Nunez is under contract for 2017, then the Giants could possibly turn to Christian Arroyo, their new No. 1 prospect, at 3B.

LUCIUS FOX: A shortstop, Fox signed a $6 million international contract last summer after graduating high school in Florida and moving back to his native Bahamas. At 19, he was hitting .207 with 25 steals in 75 games for low-A Augusta. He was rated as the Giants’ No. 4 prospect by MLB.com before Monday’s trades. But was not rated a top-100 prospect by MLB.com or Baseball America.

MICHAEL SANTOS: The 21-year-old right-hander was rated as the Giants’ No. 24 prospect at the trade. He was 4-2 with 2.91 ERA in 10 starts to low-A Augusta. He missed some time this season after being hit in the head by a line drive.

PHIL BICKFORD: The 21-year-old righthander was the Giants’ No. 1 prospect. He was rated No. 65 prospect overall by MLB.com after not being in the top 100 at the start of the season. The No. 18 overall pick in the 2015 draft, he can 98 mph with his fastball. He was 3-4 with 2.70 ERA with low-A Augusta this season before being promoted to high-A San Jose, where he was 2-2 with 2.73 ERA. He has 105 strikeouts in 93 innings at both levels this season.

ANDREW SUSAC: Drafted in the second round of the 2011 draft after an injury-filled season at Oregon State, Susac made it to the majors in 2014, when he hit .273 with 3 HR and 19 RBI in 35 games. Injuries limited his time in the bigs in 2015, when he hit .218 with 3 HR and 14 RBI in 52 games. Injuries again played a role in Susac falling behind Trevor Brown on the Giants’ depth chart. He was hitting .273 with 8 HR and 36 RBI in 58 games in Triple-A Sacramento. With Buster Posey a fixture at catcher and Trevor Brown playing well as his backup, there was not much room for Susac. Plus Aramis Garcia, currently at high-A San Jose, is now the Giants’ No. 6 prospect.

Hunter Pence returns: San Francisco Giants’ stretch run begins today

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence, center, rallies the crowd in a post-game cheer for the postseason, after the Giants defeated the San Diego Padres 9-3 in a baseball game in San Francisco, Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

It’s been a bleak couple of weeks for San Francisco Giants fans.

The Giants are 2-11 since the All-Star break.

In eight of their 13 games since the break, the Giants have failed to score more than two runs.

The depression hit a new low Friday when the Giants had the bases loaded and no outs in the eighth and hit into a triple play.

But help arrives today. Hunter Pence was activated Saturday after almost two months on the disabled list.

So I thought I would share a little perspective with disheartened Giants fans.

Since the last game that Hunter Pence appeared in (on June 2), the Giants have gone 25-22 and are still in first place in the NL West.

If we had told you that back on June 3, would you have taken it?

I would.

Pence is back in the lineup. So is Eduardo Nunez, the infielder acquired in a trade with the Twins on Thursday.

Joe Panik came back on Thursday. The Giants’ lineup is almost whole again. Matt Duffy begins his rehab assignment today.

To make room for Pence on the 25-man roster, Ramiro Pena was designated for assignment.

Giants fans were excited to see what the lineup might look like on Saturday, with Pence and Nunez in it.

Instead, they got another lesson in the value of depth.

Brandon Crawford got a day off to rest a sore hand. Denard Span got the day off with a sore quad.

The lineup will go:

SS Eduardo Nunez
LF Angel Pagan
3B Conor Gillaspie
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
2B Joe Panik
CF Gregor Blanco
P Jake Peavy

Gillaspie in the No. 3 hole is a good indication that when Ehire Adrianza comes off the DL on Tuesday, Mac Williamson will head back to Sacramento. Also, Cory Gearrin started his rehab stint.

So wipe the slate clean. The stretch run to the postseason starts today.

Eduardo Nunez could be the 2016 version of Marco Scutaro for the San Francisco Giants

Rougned Odor, Eduardo Nunez

Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, top, goes up for an overthrow as Minnesota Twins’ Eduardo Nunez (9) slides safely into the bag for a double in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

I was on vacation on July 24, 2012, camping with my family in Lassen National Park.

As my family went to bed, I stayed up late to listen to the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 3-2 in walk-off fashion.

The next afternoon, I heard the news. The Dodgers had acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins.

I remember thinking “OK, Giants, you’re move.”

That move came two days later. The Giants had acquired Marco Scutaro.

Marco Scutaro?!?

The Giants had been starting the likes of Gregor Blanco, Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff as the third outfielder. And the Giants counter move to the Dodgers picking up Hanley was to get a veteran infielder seemingly for bench depth?!?

At the time, Pablo Sandoval was on the DL with a hamstring strain, so Scutaro figured to fill in at 3B until the Panda returned. After that, he’d split time at 2B with Ryan Theriot.

Instead, Scutaro became the most valuable Giant in the final two months of the season, hitting .362 in 61 games and their starting second baseman during their run to the 2012 world championship.

NLCS Cardinals Giants Baseball

That thought came to me Thursday when I heard the Giants had acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez.

To be honest, I was not familiar with Nunez. I’m an NL guy, so I don’t know many AL players, particularly those on the Twins.

When I heard the Giants had sent Adalberto Mejia to the Twins for Eduardo Nunez, I wondered if Nunez was a relief pitcher.

When I found out he was an infielder, I was surprised. So were many Giants fans, who began to wonder if perhaps Matt Duffy’s injury were worse than the Giants were saying.

But Duffy is slated to start a rehab assign on Saturday. So why then get Nunez?

Giants GM Bobby Evans said: “As we look at the rest of the season, we just want to have the protection of (Nunez’s) experience — given the time these guys (Joe Panik, Duffy, Hunter Pence) have missed and how much time they may need to have off down the stretch.”

So here is what can expect of Nunez for now.

Yes, Duffy begins a rehab assignment on Saturday. But the Giants have taken a conservative approach with Duffy, so we can expect that rehab stint to last at least a week, maybe more.

Nunez will be the Giants’ starting third baseman for the next week or so. And so long, Conor Gillaspie, who seems the most likely candidate to be DFA’d to make room for Nunez.

After Duffy returns, look for Bruce Bochy to get Nunez into the lineup as often as possible, at as many different spots as possible. He could give Duffy a rest at third. He could give Brandon Crawford an occasional break at short. He could start for Panik at second, particularly against lefties. Nunez is hitting .311 vs. lefties this season and five of his 12 home runs have come against lefties even though he’s had a third as many plate appearances against lefties as righties.

Nunez is hitting .296 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He was the Twins’ representative at the All-Star Game. His home run total matches the Giants’ team leader (Buster Posey). His stolen base total is more than the top three Giants combined (Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Duffy).

Nunez has played 51 games at shortstop this season, 33 at third base and five at second. In his career, he’s played 29 games in the outfield. He is also under team control through 2017.

The Giants may have picked up their super utility player they have lacked for many years.

To get Nunez, the Giants  gave up Mejia,who was rated by MLB.com as the Giants’ No. 5 overall prospect and No. 3 pitching prospect.  The 23-year-old is 7-3 with 2.81 ERA in 29 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. He was 4-1 with a 4.20 ERA with Sacramento. Mejia was rated the 91st best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America’s midseason rankings.

The Brewers were said to have been interested in Mejia, which may tell us about the price the Brewers were looking for in exchange for relievers Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress. So then we can assume the Brewers were looking for Mejia AND someone else to give up Smith or Jeffress.

The Nunez trade could be an indicator of the steep price teams are asking right now for pitching, at least right now. The trade deadline is still a couple of days away. If the Giants make a deal for relief help, it likely won’t happen until right up against the deadline.

Nunez is slated to arrive today. Gillaspie will be gone. Hunter Pence is supposed to be activated Saturday. Jarrett Parker will head to Sacramento. Ehire Adrianza will be activated Tuesday. Ramiro Pena will be DFAd.

The Giants will hope at least two of the four DFA candidates (Tejada, Green, Gillaspie, Pena) will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Sacramento. And they still have Kelby Tomlinson at Triple-A.

I’m not entirely sure who leaves the 25-man roster when Duffy gets activated. Provided no one else goes on the DL before then, Mac Williamson could go back to Triple-A for a couple weeks before returning when rosters expand.

Eduardo Nunez’s acquisition surprised many Giants fans. But he may just be the 2016 Marco Scutaro. And with the return of Panik, Pence, Adrianza and Duffy, may help provide the offensive spark the Giants have been so badly missing since the All-Star break.

People say pitching wins championships. Maybe so. But depth also wins championships.

And each of the Giants’ three title runs including key contributions from unexpected sources — Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP; Scutaro, the 2012 NLCS MVP; Travis Ishikawa, clinching home run in the 2014 NLCS.

We can only hope Nunez is that surprise hero of 2016.

Joe Panik expected to be in San Francisco Giants’ lineup tonight; Hunter Pence this weekend

Hunter Pence

San Francisco Giants’ Hunter Pence hits a grand slam home run off Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Pedro Baez in the eighth inning of their baseball game Thursday, April 7, 2016, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Things have been bleak lately for the San Francisco Giants, but it appears — FINALLY — help is on the way.

Giants general manager Bobby Evans told KNBR radio this morning thatJoe  Panik likely will be in the starting lineup TONIGHT when the Giants open a four-game series against the Washington Nationals.

Panik has been out since June 28 with a concussion after being hit in the helmet with pitch. He started a rehab assignment on July 19, played two games, then sat after he “didn’t feel right.” He got cleared to play again, and has played the past two nights in Sacramento, including a full nine innings on Wednesday when he went 2 for 4.

Evans also said that Hunter Pence likely will be activated some time this weekend. Pence has been on the DL since early June after having hamstring surgery. Pence has hit .450 for Sacramento in six games and has homered in each of the past two games.

The next question is: Who will the Giants jettison from the 25-man roster to make room for Panik, then Pence?

Here’s my best guess:

I think it’s Jarrett Parker. Yes, sending down an outfielder to call up an infielder may seem a bit odd, but Parker has options left. Parker likely gets sent down when Pence gets activated anyway, and this will allow the Giants to hang onto other reserves without options like Grant Green, Ramiro Pena or Conor Gillaspie, even if it’s just for a couple of days.

It would leave the Giants with just four outfielders for the next couple of days, until Pence gets the call. But the Giants have done that before, plus Brandon Belt and Green are outfield options in a pinch.

However, when Pence gets activated, next on the chopping block is Green.

Green made some nice contributions when he got called up from Sacramento. But since the All-Star break, he’s 3-for-16 (.188) and made just three starts.

Green would need to clear waivers and accept the assignment to be sent to Triple-A, just as Ruben Tejada was eight days ago. Pena and Gillaspie are in the same boat. Tejada should clear waivers in a couple of days, and could be headed back to Sacramento if he does. So it’s possible they could have Tejada back in the system on the same day they DFA Green.

Oh, and the Giants also have Ehire Adrianza and Matt Duffy on the mend.

Adrianza is about 13 days into his 20-day max minor league rehab stint, meaning the Giants will have to make a decision quickly with him. He’s hitting .368 with three homers on his rehab stint.

If figures Pena goes when Adrianza is ready. Gillaspie is on the block when Duffy is ready. Duffy is slated to start his rehab assignment this weekend.

I just don’t see the Giants sending down Mac Williamson, who has options left. But Bruce Bochy likes his right-handed power bat off the bench, as well he should.

And no one in the bullpen goes anywhere unless the Giants make a trade for more pitching help.