March 2013

San Francisco Giants’ cuts bring roster battles into focus

Kensuke Tanaka survived Friday's roster cuts, but the Japanese veteran is not expected to make the Giants' opening day roster.

Kensuke Tanaka survived Friday’s roster cuts, but the Japanese veteran is not expected to make the Giants’ opening day roster.

When the Giants opened spring training, they did so with three open jobs on its 25-man roster: a reserve outfielder, a reserve infielder and a spot in the bullpen.

Now because of injuries, there may be one or two more open spots.

With Friday’s cut of 21 players from big-league camp, there are 38 players on the Giants’ active spring roster. But two of those players — Eric Surkamp and Brett Pill — are destined to open the season on the DL, so that leaves 36 players for 25 spots on the opening day roster.

Left-handed reliever Jose Mijares has not pitched since late February with an elbow impingement. Mijares threw off flat ground with no issues on Monday, then left for home in Venezuela on a personal matter. He was supposed to be back in camp Friday. But with opening day just a little more than two weeks away, time may be running short on Mijares being ready.

So here is the breakdown on who is left in camp and the battles for the last roster spots.

Relief pitchers

Contenders: RH Chad Gaudin, RH Scott Proctor, RH Ramon Ramirez, RH Jean Machi, RH Dan Runzler, RH Yusmeiro Petit.
Injured: LH Jose Mijares, LH Eric Surkamp.

Reassigned to minor league camp: RH Brett Bochy, RH Boof Bonser, RH Steve Edlefsen, RH Heath Hembree, LH Mike Kickham, RH Mitch Lively, RH Shane LouxOptioned to Triple-A Fresno: RH Jake Dunning, RH Chris Heston, RH Dan Otero, RH Sandy RosarioOptioned to Class A San Jose: LH Edwin Esccbar.

Outlook: There was one open spot in the bullpen when camp opened, with the Giants looking more for a quality long man/spot starter. Right now, Gaudin is the clear favorite to secure that spot. The Giants really like the way Runzler has been throwing, so that may allow them to be conservative with Mijares. Petit is out of options, so he would have to clear waivers before being sent to Fresno.

Infielders

Contenders: Wilson Valdez, Kensuke Tanaka, Tony Abreu.

Injured: 1B Brett Pill.

Reassigned to minor league camp: 1B Ricky Oropesa, 3B Adam Duvall, 2B Brock Bond. Optioned to Triple-A Fresno: SS Ehire Adrianza, 2B Nick Noonan.

Outlook: The job appears to be Valdez’s by default in the most lackluster job battle of the spring. Tanaka, a solid defender in Japan, has struggled with the glove this spring, as he has been getting looks on the left side of the infield. And an injury has limited Abreu’s appearances in games. Both of them remain in camp so the Giants could get a longer look, especially Abreu who is out of options. This is a position the Giants could end up filling by acquiring some players on the waiver wire later this spring.

Outfield

Contenders: Cole Gillespie, Francisco Peguero

Reassigned to minor league camp: OF Gary BrownOptioned to Triple-A Fresno: OF Juan Perez, OF Roger Kieschnick

Outlook: Peguero, who is hitting .424 this spring, has emerged as the front-runner over Gillespie. To hear GM Brian Sabaen talk, it’s between Peguero and going with another utility player. And as Valdez, Tanaka and Abreu have not impressed, that gives a big nod to Peguero.

Catchers

Injured: Hector Sanchez

Contenders: Johnny Monell, Guillermo Quiroz, Jackson Williams.

Reassigned to minor league camp: Tyler La Torre.

Outlook: The pain in Sanchez’s shoulder is causing him concern. The Giants hope that with a few days rest and treatment, it will calm down. If not, the Giants will have to consider options. Quiroz has the most experience and is the most dependable defender of three contenders. So he has the nod. Williams lacks experience, and Monell’s hot bat (9 for 15) is keeping him in camp so the Giants can see him catch more.

The 2010 San Francisco Giants: Where are they now?

Giants baseball: Rapture!!!!

For the last couple of years, I’ve had a picture of the Giants celebrating the final out of the 2010 World Series as the wallpaper on my computer.

Last fall, I added an image of the Giants celebrating the final out of the 2012 World Series, rotating the two images in a slideshow.

As I was recently looking at that 2010 image, it struck me how few of the players on that team are still with the Giants.

Consider this: Of the nine players who were on the field for the final out in Arlington in 2010, only one player was on the field for the final out in Detroit in 2012 — Buster Posey.

Even more intriguing is that of Dec. 12, 2012, only one of those nine players on the field in 2010 were still with the Giants. Andres Torres re-signed with the Giants on Dec. 13 after spending one season with the Mets.

And still more intriguing still, only four of those players on the field in 2010 are currently employed by a major league franchise.

It really goes to show what a band of misfits those 2010 Giants were.

Of the 25 players on the active roster for the 2010 World Series, only nine remained with the Giants for 2011, 2012 and into the 2013 preseason.

And as pitching has always been the core of the Giants’ success, it should come as no surprise that seven of the nine players were pitchers: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. The other two are Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Barry Zito was left off the 2010 postseason roster, but he’s still with the Giants.

So here’s what happened to the other 16 players:

P Jonathan Sanchez
Traded to Royals after 2011 season; traded to Rockies in July 2012; signed minor-league deal with Pirates, trying to land job. He had 11.81 ERA this spring with 8 walks in 5.1 IP coming into Friday. He had a solid outing Friday vs. the Astros, so there’s some hope.

P Ramon Ramirez
Traded to Mets after 2011 season. Granted free agency and re-signed with the Giants. Trying to earn roster spot in spring training; likely won’t.

P Brian Wilson
Underwent second Tommy John surgery April 2012; missed most of 2012 season; non-tendered in December; still free agent; last seen wandering mall in ketchup-stained T-shirt.

P Guillermo Mota
Served 100-game PED suspension in 2012; granted free agency after 2012 season; all but retired

1B Aubrey Huff
Had two unproductive seasons with Giants after 2010 World Series; granted free agency after 2012 season; all but retired

1B Travis Ishikawa
Signed as free agent with Brewers for 2012 season; signed as free agent with Orioles in December 2012.

2B Freddy Sanchez
Suffered shoulder injury June 2011; hasn’t played since; granted free agency after 2012 season; all but retired

2B Mike Fontenot
Released by Giants at end of spring training in 2012; signed with Phillies; released by Phillies in August 2012; signed minor-league deal with Rays with invite to spring training.

SS Edgar Renteria
Signed one-year deal with Reds in 2011. Retired after 2011 season

3B Juan Uribe
Signed three-year deal with Dodgers after 2010 season, been taking up space on Dodgers roster since

C Eli Whiteside
Claimed off waivers by Yankees in November 2012, then claimed off waivers by Blue Jays, and then by the Rangers. In spring training camp for Rangers.

OF Cody Ross
After struggling through 2011 with Giants, signed as free agent with Red Sox in 2012; after solid 2012 season, signed as free agent with Diamondbacks.

OF Aaron Rowand
Had another miserable season in 2011; released in August 2011 even though he had more than year left on five-year contract; tried to catch on with Marlins in 2012; did not; out of baseball

OF Andres Torres
Traded to Mets before 2012 season; granted free agency after 2012 season; re-signed with Giants on Dec. 13, 2012

OF Nate Schierholtz
Traded to Phillies in July 2012 in the Hunter Pence deal; signed as free agent with Cubs for 2013 season

OF Pat Burrell
Struggled with injuries in 2011 with Giants; retired after 2011 season.

Who is this Johnny Monell and where does he fit in San Francisco Giants catching depth chart?

Every spring there is a player who makes an unexpected splash.

So far this spring, that player would be outfielder Francisco Peguero, who is hitting .424 (14 for 33) in 13 games.

But there’s another player trying to get noticed as well — Johnny Monell. Monell went 3 for 4 with two doubles in the 9-5 win over the Reds on Wednesday, raising his spring average to .600 (9 for 15) with eight runs, one homer and five RBI.

Now, where Peguero has a track record among the Giants’ top prospects and even had a brief stint with the big club last season, Monell is not a name many Giants fans are familiar with.

So let’s get caught up with Johnny Monell.

Monell was first drafted by the Giants in the 27th round of the 2005 draft out of Christopher Columbus High School in the Bronx. Monell passed on signing with the Giants and went to play at Seminole Community College in Sanford, Fla.

In the 2006 draft, he was taken in the 49th round by the Mets. Again, he passed and returned to Seminole.

In the 2007 draft, he was drafted in the 30th round by the Giants. This time, he signed.

A left-handed hitting catcher, Monell has spent six seasons in the Giants system, only briefing rising about Double-A during a five-game stint with the Fresno Grizzlies in 2010.

He’s spent the past two seasons at Double-A Richmond, where he hit .249 with 10 HRs and 49 RBI in 119 games in 2011 and .257 with 11 HRs and 50 RBI in 108 games in 2012. He actually shared time at catcher with Richmond with Tommy Joseph in 2012, before Joseph was shipped to Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence trade.

The Giants exposed Monell to the Rule V draft last December, but there were no takers.

Monell, 27, was a non-roster invitee to camp this spring largely because the Giants needed catchers with the bevy of pitchers they invited to camp this spring.

After getting a chance to play in games recently, Monell has hit the ball hard and received some attention.

“He’s doing what you want these young guys to do,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s drawing attention to himself. I’d like to get him behind the plate a little bit more. When you swing the bat the way he’s swinging, you force the issue a little bit. It’s a rare commodity to have a good-hitting left-handed catcher, and he could be coming into his own right now.”

Monell is known as a good defensive catcher with some occasional left-handed pop. He threw out 34 percent of would-be base stealers last year.

So is Monell working his way into the catching conversation for the Giants? I doubt it.

But with Hector Sanchez battling some nagging injuries and Andrew Susac being sent down to minor league camp and the rest of the catchers in camp consisting Guillermo Quiroz? Tyler LaTorre and Jackson Williams, why not give him a look.

At the very least, Monell may have earned himself a ticket from Richmond to Triple-A Fresno this summer.

San Francisco Giants welcome back players from WBC

Venezuela's Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run as Spain catcher Salomon Manriquez, left, looks on in the 8th inning of their World Baseball Classic first round game in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, March 10, 2013. Venezuela won 11-6. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

Venezuela’s Pablo Sandoval hits a solo home run as Spain catcher Salomon Manriquez, left, looks on in the 8th inning of their World Baseball Classic first round game in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sunday, March 10, 2013. Venezuela won 11-6. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

The Giants will welcome back three players back from the World Baseball Classic this week.

With Mexico and Venezuela eliminated, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Sergio Romo will be back in the fold in Scottsdale.

And despite the losses, the Giants players themselves had solid tournaments.

Pablo Sandoval went 4 for 13 (.308) with a home run, two doubles and four RBI for Venezuela.
Marco Scutaro went 2 for 7 (.286) with two runs, a double and RBI for Venezuela.
Sergio Romo gave up two runs on three hits in two innings, picking up a loss and save for Mexico. Had left fielder Edgar Gonzalez, normally an infielder, hadn’t lost a ball in the sun, Romo wouldn’t have allowed any runs, had two saves and Mexico would still be playing, instead of Italy.

Four Giants are still playing in the WBC: Ryan Vogelsong and Jeremy Affeldt (USA), Angel Pagan (Puerto Rico) and Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic), along with minor league catcher Tyler LaTorre (Italy).

The second round opens Tuesday. The earliest any of these other players will be back in Giants camp is this weekend. Otherwise, we’re looking at a week to 10 days.

Late last week, the Giants made their first cuts of the spring, reassigning C Andrew Susac, IF Joe Panik, OF Jose Valdez, P Fabio Castillo, P Edward Concepcion, P Josh Osich and P Justin Fitzgerald to minor league camp. 1B Angel Villalona was optioned to Class A San Jose, although the Giants have not ruled out a promotion to Double-A to open the season.

Plenty of former San Francisco Giants in unemployment line

Aubrey Huff

Aubrey Huff

There are 33 players who filed for free agency this offseason who have still not signed with a new team as of March 9.

Five of those unsigned players were employed by the Giants in 2012, more than any other franchise.

Those five players are: Aubrey Huff, 1b; Guillermo Mota, rhp; Brad Penny, rhp; Freddy Sanchez, 2b; Ryan Theriot, 2b.

And that doesn’t even count Brian Wilson, who became a free agent when the Giants non-tendered him in December.

The Giants started the offseason with 10 free agents. The three they wanted they re-signed: RP Jeremy Affeldt, 2B Marco Scutaro and OF Angel Pagan. The two they didn’t want signed elsewhere: OF Melky Cabrera (Toronto) and OF Xavier Nady (Kansas City).

And then there are the other five.

GUILLERMO MOTA: There is not market for a 39-year-old reliever fresh off a season in which he served a 100-game suspension for a PED second strike. A third strike and he’s done. He may be done already.

FREDDY SANCHEZ: Sanchez hasn’t played a big-league game since separating his shoulder in June 2011. He said last month he’s not ready to retire, adding his “dream situation” would be to re-sign with the Giants. There is not indication of that happening, and he has not joined another club.

RYAN THERIOT: Theriot went into the offseason looking for increased playing time. That is what drew him to the Giants last offseason. He got that, but then lost it when the Giants traded for Marco Scutaro. Theriot was said to be talking with the Indians and Rangers, but that was three weeks ago.

BRAD PENNY: Penny made 31 starts for Detroit in 2011. After giving a Japan a try in early 2012, he signed with the Giants midseason, and served out of their pen in the final months of the season.

AUBREY HUFF: Huff may the most realistic of the bunch, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that he’s “pretty much retired.” He said he’s happy spending time with family instead of getting ready for another season. So the next time we might see Huff is to collect his World Series ring next month, although he said he has not received an invite from the Giants to do so.

And then there’s the erstwhile closer, Brian Wilson.

Back in the December, the Giants were faced with three choices regarding Wilson — offer him a contract of a minimum of $6.8 million, try to negotiate a deal at a much lower rater or non-tender him.

Well, it was obvious they wouldn’t do the first. When Wilson became offended by the Giants’ offer of a incentive-laden deal, they turned to option No. 3: a non-tender.

Then we heard from Wilson camp about the multitude of teams who were interested in his services, with no actual teams named.

Wilson threw for the Mets once in January and again in February, and the Mets determined Wilson wasn’t close to pitching again in the bigs.

Now, it’s March and the last time we saw Wilson came last week when TMZ posted a video of Wilson, looking scruffier than ever, doing some shopping in a ketchup-stained T-shirt. The person taking the video asked Wilson if he would ever shave his now infamous beard to sign with the Yankees, who have a no-facial-hair policy.

Wilson’s answer? “I’m from Boston.”

Spring training, Giants 13, A’s 9 … Angel Villalona belts first spring home run

San Francisco Giants first baseman Angel Villalona makes a diving attempt on a ground ball by by Oakland Athletics' Andy Parrino during the sixth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game on Friday, March 1, 2013, in Phoenix. Parrino got a double on the play. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

San Francisco Giants first baseman Angel Villalona makes a diving attempt on a ground ball by by Oakland Athletics’ Andy Parrino during the sixth inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game on Friday, March 1, 2013, in Phoenix. Parrino got a double on the play. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The Giants banged out 13 runs on 16 hits in their win over the A’s on Friday. One of the more interesting of those 16 hits came in the ninth inning.

That’s when Angel Villalona belted a solo home run to center, capping the 13-9 win.

Villalona, as you’ll recall, is the former top prospect of the Giants, who spent two years out of baseball while he fought a murder charge in his native Dominican Republic. After working himself back into playing shape last summer in the Dominican Summer League, he earned his first spring training invite.

Villalona is 2 for 7 in three games so far this spring. He figures to be moved to minor-league camp soon, as he’s likely to open this season at Class A San Jose.

Friday was a big day for some younger players trying to get noticed and make the big-league club.

Giant commitment to World Baseball Classic starts this weekend

Jeremy Affeldt is one of seven players off the Giants' 40-man roster who will participate in the World Baseball Classic

Jeremy Affeldt is one of seven players off the Giants’ 40-man roster who will participate in the World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic kicks off Friday. Seven players expected to be on the Giants’ opening day 25-man roster will take part in the WBC: pitchers Ryan Vogelsong and Jeremy Affeldt (USA), 2B Marco Scutaro and 3B Pablo Sandoval (Venezuela), OF Angel Pagan (Puerto Rico), pitcher Sergio Romo (Mexico) and P Santiago Casilla (Dominican Republic). Even hitting coach Hensley Meulens will coach for The Netherlands.

When spring training opened, it was thought 10 Giants would play in the WBC. But then pitcher Javier Lopez (Puerto Rico) withdrew from the event. Earlier this week, OF Andres Torres (Puerto Rico) learned he would be sidelined at least a week with an oblique strain and withdrew.

The most troubling injury-related WBC withdrawal was that of pitcher Jose Mijares. Mijares has an impingement in his pitching elbow, and the Giants won’t know more until the results of an MRI are back.

The Giants’ commitment to the WBC could have been bigger had outfielder Gregor Blanco not turned down pleas from Venezuela to play.

“Marco (Scutaro) was saying ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!” Blanco told the San Jose Mercury. “But I wanted to stay here with the Giants. Bad things happened the last I played (in the WBC).”

Blanco left Braves camp to play for Venezuela in 2009. When he got back, he had lost his job to a rookie.

While sending seven big-league players to the WBC is more than most teams, it is important to remember that not every player who will leave camp will be gone until the WBC ends on March 19.

With the Dominican, Venezuela and Puerto Rico playing in the same first-round pool, the Giants are guaranteed to get at least one player back in camp after pool play ends on March 10. The top two teams in each pool advance to the second round.

While having so many Giants in the WBC will increase interest among Giants fans, it will also provide the Giants the chance to get a good, long look at players trying to make the club.

The Giants have two spots open on the bench for an infielder and an outfielder, or two infielders if the Giants feel comfortable with Brandon Belt playing in the outfield from time to time.

With Scutaro and Sandoval gone, there will be more playing time for Kensuke Tanaka, Nick Noonan, Brock Bond, Wilson Valdez and Tony Abreu. The Giants may even give Brett Pill a look at third base this spring.

Pagan’s absence will give more opportunities for Cole Gillespie, Francisco Peguero, Roger Kieschnick and Pill in the outfield.

The Giants brought in a boat load of pitchers in camp to cover WBC absences. The Giants have two open spots in their bullpen, one if George Kontos makes the club after a solid 2012 campaign. There will be a lot of competition for that last spot. One pitcher who has impressed early this spring is Dan Runzler, who has sported a lively fastball and sharp breaking ball. If Mijares’ injury sidelines for a while, Runzler becomes a prime candidate to make the club.

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