Brandon Belt’s contract extension offers insight into Giants’ future

NLCS Giants Cardinals Baseball

San Francisco Giants’ Brandon Belt hits a sacrifice fly during the third inning in Game 1 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Do you like the look of the 2016 San Francisco Giants? Hopefully you do because they are going to be together for a while.

The San Francisco Giants and first baseman Brandon Belt have come to terms on a contract extension for six years, $79 million.

The deal locks in seven of their eight starting position players through the 2018 season. Consider:

  • 1B Brandon Belt (signed through 2021)
  • 2B Joe Panik (team control through 2020)
  • SS Brandon Crawford (signed through 2021)
  • 3B Matt Duffy (team control though 2020)
  • C Buster Posey (signed through 2021)
  • LF Angel Pagan (signed through 2016)
  • CF Denard Span (signed through 2018; team option 2019)
  • RF Hunter Pence (signed through 2018)

On the good side, it means consistency over the next couple of years. The down side is, there’s a logjam for players coming up through the system.

Here are positions players listed among the Giants’ top 30 prospects, according to MLB.com, and where they are opening the 2016 season.

  • SS Christian Arroyo (AA)
  • SS Lucius Fox (low-A)
  • 1B Chris Shaw (high-A)
  • OF Mac Williamson (AAA)
  • C Aramis Garcia (high-A)
  • SS Jalen Miller (low-A)
  • OF Jarrett Parker (AAA)
  • OF/IF Hunter Cole (AA)
  • 2B Austin Slater (AA)
  • OF Ronnie Jebavy (high-A)
  • OF Dylan Davis (low-A)

And this list doesn’t include players no longer considered prospects like IF Kelby Tomlinson and C Andrew Susac.

It’s great to have depth in the system, and it also allows that none of the Giants’ current prospects will be rushed to the majors.

It also means you likely won’t be seeing many of the above listed players in San Francisco black and orange any time soon, except for perhaps the outfielders like Williamson or Parker.

The Giants made a major offseason commitment with free agents. They are committing a fair amount to their own products.

Belt’s signing means the Giants aren’t likely to make a big splash in free agency in the near future.

Pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Cain are under contract through 2017 (Cueto has an opt-out; Cain has a team option the team is likely not to exercise). Jake Peavy will be a free agent, and the Giants are hopeful that some within the system can fill that void like Chris Heston, Clayton Blackburn or Chris Stratton.

In the bullpen, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are potential free agents after 2016. But the rest of the bullpen is under team control through 2019, and the Giants have a ton potential bullpen candidates in the system.

Great home opener for Giants capped by epic call from Jon Miller

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)

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)

Jon Miller is a Hall of Fame announcer, and he proved it Thursday during the Giants’ home opener against the Dodgers with a Hall of Fame save.

The Giants were leading 8-6 in the bottom of the eighth and had the bases loaded. Hunter Pence came to the plate against the Dodgers’ Pedro Baez.

On a 1-0 pitcher, Pence sent the ball sailing over the left-center field fence for a grand slam and a 12-6 lead.

This is Jon Miller’s epic call.

If you didn’t want to listen, it went something like this:

“Swing and there’s a high drive, deep left-center field.

It’s on its way.

Adios Pelota!

A grand slam for Buster Posey …. ‘s good friend, Hunter Pence.”

Whoops. Posey had just struck out ahead of Pence.

Anyway, the blast capped a five-run eighth inning – the second five-run eighth inning for the Giants in this new season – as the Giants rallied from a 4-0 deficit to beat the Dodgers 12-6.

If you want to watch, Pence’s blast with Duane Kuiper’s call, it’s here.

Notes

BUNTING ON OPENING DAY: The Giants used three of their four bench players as pinch-hitters Thursday. And the first two bunted. Kelby Tomlinson bunted for a single in the fifth inning, and Ehire Adrianza sacrificed two runners over in the sixth, setting up Angel Pagan’s go-ahead two-run single.

THIN BENCH: The use of Adrianza in the sixth was interesting because if left manager Bruce Bochy with no available reserve infielders. Had Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford or Matt Duffy been hurt or ejected in the last three innings, Gregor Blanco would have had to play the infield. Or, I suppose, they could have moved Buster Posey around the infield. He did play all eight positions in a college game at Florida State.

OUT HELPS GIANTS: While there were a lot of key at-bats that produced hits, one overlooked at-bat the produced an out for the Giants also proved pivotal. In the fifth after the Giants had scored three runs off Dodgers’ starter Alex Wood and had runners on first and third, Brandon Belt grounded to second to end the inning. That allowed Wood to stay in the game. He likely would have come out if Belt had reached. Wood then batted in the top of the sixth, a 1-2-3 inning by Chris Heston. He came out to pitch the sixth, gave up singles to Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford before getting the hook. Those hits sparked a four-run inning that gave the Giants a 7-3 lead.

IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The death of the neighborhood play proved costly for the Giants in the second inning. An apparent inning-ending double play was wiped out when a replay review confirmed that Joe Panik’s foot came off the bag before receiving the throw from Crawford, resulting in a run scored by the Dodgers. While many Giants fans voiced their frustration, that is the rule now. But here’s another way of looking at it. If Brandon Belt’s foot came off the bag while receiving a throw, and replay confirmed that, no one would have made a peep. This play at second is exactly the same thing.

FRIDAY: Matt Cain makes his first start of the season when he faces Dodgers rookie Ross Stripling, who will be making his big-league debut. Stripling has never pitched above Double-A, going 3-6 with 3.88 ERA for Double-A Tulsa in 2015. Game time is 7:15 p.m.

Dear John Gibbons: Shut up and learn the rule

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista (19) interferes with Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe as he looks to turn a double play on a ball hit by Edwin Encarnacion, that ended the baseball game after review, in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. The Rays won 3-2. (Will Vragovic/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista (19) interferes with Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe as he looks to turn a double play on a ball hit by Edwin Encarnacion, that ended the baseball game after review, in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. The Rays won 3-2. (Will Vragovic/The Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Did you see the ending of Tuesday’s Blue Jays-Rays game?

Have you read the rule about runners impeding fielders on plays at second?

Anyone who thinks the Blue Jays got hosed on the final call that cost the Jays the go-ahead run when Jose Bautista was called for interference hasn’t done both.

And that must include Toronto manager John Gibbons.

“Maybe we’ll come out wearing dresses tomorrow,” Gibbons said. “Maybe that’s what everybody’s looking for.”

Gibbons then backpedalled from those remarks Wednesday, saying he was just trying to inject some levity into a tense situation.

“I cannot understand how it would offend anybody, to be honest with you,” Gibbons said before the game with the Rays. “It doesn’t offend my mother, my daughter, my wife, who have a great understanding of life. I do think the world needs to lighten up a little bit.”

The implication of the remark is that women wear dresses so therefore women can’t play the game the way it’s played in MLB. Anyone woman or girl who has played the game would – and should – take offense with that remark.

If Gibbons wanted to make his point, he could have said something like “maybe we should put players in bubble wrap.”

Let us please get the dresses remarks or powerpuff remarks out this. It is 2016, and they are outdated, like John Gibbons.

Oh, and one more thing John Gibbons: Instead of bellyaching and coming up with outdated lines of levity, how about LEARNING THE RULE.

The rule is in place. You may not agree with it. But it’s there. It is not going to change anytime soon. So learn the rule. Teach the rule.

That’s what Ned Yost has done in Kansas City.

“From Day One of spring training, we have been talking to our team about that very situation, how it can cost you a game,” Yost said on MLB Network’s High Heat. “And how important it is with this new rule to slide directly into second base, and don’t try to go to the left, don’t try to go to the right.”

Huh. Maybe that’s why Ned Yost has a World Series ring, and John Gibbons has dress jokes.

Major League Baseball is going to enforce the rule to the letter of the law in the opening weeks of the season. Why? So they can teach the players the rule.

That’s how it worked with the home plate collision rule a couple of years back. Early in the season, there were runners who were ruled to be safe, even though they probably should have been out, because the catcher was ruled to be blocking the plate. Later in the season, the interpretation of the rule was loosened up, as players on both sides of the play adjusted to the new rule.

The same thing will happen here.

The Jays learned the lesson the hard way. It would have been much easier if Gibbons spent time teaching that lesson during six weeks of spring training instead of being a 1970s stand-up comedian.

Welcome to the San Francisco Giants, Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto

San Fransisco Giants’ Johnny Cueto pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Johnny Cueto, who signed a six-year, $130 million contract in the offseason, made a solid debut for the Giants, holding the Brewers to one run on six hits, no walks — we’ll say that again NO WALKS — and four strikeouts over seven innings as the Giants beat the Brewers 2-1 on Tuesday.

Cueto said he felt no pressure going into his Giants debut.

“No, no, why should I feel any type of pressure? That’s just another game,” he said.

Cueto got into a bit of trouble in the second inning after the Brewers puts runners on the corners with no outs. Cueto got Ramon Flores to hit into a double play, allowing Jonathan Lucroy to score. But that was it as Cueto kept the Brewers hitters off-balance.

“He just has great savvy, stuff, everything,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s enjoyable to watch.”

Cueto said it was a great start to his Giants career.

“I felt very comfortable since Day 1. I’m going to be here for a long time based on the contract that I signed,” Cueto said. “It’s good that I had a good outing, especially the first one.”

Wait?!? A long time?? Doesn’t Cueto’s contract have an opt-out clause after 2017??

Hmmmmm.

Cueto’s win was the first by a Dominican Giants pitcher since Sergio Valdez did it 21 years ago.

It was also a far better debut than the Giants’ last big free-agent pitcher they signed: Barry Zito.

After signing a seven-year, $126 million deal in 2007, Zito gave up two runs in five innings in a 7-0 loss to the Padres. It didn’t get much better after that.

Cueto also had a fun exchange with the Brewers’ Ryan Braun.

In the third inning, Cueto struck out Braun on a 3-2 changeup. Afterwards, Braun smiled at Cueto and said “Good pitch.”

When Cueto started Braun out with the same changeup in the sixth, Braun smacked it into left-center for a double. Cueto smiled back at Braun.

Watch the exchange here:

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=574650783&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

THE OFFENSE: The Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson did well to keep Giants hitters off-balance. After scoring 12 on Opening Day, the Giants managed just two on Tuesday. Brandon Crawford belted a solo home run in the second, and Matt Duffy added an RBI groundout in the third.

THE BULLPEN: After Cueto left after the seventh inning, Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla went six up and six down in the eighth and ninth innings.

THE DEFENSE: Right fielder Hunter Pence couldn’t catch a liner by Chris Carter in the second. But by keeping the ball for going to the wall, he was able to hold Carter to a single. That proved to be a key play when Carter was a erased on a double play that scored Lucroy.

The Brewers got Jonathan Villar to third in the bottom of the third. But Villar was erased at home trying to score on a grounder by Domingo Santana. Crawford, playing in, fielded the grounder but threw home on the wrong side of the plate. Buster Posey caught the ball and placed a perfect sweep tag on Villar for the out.

“It was a great, great tag there by Buster,” Crawford said. “Obviously if that doesn’t happen, it’s the tying run and who knows, we might still be playing right now. So, that was definitely a little thing early in the game that ended up mattering in the outcome.”

WEDNESDAY: Jeff Samardzija makes his Giants debut. Instead of facing Matt Garza, who was placed on the DL with shoulder troubles, he will face Taylor Jungmann. Samardzija may have some different faces playing behind him as Bochy said he planned to rest some starters after the flu bug swept through the clubhouse and the Giants return to San Francisco for their home opener on Thursday. Wednesday’s first pitch at 10:40 a.m.

Chase Utley’s slide against Padres was not a dirty slide, but it was an illegal slide

utleyslide

Even though he’s supposed to be serving a two-game suspension, Chase Utley’s name popped up a couple of times on Opening Day.

The first occurrence came in the initial application of the “Chase Utley Rule.” In the Braves-Nationals game, the Braves’ Nick Markakis ran himself into a double play when he was ruled to have illegally contacted Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy with a take-out slide.

Markakis was on first when Hector Olivera hit a ground to third. Markakis was forced out at second, but his slide went wide of the bag at second base, taking out the legs of Murphy. A double play was ruled as Markakis was ruled for interference because, even though we was able to contact second base, he slid past the bag, making the slide illegal according to the new rule.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez stepped out of the dugout for a moment, but that was only to allow the Braves to take a look at the play. Once the Braves saw that Murphy was on the bag when he received the throw, Gonzalez returned to the dugout. No argument.

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves' Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Washington Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy, left, avoids Atlanta Braves’ Nick Markakis, right, while turning a double play on a ground ball hit by Hector Olivera in the seventh inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In the Dodgers-Padres game, Utley was trying to score from first on a double into the left-field corner. As Utley ran down the third-base line to home plate, he ran inside the baseline, then slide into home with his legs out wide toward Padres catcher Derek Norris as he reached back to the plate. Norris was able to catch the throw and tag Utley out.

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The reaction to the play ranged from “Utley with another dirty slide” or “Utley is human garbage” to “Oh, get over yourself. This was a good heads-up baseball play. Stop coddling baseball players.”

As is usually the case, these stances on both sides of the issue are wrong.

First, was this a dirty slide? No.

Utley was not trying to injure Norris or was the slide reckless enough to potentially injure Norris, like Utley’s slide in the playoffs last fall against the Mets’ Ruben Tejada.

Secondly, was this a good heads-up baseball play? No.

It was an illegal slide.

It’s an illegal slide in 2016. An illegal slide in 2014. An illegal slide 30 years ago … if you actually take time to read the rule book.

According to rule 7.08 (b), any runner is out when he intentionally interferes with a thrown ball or hinders a fielder attempting to make a play on a batted ball.

On this play, Utley tried to do both.

The problem with this rule comes with the interpretation. Umpires will say they can’t read minds and determine a player’s true intent. Because of that, players have been allowed a huge amount of latitude on plays like these, causing only the most egregious violations of the rule to be called. And that has led to the current quandary.

On this play, Utley’s intent is obvious. No runner coming home after rounding third base ever runs inside the baseline unless he is trying to avoid a tag at home.

But Utley wasn’t trying to avoid a tag as he ran directly toward Norris and his tag.

What Utley’s intent here was – and even those folks on Utley’s side of this argument agree with this – was to A) potentially block Norris’ line of sight to the ball coming in; B) hope to get into the ball’s flight path to Norris and possibly be hit by the thrown ball; C) if all that fails, try to disrupt Norris’ attempt to catch the ball and make the tag.

In these three scenarios, A is still OK. But B and C are illegal, and Utley’s attempt to cause these things to happen is obvious.

Fortunately for the Padres, Utley’s attempts went for naught and Norris caught the ball and applied the tag.

The ironic part of this play is that if Utley went directly into home plate, or even tried a sweep slide on the OTHER SIDE of the baseline, he may have stood a much better chance of being safe.

But this rule is not complicated. And umpires need to stop giving the runners the latitude, and start giving the benefit of the doubt to the fielder.

The job of the runner is to do one of two things: attempt to get the base as quickly as possible in order to beat the throw, OR attempt to avoid the tag. If runners are determined to do anything other than that, they are out.

Opening day is a blast for San Francisco Giants

Denard Span, Gregor Blanco, Gregor Blanco

San Francisco Giants’ Denard Span, right, is created by teammates Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford after hitting a three-run home run off Milwaukee Brewers’ Ariel Pena during the eighth inning of a baseball game Monday, April 4, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

As great as Opening Day, there’s only one thing that can make it greater.

When your team actually wins on Opening Day.

Well, Giants fans, you don’t have to worry about when the first win of 2016 will come. It arrived in a big way Monday as the Giants hit four home runs, including back-to-back-to-back shots by Denard Span, Joe Panik and Buster Posey in the eighth inning as the Giants rolled to a 12-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Life is good. The Giants are 1-0.

We can set aside any concerns … like how Madison Bumgarner’s springs struggles continued.

Bumgarner walked in a run in the first inning and allowed leadoff home runs in the second and third inning. Despite battling flu-like systems, Bumgarner gutted out five innings, allowing three runs and walking a career-high five. He also fanned six, including the last three batters he faced.

“I think, without question, the flu bug caught up to him,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I was worried about him. It was obvious that it was tough sledding. He’s not going to say anything and still won’t, but he found a way to get through it. He gave us five.”

The Giants didn’t need Bumgarner to be his best on Monday because the hitters came to hit.

After the Brewers took 1-0 after one inning, the Giants scored in every inning from second to fifth, bookended by Matt Duffy’s two-single in the second and two-run homer in the sixth.

“It’s just that — potential,” Duffy said. “But we understand that we can hit, top to bottom.”

That became evident in the eighth when the Giants broken the game open with five runs, including consecutive home runs by Span, Panik and Posey, the first back-to-back-to-back shots by the Giants since Barry Bonds, Ray Durham and Pedro Feliz on July 20, 2006. It was also the first time a team went back-to-back-to-back on Opening Day since the 1997 San Diego Padres, also managed by Bruce Bochy.

Other notes

  • Monday marked the first time in major league history both teams batted the pitcher in the eighth spot on Opening Day. Bumgarner walked and scored a run in three plate appearances.
  • Span became the first Giants to have five RBI in his debut since RBI became an official stat in 1920. He became the first Giants to drive in five runs on Opening Day since Barry Bonds in 2002.
  • The 12 runs were the most the Giants have scored on Opening Day since scoring 13 in a 16-13 loss to the Padres in 1983.
  • Johnny Cueto makes his Giants debut on Tuesday when he faces the Brewers’ Jimmy Nelson at 5:10 p.m.

 

Our advanced analytics team projects how the San Francisco Giants will fare in 2016

paragdThe 2016 baseball season is opening.

And that means it’s prediction time. Everyone is making his or her picks to win the World Series.

The Cubs.

The Astros.

The Mets.

The Royals.

The Dodgers (gimme a break).

And this is also the time of year when MoreSplashHits makes its prediction on how many games the Giants will win in 2016.

But instead of just going with our gut, this year MoreSplashHits turned it over to its advanced analytics team (advanced analytics being all the rage right now).

Our advanced analytics have been crunching the numbers, looking at trends to project how the Giants will do this season.

And here is the result.

neGchart

The advanced analytics team says ….

The Giants will win between 88 and 94 games.

The Giants will make the postseason.

The Giants will win the World Series.

See you all on Market Street this fall.

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San Francisco Giants’ 2016 opening day roster all but set

San Francisco Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (37) hits during a spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

San Francisco Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (37) hits during a spring training baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Sunday, March 27, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Well, we talk about when camp open that the Giants’ roster battles like would lack drama this spring.

And that’s a good thing.

It means that there weren’t any big injuries that would prompt some drama.

The Giants made moves on Sunday as they head into the final week of spring training that pretty much locked their opening day 25-man roster.

Because the Giants open the season with 23 games in the first 24 days – a very good thing for us fans, but not so great for the players – the Giants decided to keep 13 pitchers.

We thought that the acquisition of strong arms like Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto might preclude the Giants from opening the season with a short bench. But the schedule changed their thinking.

There really aren’t many chances that the weather could help with their busy early schedule – perhaps a three-game set in Colorado in the middle of the month.

So Cory Gearrin makes the club to reinforce the bullpen. It also keeps the Giants from a tough decision, as Gearrin was out of options. This will at least buy the Giants a couple of weeks to make a call on that.

It also means the Giants won’t carry a fifth outfielder. That means Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker will open the season in Sacramento.

Also heading to Fresno is Conor Gillaspie, despite having a very good spring. But Gillaspie is a corner infielder (3B-1B) and other options – Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson – provide more flexibility. Plus Gillaspie would need to be added to the 40-man roster, which is currently full. Tomlinson’s strong push late in the spring made that decision easier for the Giants.

That leaves one decision that really isn’t a decision at all. And that decision involves a backup catcher: Trevor Brown or Andrew Susac. Susac hasn’t played in a week because of his surgically repaired wrist, while Brown picked up the Barney Nugent Award as being the most impressive player in his first big league camp.

So barring any developments in the final week, here is your 2016 Opening Day roster.

Starting lineup: 1B Brandon Belt, 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Matt Duffy, C Buster Posey, LF Angel Pagan, CF Denard Span, RF Hunter Pence.

Bench: OF Gregor Blanco, IF Ehire Andriaza, IF Kelby Tomlinson, C Trevor Brown.

Starting rotation: LH Madison Bumgarner, RH Jeff Samardzija, RH Johnny Cueto, RH Jake Peavy, RH Matt Cain.

Bullpen: RH Santiago Casilla, RH Sergio Romo, RH Hunter Stickland, RH George Kontos, RH Chris Heston, RH Cory Gearrin, LH Javier Lopez, LH Josh Osich.

At least we can say this about Johnny Cueto: He’s not a Dodger

http://m.giants.mlb.com/shared/video/embed/embed.html?content_id=554578783&topic_id=8878828&width=400&height=224&property=mlb

Giants fans tuned Monday night to watch Johnny Cueto pitch after he was hit hard in his first spring start.

In his second spring start, Cueto got hit hard ….  In the head.

Cueto’s first pitch Monday night was sent right back at him by Oakland’s Billy Burns. The liner hit Cueto in the forehead, rebounded over the second baseman’s glove into shallow right-center for a leadoff double.

Cueto dropped to all fours, then looked out to the outfield rubbing his forehead, as manager Bruce Bochy and the medical staff raced out to check on him.

“There’s nothing that scares me more than that, that line drive up the middle,” Bochy said. “First night game, first pitch of the game. I was up as soon as it touched him, and I’m hoping it was what it was, more of a glancing blow. Still, it caught him pretty good.”

Cueto quickly got on his feet and told trainers he was fine and wanted to continue.

When play resumed, Cueto appeared confused when he started after a dribbler between the mound and first base off the bat of the next hitter Mark Canha. But then he backed off thinking first baseman Brandon Belt would field the ball. The play went for an infield single.

Josh Reddick followed that with a long three-run home run.

Cueto got out of the rest of the inning with a strikeout and two infield grounders.

He allowed just an infield single in the second. In the third, he gave up a double and a walk, finishing with 38 pitches. After Reddick’s home run, Reddick’s double in the third was the only ball to leave the infield.

Bochy said Cueto will be monitored for concussions symptoms over the next few days, but was only treated for the contusion.

“He was fine out there,” Bochy said. “He answered all the questions. He wanted to stay out there. … Guess it shows how tough he is, in a Spring Training game.”

More Splash Hits emerges from baseball hibernation

hibernatioMoreSplashHits is alive!!!

After a long, cold, quiet winter, we’ve decided that it’s time to start blogging baseball again.

And with Opening Day still three weeks away, there is plenty of time to get back into regular-season form.

So let’s start first by getting caught up.

The Giants had a busy offseason with three major free-agent signings: pitcher Jeff Samardzija, pitcher Johnny Cueto and outfielder Denard Span.

Gone are pitchers Mike Leake, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson (retired), Jeremy Affeldt (retired), Yusmeiro Petit, outfielders Marlon Byrd and Alejandro de Aza and catcher Hector Sanchez, among others.

Despite all of that flux, the Giants came to spring training with much of its 2016 roster decisions already in place.

Starting lineup: 1B Brandon Belt, 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Matt Duffy, C Buster Posey, CF Denard Span, RF Hunter Pence, LF Angel Paga/Gregor Blanco.

Starting rotation: LH Madison Bumgarner, RH Jeff Samardzija, RH Johnny Cueto, RH Jake Peavy, RH Matt Cain.

Even the bullpen looks pretty firm with RH Santiago Casilla, RH Sergio Romo, LH Javier Lopez, RH George Kontos, LH Josh Osich, RH Hunter Strickland and RH Chris Heston.

One of the five bench spots is held down by the Pagan/Blanco platoon.

At least one other spot will go to the backup catcher: Andrew Susac, Trevor Brown or journeyman George Kottaras.

At least two other spots will go to reserve infielders. Ehire Adrianza and Kelby Tomlinson are the leading candidates to claim those jobs, but veteran Conor Gillaspie was brought in to compete for a spot.

That leaves the final bench spot potentially for a fifth outfielder. The Giants brought in veteran Kyle Blanks to provide some right-handed pop on the bench, something they were missing last season. Rookie Mac Williamson has been solid this spring, hitting .344 with four home runs and 11 RBI. Left-handed Jarrett Parker is another option.

But the Giants could decide to keep three catchers, allowing them to use Susac as the RH bench bat.

Those are things to be watching in the closing weeks of spring training.

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