The San Francisco Giants were hoping to escape Arizona without having to put anyone on the disabled list.
That hope ended Tuesday when Marco Scutaro revealed he would open the season on the DL after a trip to the doctor didn’t help resolved his lingering back issue.
Then on Wednesday, as the rest of the team headed north for the Bay Bridge Series, Jeremy Affeldt was placed on the DL with a strained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy said Affeldt felt discomfort in his knee last Saturday when he gave up four runs against the White Sox.
Bochy seemed frustrated by his left-handed reliever.
“He didn’t have his brace on,” Bochy said.
It’s the brace that Affeldt has been wearing — or supposed to be wearing — ever since hurting his knee way back in May 2012. You’ll recall that’s when Affeldt hurt his knee when his then-four-year-old son jumped into his arms after Affeldt arrived home from a game.
That leaves three pitchers to compete for two spots left in the bullpen, as Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff appear locks as long relievers.
Jean Machi is on the 40-man roster and is out of options, but he has struggled this spring. Non-roster invitees Derek Law and Juan Gutierrez have impressed this spring. But to put them on the opening day roster would require opening a spot on the 40-man roster.
The Giants have one spot open currently, but that is expected to be filled by another non-roster invitee, infielder Brandon Hicks. Hicks is expected to make the team as infield help with Scutaro opening the season on the shelf.
Three other pitchers — Dan Runzler, Heath Hembree and Erik Cordier — will make the trip north with the team this weekend, but Bochy does not view them as candidates to make the opening-day roster.
So the Giants head north, having avoided major injuries like the Tommy John surgeries facing the likes of the Braves’ Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy or the Diamondbacks’ Patrick Corbin. Even Clayton Kershaw had an MRI on his back and will miss his start Sunday.
So by comparison, the Giants are getting off light.
They hope to have Affeldt back by the middle of April. Scutaro’s return date is far less certain. Buster Posey sat out Wednesday with a tight hamstring, and Pablo Sandoval has a sore hand that will sideline him for some of this weekend’s games.
Otherwise, the Giants are marching ahead toward the 2014 season.
There’s a reason people think sports agents are weasels.
Pablo Sandoval’s agent, Gustavo Vazquez, spoke with the media on Sunday to discuss how far apart Sandoval’s camp is with the Giants concerning a contract extension for the 2012 World Series MVP.
And he sounded like an idiot.
Vazquez said Sandoval’s weight issues are a thing of the past and should not be a factor in contract negotiations.
That’s like a pitcher with chronic elbow problems over the past five years saying his elbow issues are in the past because he hasn’t had a flare up in six months.
Sandoval’s weight has been an issue since he first dawned a XXXL Giants uniform. And it’s gone up and down over the years, mostly up.
Finally, last summer, Sandoval found Jesus, so to speak. Or maybe Jenny Craig.
Starting last summer, he put himself on a diet. Then he spent the offseason getting in shape. And he looks good.
Could it be that someone finally got to him, saying that no team would give him a big contract when he became a free agent after the 2014 season if he didn’t get his weight under control?
Well, we’ve seen this act before. What assurances do we have that once Sandoval’s motivation is taken away in the form of a long, lucrative contract that he won’t return to his chubby ways?
“The weight issues he had before, you’ll never see that again,” Vasquez said. “He will have his trainer with him until he retires.”
Oh, OK. So if the Giants offer Sandoval a five-year contract that includes a clause which would allow the Giants to void the contract if Sandoval’s weight climbs above a certain point, Vazquez would agree to that?
Sure, he would.
Vazquez would have been better off to say that Sandoval is committed to this lifestyle change, the result of which will be a monster season in 2014, just as he heads out to free agency.
Instead, he throws out the ludicrous remark that the Panda’s weight is a non-issue.
It really makes you question anything that comes out of Vazquez’s mouth.
Sandoval’s camp wants the discussion to start in the area of the five-year, $90 million deal the Giants gave to Hunter Pence at the end of the 2013 season.
The Giants countered with a three-year deal worth $40 million. Of course, that’s according to Vazquez.
When I first heard that deal, it didn’t make any sense to me. When you make an offer to a player entering his free agent season, generally the offer needs to be something that knocks off the player’s socks.
Three years at $13.3 million per doesn’t do the trick.
Sandoval is practically guaranteed almost $15 million for the 2015 season. That’s where the qualifying offer likely will be approaching next offseason. As long as Sandoval doesn’t have some big injury this season, the Giants will certainly offer him the qualifying deal.
So I wonder if Vazquez is telling the truth or not.
Perhaps the three-year, $40 million deal is a base deal with a lot of incentive clauses or possibly option years added on, with escalating salaries that kick in if benchmarks are reached.
Here’s one clue that Vazquez wasn’t telling the whole story.
Vazquez said he doubts a deal will be done by opening day saying “I don’t think in 24 hours they’ll jump from three years to five or six.”
No mention of money. Just years. No mention that the Giants “offer” is for $13.3 million per season and the Sandoval camp is looking for a deal in the neighborhood of $18 million a year.
It does make sense that the Giants would offer a shorter deal. It also makes sense for Sandoval’s camp to wait for a five-year deal.
The free agent class of 2015 is pretty lean.
So what happens next? If the two sides don’t agree to a deal by opening day, will they continue to talk during the season. Vazquez didn’t say.
But he did say “I know for sure that after the All-Star break, if nothing happens, then it’s on to free agency.”
In other words, no deal at the end of the season, like the one Pence signed.
But, of course, can you believe anything Vazquez says?
Last Friday, there were 13 players fighting for the final five spots on the San Francisco Giants’ opening day roster.
Now, there are nine.
- RHP Kameron Loe was given his release on Saturday.
- IF Tony Abreu was placed on release Waivers on Sunday.
- RHP Georgoe Kontos was optioned to Triple-A Fresno.
- LHP Dan Runzler was reassigned to minor league camp.
That leaves four position players competing for two roster spots: IF Ehire Adrianza, IF Brandon Hicks, OF Juan Perez and OF Tyler Colvin.
With Abreu’s release, it seems almost certain that Adrianza will make the club. Hicks will be on the opening day roster if 2B Marco Scutaro opens the season on the DL (as expected).
That leaves Perez and Colvin to compete for the fifth outfielder job.
There are three major reasons why it appears Perez will win that spot.
- Spring production: Perez had hit .315 with a .403 OBP along with 2 HR and 6 RBI. Colvin has hit .160 with 1 HR and 5 RBI.
- Health: Colvin has battled a sore back all spring. He returned to the field last week largely because he knew if he didn’t, he’d have no chance of making the club.
- Roster: Perez is on the Giants’ 40-man roster. Colvin is not. If Scutaro opens the season on the DL, that means Hicks will need to be added to the 40-man roster, and someone will need to be cut to create room. The Giants won’t be keen on having to make more room for Colvin.
The Giants have until Sunday to make a final decision on Colvin, and chances are they’ll take all that time as protection against any injuries that might pop up in the final week of spring training. With some luck, Colvin may just accept a minor-league assignment to Fresno to get healthy and find his swing.,
In the bullpen, it looks as if the last three spots will go to RHP Yusmeiro Petit, LHP David Huff and RHP Jean Machi.
Rookie RH Derek Law and LH J.C. Gutierrez, a non-roster invitee, remain in camp but don’t figure to be the big league cup. Don’t be surprised if roster moves involving Law and Gutierrez come before the Giants break camp on Wednesday.
And then there were 32 … players left in the San Francisco Giants’ camp.
Pitcher Kameron Loe requested — and was granted — his release by the Giants on Saturday.
Loe signed with the Giants after a solid performance in winter league. Despite his 2-0 record and 3.38 spring ERA, it became evident that Loe was not going to dislodge Yusmeiro Petit and David Huff in the battle for the long-relief job in the Giants’ bullpen.
As part of his deal, Loe could opt-out of his contract to seek opportunities elsewhere by Monday. He decided to get started on that pursuit early.
MoreSplashHits always liked Loe. Maybe it was because he was born in our hometown of Simi Valley, Calif.
Or maybe it was because he hails from the same alma mater, Cal State Northridge. Go Matadors!
Or maybe it was because Loe provided one of the more memorable, if not more disturbing, images of the spring, when the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Loe switched uniforms for the day with the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Tim Lincecum.
So as Loe looks for greener pastures, we leave you with one of the best tweets of the spring.
Best of luck Kam.
The Giants made what can be considered the penultimate round of roster cuts on Friday, sending down seven players to the minors.
Sent down were RHP Heath Hembree, RHP Erik Cordier, RHP Jake Dunning, RHP Brett Bochy, RHP Adam Reifer, C Guillermo Quiroz and 1B Mark Minicozzi.
The only surprising player among that group was Hembree, who was thought to be among the favorites to make the big-league club.
But the Giants felt he needed to work more on his off-speed pitches, and that he could do that with a more consistent workload at Fresno than spotting appearances in middle relief with the big club.
It leaves 33 players in camp battling for 25 roster spots.
Twenty of the 25 roster spots are more or less locked in, leaving 13 players in camp for the final five spots.
Five of the remaining players are position players for two open bench spots
- OF Juan Perez
- OF Tyler Colvin
- IF Tony Abreu
- IF Ehire Adrianza
- IF Brandon Hicks
Perez and Hicks, while having solid springs, can be sent to Fresno. The other three players would need to first pass through waivers or would be able to opt-out of their contracts (Colvin) if they don’t make the big-league club.
If Scutaro opens the season on the DL (which is looking more and more like a possibility after he received a cortisone shot in his troublesome back Thursday), it would create three open roster spots.
In the bullpen, there eight candidates left for three open jobs.
- RH Yusmeiro Petit
- LH David Huff
- RH Kameron Loe
- RH J.C. Gutierrez
- RH George Kontos
- RH Jean Machi
- RH Derek Law
- LH Dan Runzler
Petit and Huff were thought to battling for the role of long reliever, along with Loe. Petit seemed to get an edge Friday with solid outing against the A’s. But as Petit and Huff are out of options, the Giants could decide to keep both.
If they did that, Machi would seem to be the frontrunner to secure the final roster spot. Gutierrez and Law appear to be the long shots.
“This is the best group of young pitchers I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “We have some tough decisions to make here. We’ve got a little over a week to finalize these spots and it’s been competitive. It’s going to go down to the last couple games.”
Sometimes, these final decisions don’t come down to who had the best spring. It comes down to the safest play.
The safe play is to keep players who are out of options. That way if they struggle or get hurt, you could always recall the players you sent to the minors.
You make the other decision, then those players out of options likely won’t be around to call on.
With that in mind, here is what MoreSplashHits is projecting how the opening roster will look like:
- C Buster Posey
- 1B Brandon Belt
- 2B Joaquin Arias
- SS Brandon Crawford
- 3B Pablo Sandoval
- LF Michael Morse
- CF Angel Pagan
- RF Hunter Pence
- C Hector Sanchez
- IF Tony Abreu
- IF Ehire Adrianza
- OF Gregor Blaco
- OF Tyler Colvin
- LH Madison Bumgarner
- RH Matt Cain
- RH Tim Lincecum
- RH Tim Hudson
- RH Ryan Vogelson
- RH Sergio Romo
- RH Santiago Casilla
- LH Jeremy Affeldt
- LH Javier Lopez
- RH Jean Machi
- RH Yusmeiro Petit
- LH David Huff
- 2B Marco Scutaro
It’s been seven years since Barry Bonds wore a San Francisco Giants uniform as a player.
It’s been so long, it took me a while to remember if Bonds ever played for manager Bruce Bochy. He did for one season in 2007.
There are only three players on the current roster who were teammates of Bonds — Tim Lincecum (2007), Ryan Vogelsong (who played in four games with Giants in 2000) and Matt Cain (2005-07).
For Cain, the arrival of Bonds to camp, and the accompanying media throng, brought a familiar feel.
“It just became a zoo like normal,” Cain said. “Same as before. If you want to get some TV time, go near him.”
It’s a scene that was long overdue in Giants camp. The team has a long history of bringing back veteran stars to share knowledge with their current players in the spring.
Bochy said the timing was just right for this. And Bonds is just one of several former players to make appearances in Scottsdale this spring.
“Jeff Kent just left (coincidence?),” Bochy said. “J.T. Snow is here, Rich Aurilia is here, Randy Winn is here. Will Clark is coming in later.”
Bonds is in Giants camp for seven days. He intimated that he’d like it be longer, that perhaps this visit could grow into something more.
“But I’m just here for seven days,” Bonds then cautioned. “I don’t even know if I’m good at this.”
Bonds has had some experience with tutoring hitters like Ryan Howard, and this past offseason, Dexter Fowler.
With his legal issues behind him, Bonds has his focus on the future, deflecting most of the media’s queries about his playing days and PED connections.
“I’m not the focal point anymore,” he said. “I’m here for the team.”
Bonds said he recently moved back to the Bay Area from Southern California “because it’s my home, and I love it and I belong (there).”
When asked if he thinks he’s worthy for election in the the Hall of Fame, Bonds answered: “Without a doubt.”
But he wouldn’t offer reasons to the media on why they should elect him to the Hall. “You guys are all adults. I have no advice for you.”
Bonds was a more warm and fuzzy version on Monday than the grumpy, cocky person he was in his playing days. The constant questions and criticism he faced late in his career amplified that personality in him.
“I was a different character when I playing,” Bonds said. “I needed to be that guy to play. But it’s not who I am now. … I’m the same person, just a different character. I can still be crazy, but I’ve toned it down.”
Then he directed a comment to the media.
“The only regret I have is that I wish we all had a better relationship,” he added.
As far as how he can help the Giants, he said these next seven days will reveal that.
“The one thing I know I can do is I can help you do a little better than you are doing now,” he said. “But I don’t know how much I can help. That’s what I’m here to find out.”
Tim Lincecum kept the impressive spring going by the Giants starting rotation.
Lincecum tossed three scoreless in a 5-0 win Friday against the Royals. Combined with Tim Hudson’s three scoreless innings on Thursday in a 3-2 win over the Angels, it gives the Giants’ rotation a 0.39 ERA for the spring (23 IP, 1 ER, 13 hits).
Lincecum gave up two hits with no walks or strikeouts (he did hit one batter). He fastball clocked at 89-91 mph.
“I’m not really too worried about trying to get it up or where it is at,” Lincecum said. “It’s all about placement. I know if I set my sights low in the zone I’ll be better off.”
It’s all part of Lincecum learning to become more of a finesse pitcher. He was efficient on Friday, throwing 35 pitches, 26 for strikes.
As Lincecum put it, he’s pitching for more “crappy contact” and worrying less about strikeouts.
“I just wanted to pound the zone a little bit more than I did,” Lincecum said. “My last game I had a batter where I threw four straight balls and I was really trying not to let that happen and attack the zone. Even if I was behind to hitters, come back and make really good pitches. That’s where my mindset was at.”
Here’s how Lincecum’s outing went Friday:
- Norichika Aoki doubles down left-field line
- Lorenzo Cain pops to first
- With Alex Gordon batting, Aoki caught stealing third
- Gordon singles to center
- Billy Butler flies to right
- Danny Valencia flies to right
- Justin Maxwell flies to center
- Brett Hayes hit by pitch
- Alcides Escobar grounds to third
- Christian Colon grounds to short
- Aoki groundsto short
- Cain pops to second
Looks like lots of crappy contact there.
Lincecum has now allowed three hits and one walk in five scoreless innings this spring. For a guy with a career spring ERA of 5.51 (10.57 last spring), that’s worth noting.
To ready more on the Freak’s approach this spring, read Andrew Baggarly’s post here.
Major League Baseball and the players association agreed to implement a provisional rule that would limit home plate collisions.
It can’t be called a home plate collision ban, thanks to a compromised made by both sides.
MLB wanted to make the rule simple: Runners would be required to slide into home plate; catchers would not be allowed to impede the runner in any way.
But the players association contended that years of conditioning of big-league catchers could not be undone in one spring training (which MoreSplashHits believes is silly, but OK).
So MLB added the following provision to the rule:
“The catcher, without the ball in his possession, has no right to block the pathway of the runner attempting to score. The base line belongs to the runner and the catcher should be there only when he is fielding a ball or when he already has the ball in his hand.”
This provision would seem to indicate that catchers can still block the plate if they have the ball in hand. This has led some players to deduce that a rule intended on protecting the catcher is now putting the runner in danger.
And they have a point. Also, it created some gray area that is confusing to some.
“Yesterday, we were thoroughly confused, trying to figure out ways to do it,” the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy said. “There were so many issues as far as, ‘Will this be legal? Would that be legal?'”
Now if catchers are spending this spring trying to figure ways that they can still be allowed to block the plate, then there will be issues.
But if teams spend this spring instructing their catchers to position themselves in a way that will avoid most contact, then there will be few issues.
That’s what Giants fans have learned over the past couple of years.
Ever since Buster Posey had his 2011 season ended by a collision with the Marlins’ Scott Cousins — and even before that, Posey says — Giants catchers have been taught to position themselves to receive the ball out in front of home plate (i.e. between home plate and the mound). Then catch the ball and turn to tag out the runner with a sweep tag.
This technique is nothing new. Carlton Fisk decided early in his career that he would rather have a long and prosperous career than turn himself into a human baracade at the plate. So he used the sweep tag, which allowed him to make the Hall of Fame.
So Giants fans haven’t seen many home plate collisions in the past few years. And they haven’t missed them.
As someone who has covered high school baseball for a quarter century — home plate collisions are not allowed in prep baseball, or the college game for that matter — I can tell you that you don’t really miss them.
What you will notice is that any runner to can get to the plate before the ball arrives will be safe. Those that don’t will be out.
Just like every other base.
Will there still be collisions from time to time? Sure. Just like there are when pitchers and runners sometimes collide when a pitcher is covering first. Or when a wide throw carries first basemen into the path of oncoming runners.
But these plays will be left to the judgment of umpires to decide if the contact was incidental or intentional, and rule accordingly.
MoreSplashHits believes after the 2014 season, this experimental rule will become permanent, with the potential elimination of the aformentioned provision which allows catchers to block the plate if they have the ball.
And there will still be exciting plays at the plate, like this one from the 2012 World Series.
Matt Cain continued the stellar start to the spring by the quintet of pitchers who will make up the Giants’ starting rotation this season.
Cain gave up just one hit in three scoreless innings, walking none and striking out two in a 3-2 win over the Angels. It was Cain’s first spring training start as his previous start last Saturday was rained out, forcing him to throw a bullpen session indoors.
None of the Giants’ starting rotation pitchers have allowed a run this spring when starting spring training games. The only run allowed by a Giants rotation pitcher was by Ryan Vogelsong pitching in relief of Madison Bumgarner.
Yusmeiro Petit, who is fighting for a job as a long relief man, has made the other start this spring for the Giants.
Here are how the pitchers in the Giants starting rotation have fared this spring:
- Madison Bumgarner — 2 games, 1-0, 5 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 3 K 0.00 ERA
- Tim Lincecum — 1 G, 0-0, 2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
- Tim Hudson — 1 G, 0-0, 2 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
- Ryan Vogelsong 2 G, 1-0, 5 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 2 K, 1.80 ERA
Put that all together, and the Giants projected starting rotation has allowed one run on 11 hits, one walk and nine strikeouts in 17 innings of work (0.53 ERA).
As we always say in the spring “It’s just spring training.” But it’s a good sign to see the starters getting good results, especially Tim Lincecum who has a track record of ugly numbers in the spring.
Now, the Giants’ hitters haven’t been nearly as impressive this spring.
Wednesday’s win pushed the Giants’ spring record to 4-3. But the Giants have scored more than three runs in a game in their last three outings.
- Pablo Sandoval had a pair of RBI singles in three at-bats.
- Mike Morse drove in the other Giant run with a double, and he had a walk.
- Minor league 1B Mark Minicozzi went 2 for 4.
- Heath Hembree pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with one strikeout to earn the save.
Tim Hudson takes the mound as the Giants host the Reds at 12:05 p.m.
OK, it’s March 4. So it’s time we start blogging about the Giants.
MoreSplashHits has emerged from its winter hibernation to check in on what’s going on with the Giants down in Scottsdale
On Tuesday, Giants starting pitching continued its strong spring with solid outings against the Rockies by Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.
Bumgarner, slated to be the Giants’ opening day starter, gave up just two hits in three shutout innings of work. He struck out. This was MadBum’s second spring start and he has yet to allow a run.
“My command was better,” Bumgarner said. “The pitches I made from the stretch felt better than they did last time. There still were balls that I left up, but nothing on a regular basis.”
Ryan Vogelsong, the No. 5 starter, gave up one run on three hits in three innings of work. He has a spring ERA of 1.80.
Another point of interest for both starters and relievers is throwing strikes. Bases on balls were a big problem for Giants pitchers in 2013.
On Tuesday, five Giants pitchers allowed just one walk, that coming from Edwin Escobar. George Kontos and Jake Dunning also pitched Tuesday.
- Brandon Belt, who has been battling a stiff neck, returned to the lineup and went 2 for 3 with a double.
- Tyler Colvin, looking to make the team as a utility reserve, went 1 for 2 with an RBI double.
- Former top prospect Gary Brown had an RBI single.
Matt Cain takes the hill for the first time in exhibition play when the Giants face the Angels at 12:05 p.m. Cain’s previous start was rained out, so he threw a bullpen session indoors.