Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”

Veteran lefty Derek Holland 'in the mix' for a Giants' roster spot

Veteran lefty Derek Holland 'in the mix' for a Giants' roster spot

PEORIA, Ariz. — Derek Holland didn’t know much about the young Giants starters when he signed up to come to camp at Scottsdale Stadium. Because the White Sox faced the National League West last season, Holland had studied some film of hitters facing fellow lefty Ty Blach, but that was about it. 

He has spent a month getting to know the competition, and he likes what he’s seen. Most of all, he likes the fact that the competition is fierce but the team is close-knit. 

“There’s not one guy saying, ‘Hey, I hope you suck today,’” he joked. 

Holland hasn’t on his days. Because Johnny Cueto pitched at minor league camp in the morning, Holland started against the Mariners at night. He allowed just a solo homer in 3 1/3 innings, striking out four. In 11 innings this spring, Holland has allowed four runs and struck out 13. 

"You've got a pro out there that's showing good stuff, too," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's commanding the ball well. You saw him in traffic and he's got good poise out there. He knows what he's doing, so he's in the mix."

Holland, 31, has been a starter throughout his nine years in the big leagues, and he said that’s still his focus. He can opt out of his minor league deal on March 24, but he said he’s not thinking about that yet. He also made it clear he’s not yet thinking about being this club’s long reliever. 

“My number one goal is to be a starter, but at the same time you’ve got to take what you get,” he said. “I’d be be blessed with the opportunity to be part of this ballclub.”

While Holland has impressed, so too have Chris Stratton and Blach. They entered camp with a leg up on the others, and both have thrown well. The Giants also may not need a fifth starter for the first couple weeks of the season, so a bullpen spot is the most likely path for any newcomers. It wouldn’t be hard for the Giants to squeeze Holland into a bullpen that currently has just one lefty — Tony Watson — and appears to have two spots available. Even if they slide Stratton or Blach to the bullpen early, they still could keep Holland and one other pitcher, perhaps Josh Osich — who has thrown extremely well — or Rule 5 pick Julian Fernandez. 

Holland said he’ll worry about what he can control, and about what he shows. This is an audition for the Giants but also for other teams that may sniff around later this month. After tailing off in the second half last year, Holland came in with a simple spring plan. 

“My goal was to show everyone that I’m healthy,” Holland said. 

He certainly has. Holland sat 91-92 mph most of the night but hit 93 a few times. He flashed a good curveball, getting out of a third-inning jam with a particularly nasty one to Mike Zunino. 

“I’ve seen kind of every side of him. He was throwing 95-96 (early in his career) and then he was battling injuries for a while and the velocity was down,” longtime American Leaguer Evan Longoria said. “It’s good to see the velo back up now. I think he could be a big asset for us if he can do what he did today.”

Johnny Cueto, Mark Melancon get work in against minor leaguers


Johnny Cueto, Mark Melancon get work in against minor leaguers

SCOTTSDALE — Members of the front office flocked to the organization’s minor league facility on Wednesday, and not just because the first day of games allowed a long look at prospects like Heliot Ramos and Jacob Gonzalez. Johnny Cueto and Mark Melancon were there for the day, and you could argue that they’re the two pitchers on staff who are most in need of turning the page from 2017. 

Cueto threw 70 pitches before handing the ball off to Melancon and giving him a fist pound. The closer threw 20 against minor leaguers. You can’t take anything away from stat lines when an All-Star is facing kids who have just started shaving, but both pitchers appeared pleased with the way they threw. While Melancon continues to push past some lingering discomfort, Cueto said he has no worries about his forearm or the blisters that hounded him last season. 

“Thank God, I don’t have any problems right now,” he said. 

Cueto will make one more start down here before taking the ball in Sacramento when the Giants play an exhibition at their affiliate upon returning home. After that, it’s the Dodgers. He said he has plenty of time to get his pitch count up, despite missing the start of camp because of the flu. 

Cueto topped out at 88 mph on Wednesday, but that’s normal for him this time of year. At times he appeared to be playing a light game of catch with Aramis Garcia, focusing on tightening up his changeup and breaking ball. 

“It felt really good out there,” he said. 

Melancon was pitching for the third time this spring. He sat 90-91 mph. 

--- Over on Instagram (pavlovicNBCS) there are a lot of photos and videos from minor league camp, including videos of Ramos and Gonzalez, and a cameo by a certain former Giant who once walked off the Cardinals.