After crushing Giants for two years, Hector Sanchez returns


After crushing Giants for two years, Hector Sanchez returns

SCOTTSDALE — As he passed through the clubhouse Tuesday morning, Bruce Bochy noticed Hector Sanchez sitting at his locker giving an interview. The two smiled while they talked about their reunion, but when Sanchez’s incredible success against the Giants came up, Bochy shook his head and made a sour face. He laughed as he muttered a few choice words. 

“Come on, you know you love me!” Sanchez yelled. 

This season, Bochy will love having Sanchez back on this side of an NL West matchup, regardless of whether he’s in Triple-A or the Majors. The 28-year-old catcher returned on a minor league deal after spending two years terrorizing his old teammates. Last season, Sanchez hit four homers in 30 at-bats against the Giants but just four against every other team combined. Over the last two seasons, he was 13-for-35 against the Giants, with five homers (he hit 10 total in five seasons with the Giants), 14 RBI and a 1.246 OPS. 

The blasts were meaningful, too. With the Padres trailing by two in the ninth inning on April 30, Sanchez hit a game-tying homer off Mark Melancon. The Padres would go on to win in the 11th inning. On July 15, Sanchez crushed a Steven Okert slider into the Western Metal Supply building at Petco Park for a two-run walk-off homer. Sanchez even took former Giants deep. He hit one off Sergio Romo in the ninth inning of a game against the Dodgers in June. 

So … why did Hector Sanchez enjoy crushing his former teammates so much?

“Everybody was asking me if it was something that I had against the Giants, but it wasn’t,” he said. “I was just trying to do my job. You guys know me. I’m just going up there trying to do my job. The one thing that helped was I did get the opportunity to play against the Giants a lot, and it’s nice doing well when you get to play against your brothers.”

Padres manager Andy Green certainly took advantage of the odd results. Sanchez’s five starts and 31 plate appearances against the Giants were his most against any team. Whatever the motivation was, it worked. Bobby Evans called in the offseason and Sanchez immediately told his agent he wanted to return to the team that made him Buster Posey’s primary backup from 2012 to 2014. There’s no room at the big league level, but Sanchez will likely team with Trevor Brown in Sacramento to give the organization two experienced options in the minors. 

“It was my dream to finish my career here,” Sanchez said. “My mindset when I first signed my contract was to be a Giant forever. It’s a great feeling to see these guys again.”

On his first day back, Sanchez said he had already taken some ribbing about the damage he did from the other dugout. 

“Everybody is talking to me about it and having fun with it,” he said. “I’ll try to do it against other teams now.”

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase


Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul


Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”