Giants

After Longoria trade, what's the plan for Pablo Sandoval?

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After Longoria trade, what's the plan for Pablo Sandoval?

SAN FRANCISCO — The second week of January is usually a good time to start looking at spring position battles and potential lineups, but that’s pretty hard to do while we struggle through the slowest offseason in recent MLB history. 

The Giants, for instance, still want to add two outfielders. A Billy Hamilton or Jay Bruce or Andrew McCutchen would change the lineup and dramatically alter the spring chances of young players like Austin Slater and Steven Duggar. 

We can still start to prepare for the Cactus League, though, so this is the start of a series answering your questions about the team, the offseason, specific roster issues and more. If you have a question, send it over on Twitter (@pavlovicnbcs) or Facebook (pavlovicnbcs). I’ll try to get to them all as we wait for teams to realize that they’re actually supposed to sign these gentlemen known as free agents … 

What is Pablo’s role going to be since we got Longoria? — @kelsmarie991

The Giants never intended for Pablo Sandoval to be an Opening Day starter, and the Longoria deal locked that into place. Sandoval will head to Scottsdale as a leading candidate to win a bench job, and — short of showing up terribly out of shape — it’s hard to see what he could do in the Cactus League to lose that job. At the Winter Meetings, Bobby Evans told me he expects Sandoval to have a Joaquin Arias-type of role, getting occasional starts at first and third but mostly pinch-hitting. 

Bruce Bochy likes the idea of having a powerful switch-hitter on his bench, and despite his poor overall numbers once he returned, Sandoval did hit a walk-off on the final day and also took Max Scherzer and Kenley Jansen deep. More than anything, he still possesses a trait that Bochy likes from his pinch-hitters: aggression. The coaching staff was very frustrated the past few seasons by young players who seemingly fell behind 0-2 every time they were sent up to pinch-hit. 

Sandoval showed just enough last season that the Giants believe there’s something there, and they’ll give him a chance to show he can be the first bat off the bench every night. 

How’s Will Smith’s recovery going? Is he still ahead of schedule? — @SFGLifer

Smith showed surprising velocity during games of catch in late September and there have been no setbacks since. Bochy believes he’ll be ready for Opening Day, and by the All-Star break the Giants expect the lefty to be fully cleared for multiple-inning outings and to pitch three days in a row. They’ll slow-play this at first because Smith is coming off Tommy John surgery, but they certainly are anxious to get him back near the back of the bullpen. When the Giants were scuffling in May, Bochy told me he thought losing Smith was the most underrated factor in the collapse. The previous year, Smith finished the regular season with 18 consecutive scoreless appearances.

Smith, a Jeremy Affeldt-type when right, is potentially Bochy's most valuable reliever. I’ve always believed that if he would have started the ninth inning of Game 4, the Giants would have won that series. 

I've been watching the trend of signing veteran starters to minors deals with invites to spring training. Do you think the Giants will follow this trend? If so, who do you think they would sign? — @coffee_needed_

Some names from the non-roster list have already trickled out, including Hector Sanchez, the former backup catcher who re-signed on a minor league deal. Alen Hanson, Chase d’Arnaud, Jose Valdez and Josh Rutledge have also signed minor league deals, according to various reports, but the full list won’t be out for a bit longer. I’m told the Giants are still finalizing some deals, and I would expect at least one veteran starter to be on the list. The front office would like to bring in a pitcher or two to compete with Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez. 

Suarez, by the way, is a name to become familiar with, and not just because you need to know the difference between Albert and Andrew. The young lefty has a lot of fans in the front office, and he's a dark horse to take that No. 5 spot. 

Which Giants player is the best chef? — @TucsonFan4

Brandon Belt will probably tell you it’s Brandon Belt, because that’s the way these things go. I have no idea what the actual answer is, since every meal I've ever seen a player eat has been made for him by the clubhouse staff. (I can tell you that a certain recently-retired center fielder/leadoff hitter would get very upset if his toast was not sufficiently crispy.) 

The best chef on the field, though, is certainly BP pitcher/replay assistant Chad Chop. He has taken on just about every role imaginable for the Giants, and a couple of springs ago that included cooking Paleo meals for Hunter Pence. 

 

Giants fall short in Anaheim thanks to big Angels bats

Giants fall short in Anaheim thanks to big Angels bats

ANAHEIM -- Albert Pujols drove a go-ahead, two-run home run into the seats in right-center for career hit No. 2,992, and Mike Trout and Jefry Marte also went deep for the Los Angeles Angels, who beat the San Francisco Giants 4-3 Saturday night to snap an ugly four-game losing streak.

Pujols, 38, hit a no-doubt, opposite-field shot to right-center on an 0-1 pitch from lefty Derek Holland with one out in the sixth. He needs eight hits to become the 32nd member of the 3,000-hit club. He went 1 for 4 as the designated hitter.

Pujols came up with runners on the corners and one out in the eighth and grounded into a double play.

Garrett Richards (3-0) struck out 11 in six innings and held San Francisco to two runs and five hits, with one walk.

The righty helped stop an embarrassing four-game pummeling. The Angels lost 8-1 to the Giants on Friday night after being outscored 27-3 in a three-game sweep by the Boston Red Sox.

Keynan Middleton got a four-out save, his fifth in as many chances.

All three Angels home runs were off Holland (0-3).

Trout homered into the rocks beyond the fence in center field an inning after nearly robbing Brandon Belt of a two-run homer. Trout's eighth homer, on an 0-1 pitch, tied the game at 2.

In the second, Trout leaped and had Belt's fly ball in his glove for a moment before it popped out when he hit the wall and it went over the yellow line. Pablo Sandovalwas on second base after a strikeout-wild pitch followed by another wild pitch by Richards. It was Belt's fourth homer.

Marte homered with two outs in the second, his first.

San Francisco closed to 4-3 on Sandoval's RBI double with two outs in the eighth. After Belt was intentionally walked, Middleton came on and struck out Evan Longoria. Middleton allowed Mac Williamson's leadoff single in the ninth before retiring the side.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Giants: DH Buster Posey was a late scratch due to back tightness.

Angels: RHP Shoehei Ohtani is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Sunday, and the Angels should know if he's definitely good to make his next start after a blister on his right middle finger forced him out after just two innings against Boston on Tuesday night.

UP NEXT

Giants: RHP Johnny Cueto (1-0, 0.45) is scheduled to start the series finale. Angel Stadium is the last current ballpark he hasn't pitched in. He's 1-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two starts against the Angels.

Angels: RHP Jaime Barria (1-0, 0.45) will be recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake to make his second start. He won his big league debut at Texas on April 11.

Williamson goes deep, Giants bats explode for 8-1 win vs Angels

Williamson goes deep, Giants bats explode for 8-1 win vs Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Andrew McCutchen hit a towering, three-run homer, Mac Williamson hit a two-run homer in his first big league game this season and Nick Hundley also connected to back Jeff Samardzija in the San Francisco Giants' 8-1 win against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night.

The Angels had only five hits, including a homer by Mike Trout, a double by Albert Pujols for his 2,991st career hit and two singles by Shohei Ohtani.

Samardzija (1-0) just made it through five innings to qualify for the win. He walked the bases loaded with two outs before manager Bruce Bochy came out for a mound visit. Justin Upton drove Samardzija's next pitch to the warning track in left, where Williamson caught it. Samardzija flinched at first, thinking it was gone, and then smiled as he walked toward the dugout. Bochy smiled and clapped his hands.

Samardzija opened the season on the disabled list with a pectoral strain suffered during spring training. He allowed two hits in five innings, struck out four and walked four.

Ohtani had the Angels' first hit off Samardzija, a single to center with two outs in the second. Ohtani had gone 0 for 4 with three strikeouts the night before as the Boston Red Sox completed a sweep. The designated hitter singled again in the ninth.

McCutchen, the designated hitter, drove a 1-2 pitch from Andrew Heaney into the Giants' bullpen beyond the left-field fence with one out in the fifth to chase the left-hander.

Heaney (0-1) allowed the first five batters to reach in the fifth. He allowed Williamson's homer to right and an RBI single by Austin Jackson.

Hundley hit an opposite-field shot to right in the second, his first. He added an RBI double in the eighth.

Trout homered to left-center off Pierce Johnson in the eighth, his seventh. Two batters later, Pujols drove a ball to the base of the fence in center before being replaced by pinch-runner Jefry Marte.

OHTANI'S BLISTER

Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't sure if the seams on big league baseballs are what caused the blister on Ohtani's right middle finger that forced the Japanese two-way sensation out after just two innings Tuesday night against Boston in his third major league pitching start.

"He worked very hard getting used our baseball starting last winter," Scioscia said. "Blisters...come and go with pitchers occasionally at some point. Exactly when they crop up with some guys is a mystery. There are probably a lot of things that came into play for Shohei to have his become significant to where it affected some of his pitches. But I don't know if there's any one reason that you could pin down right now. He feels much better. We got him out in time last start where it didn't get any worse and hopefully he'll be able to make his next start."

Some pitchers blamed slicker balls for blisters last season.

Scioscia remained noncommittal about when Ohtani's next start would be, but a six-man rotation would have him Ohtani pitching Monday at Houston.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Giants: Placed OF Hunter Pence on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained right thumb and recalled Williamson from Triple-A Sacramento.

UP NEXT

Giants: LHP Derek Holland (0-2, 4.60) is scheduled to start Saturday night. He has appeared in more games against the Angels than any other team, going 10-8 with a 5.21 ERA in 28 appearances, including 25 starts.

Angels: RHP Garrett Richards (2-0, 3.60) is scheduled to make his first career start against San Francisco on Saturday night.