Giants

Any of Giants' young players part of the solution? 'I really wish...'

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AP

Any of Giants' young players part of the solution? 'I really wish...'

Programming note: Tune in tonight at 10 p.m. for 2017 Giants -- What Happened?!?  Only on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO — A few minutes after team executives sat down with reporters and discussed a rough season, Austin Slater walked through an empty clubhouse. 

“I’m done for the day,” he said, smiling, as general manager Bobby Evans offered a greeting. 

Slater’s offseason started in the trainer’s room. He spent Tuesday morning rehabbing from sports hernia surgery and he'll be doing that for several weeks. Slater's rehab schedule is a reminder of one of the most disappointing parts of a 98-loss season. 

If you’re going to flirt with 100 losses, you might as well come away from that experience with three or four young players who proved without a doubt that they can be part of a turnaround. The Giants feel good about Chris Stratton’s chances of being a rotation contributor, and Ty Blach will certainly have a role on next year’s team, but beyond that it’s tough to point to too many young players who are a good bet to be standing in the dugout next opening day. Slater was on his way after a hot start to his career, but injuries kept him off the field most of the second half and the Giants wish he had gotten more at-bats to try and show what he can do. Other young players suffered from the same bad injury luck.

During an interview that will air Wednesday night at 10pm on NBC Sports Bay Area, I asked manager Bruce Bochy what he makes of 2017’s class of younger players. The Giants have said they want to get more athletic. Did any of these 20-somethings show that they can be part of the solution? 

“I really wish that we could have kept these young players healthy so we would have had a longer look and a better evaluation of some of these players who did, I think, show that they can contribute on a major league level,” Bochy said. “Slater, for one, I think he stepped up and he was doing a nice job. Because of the groin injury, we missed him a lot.”

Slater, who turns 25 in December, hit .282 with three homers and a .339 on-base percentage in 117 rookie at-bats. The Giants hope he is able to recover from surgery in time to play winter ball, and doing so would allow him to compete for an outfield job next spring. The Giants plan to give left field to Denard Span, but some of their younger outfielders could see more time in right field, or one could develop into a platoon partner. 

It’s unclear where that leaves Parker, who hits left-handed — like Span — and is out of options. The 28-year-old had a .746 OPS after returning and played good defense.

“Here was a guy that you talk about (the) power, and he was going to be our left fielder,” Bochy said. “He runs into a wall and breaks his clavicle, so he never really got a chance to get on track. So that’s disappointing.”

Parker and Mac Williamson are scheduled to play winter ball, along with Christian Arroyo, who provided a jolt in his first couple of weeks but slumped to a .192 average. Arroyo would have returned for another round, but he suffered a season-ending hand injury. He's just 22, and if the Giants don’t add a third baseman, he should compete for that starting job next March. 

“He made an impact right away,” Bochy said. “He started to struggle but we did have to rush him up.”

Bochy felt Ryder Jones was put in the same situation. The 23-year-old hit .173 as a rookie while playing at both corners. He is also scheduled to play winter ball. 

“I think it’s fair to say we rushed him,” Bochy said. “He didn’t have a full year in Triple-A but we played him. Sometimes this happens to young players — not sometimes, but most of the time, they’re going to struggle. You’re going to suffer with young players who aren’t quite ready, but at the same time you hope to benefit down the road.”

A little further down the road, the Giants have a class of intriguing prospects. For more on the front office’s evaluations of Chris Shaw, Steven Duggar, Tyler Beede and others, you can watch our season-ending special Wednesday night at 10pm on NBC Sports Bay Area. Bochy, Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and Larry Baer discussed the 2017 year and the roster outlook for 2018. Bochy is hopeful that next year’s squad has a bit more luck with young players. 

“Hopefully we do find lightning in a bottle with one of these young guys that can impact our offense,” he said. 

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

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USATSI

Giants look poised to put Mac Williamson in left field Friday

PHOENIX — After his team was held to fewer than two runs for the 10th time this season, manager Bruce Bochy said Mac Williamson will be in Anaheim on Friday as part of the taxi squad. The Giants need the outfielder to be more of a tow truck. 

This is a lineup that has not gotten in gear in any way, but a red-hot reinforcement is on the way. Williamson was hitting .487 with six homers in 11 games in Triple-A, and while Bochy couldn’t say he’ll be active and in left field against the Angels, it was not hard to read between the lines. Hunter Pence said the thumb he sprained in the home opener continues to give him problems and needs a few days of rest. It seems likely that Williamson will officially be called up Friday, with Pence going on the disabled list. 

“We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Bochy said. “Mostly he’s coming up because he’s swinging the bat well. We’re hoping he’ll be a shot in the arm and provide some production, and we need some help in that area.”

The futility has the Giants six games out of first after just three weeks of action. The culprit is clear. Johnny Cueto, Chris Stratton and Ty Blach combined to give up three runs over 20 innings in a tough ballpark, but the Giants still dropped two of three. 

They need more than just one offensive fix, but Williamson represents a start. The 27-year-old has never stuck in the majors, but he rebuilt his swing in the offseason while working with Doug Latta, a private instructor in the Los Angeles area who helped Justin Turner became a star. Williamson’s swing has many of the same markers as Turner’s, and he had a huge spring as he continued to work on adjustments. Williamson lowered his hands and added a higher leg kick in hopes of keeping his bat in the zone longer and being shorter and more direct to the ball. 

“In the past I’ve been really active with my shoulders and hands late in the swing instead of just going and attacking the ball,” he said this spring. “I’m trying to just really calm down a lot of that non-essential movement.”

Williamson knew there was not a spot for him on the opening day roster, but hoped to make an impact sooner than later. His torrid start, plus the struggles at the big league level, have made this a daily question. 

“He showed this spring with the adjustments he made that he’s primed,” Bochy said. “He went out and did what we were hoping.”

The key for the Giants now will be to show more faith than they have in the past. Williamson is a .226 hitter in the big leagues, but his 212 at-bats have been scattered across three seasons and plenty of call-ups. It seems he is always one 0 for 3 night away from a demotion, but the Giants would be well served to let him work through any kinks this time. 

The incumbent in left field, Pence, is batting .172. His backups — Gorkys Hernandez and Gregor Blanco — are better fits as defense-first reserves. Pence hurt his thumb while diving in left field during the home opener and said it has never gotten better. An MRI back then showed a sprain. 

“It’s been going in a backwards direction,” he said. 

So have the Giants, but perhaps help is finally on the way.

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

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USATSI

Bumgarner has pins removed from pinky, to begin strengthening program

PHOENIX -- The removal of three small pins in Madison Bumgarner's left pinky represented a big step for the pitcher. 

Bumgarner had the pins taken out Thursday and he now will begin the process of strengthening his hand, which was fractured during his final spring training appearance. He could begin playing catch in two weeks. 

"Once he gets that going, I think you'll see him make real progress," manager Bruce Bochy said. 

It still will be a long process for Bumgarner, who is on the 60-day DL and not eligible to return until May 26. It seems unlikely that he's ready on that day, but it could be soon thereafter. Bumgarner will need to play catch for a bit before starting bullpen sessions and eventually a real rehab assignment. Realistically, the Giants are hopeful that he'll be back in the rotation in early June. Bochy said he wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner beats the initial timetable. 

"But it all depends on (how he feels) when he starts throwing," Bochy added. 

The Giants will get another key pitcher back Friday when Jeff Samardzija makes his season debut. 

--- Hunter Pence has a sore right thumb and wasn't in Thursday's lineup. The timing is, well, interesting. Mac Williamson wasn't in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup, so this could be the time a move is made, but the Giants also will need to clear a spot for Samardzija and they're hoping to stick with eight relievers for now. Stay tuned.