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. 

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in the National League for years now. The 31-year-old is a five-time All-Star and was named the 2013 NL MVP. 

Not only do his stats stand out, McCutchen is also one of the most entertaining players in baseball. And that's clearly going to continue in San Francisco. 

On Thursday, McCutchen was asked about the famous seagulls of San Francisco flying around the outfield at AT&T Park. 

"I definitely made a few friends out there over the years. Steve the Seagull out there, I know him," McCutchen said on KNBR. "He comes in every now and then. We have a little pow-wow when I come to San Francisco. Yeah, we get along well, me and the guys, me and the birds. They know when to come in that's for sure." 

Denard Span, who the Giants traded to acquire Evan Longoria, had a much different relationship with the seagulls. 

McCutchen is clearly the opposite of Span in this regard though. He seems about as calm as can be when it comes to the birds paying him a visit. 

"They chill, we have some conversations. It's all good," says McCutchen. 

One other aspect McCutchen can't wait for in the outfield at AT&T Park, is getting to know all the fans. Specifically, not being a part of a special chant Giants fans have for opposing outfielders. 

"I'm lookin' forward to fans not callin' me bums anymore," McCutchen said with a laugh. "I'm glad I'm on the winning side. I'm glad I'm on the San Francisco Giants side. I can't wait to meet all the fans."