Back surgery for Freddy Sanchez, Giants career likely over


Back surgery for Freddy Sanchez, Giants career likely over

WASHINGTON -- Second baseman Freddy Sanchez had surgery Thursday to remove a portion of a disc in his lower back, ending any chance of returning this season and likely bringing an abrupt conclusion to his career as a Giant.

The Giants medical staff said Sanchez's micro discectomy, which was performed by spinal specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, went as anticipated.

"Well, he's out for the year," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's been a long road for Freddy. I know he's disappointed. He certainly played a critical role in our success in 2010. He helped us win a World Series."

Sanchez signed a 6 million extension last year; he will be a free agent after this season. Bochy indicated there could be some interest in re-signing Sanchez in some form or another, although the back injury combined with shoulder problems makes that possibility very, very hazy.

"You don't know what happens when the season's over," Bochy said. "We still remain optimistic optimistic, but this is a definite that we won't have him all year."

Sanchez, 34, hasn't played since June 10th of last season when he went 1-2 with a single. The former batting champion dislocated his shoulder while diving for a ground ball up the middle. He tried to rehab the shoulder injury for two months before undergoing surgery to trim his damaged labrum and tighten the capsule.

Although Sanchez pledged to be ready by opening day, he wasn't able to stay on a throwing schedule in spring training and couldn't make throws across his body to turn double plays. Sanchez had tried moving to third base in late April, but his back began bothering him and made it impossible to return to baseball activities.

The Giants pieced together second base for most of April with Emmanuel Burriss and Ryan Theriot, who struggled to play through an elbow injury. But after a stint on the DL allowed Theriot to get healthy, he's established himself as a solid everyday player and No. 2 hitter.

Sanchez spent most of his Giants career on the DL after the club acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates at the trade deadline in 2009. But he will remain a part of Giants lore for his strong second half in 2010, and moreso, for his deeds in the postseason as the franchise won its first World Series in the San Francisco.

Most notably, Sanchez became the first player in major league history to hit three doubles in his first World Series game. Even more important was his two-out, ninth-inning single in Gmae 3 of the NLDS at Atlanta, which kept the game alive. Aubrey Huff followed with a tying single and the Giants won on Brooks Conrad's error.

Although the Giants didn't play an elimination game in 2010, they never came closer to having their backs against the wall than when hard-throwing reliever Craig Kimbrel was 0-2 against Sanchez. He ended up guiding a 1-2 pitch up the middle.

"That base hit is one I'll always remember," Bochy said. "That would've made it a lot tougher if we lost that game."

Sanchez was a three-time All-Star with the Pirates and hit .344 to win the NL batting crown in 2006.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency


Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

With free agency set to begin five days after the World Series ends, two hitters that played for the Giants during the 2017 season have put their names on the open market.

Veteran third baseman Conor Gillaspie and longtime minor league outfielder Carlos Moncrief have both elected for free agency, according to Baseball America.

The 30-year-old Gillaspie appeared in 44 games for the Giants this past season. He hit just .168/.218/.288 with four doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. He was designated for assignment on August 3 and outrighted to Triple-A Sacramento on August 5. With the River Cats, Gillaspie hit .375 with four doubles in 15 games in August.

Prior to the 2017 season, Gillaspie signed a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Giants.

As for Moncrief, the soon-to-be 29-year-old finally got his first call-up the majors this past season after eight and a half seasons in the minors. He debuted for the Giants on July 29. In 28 games, he hit .211/.256/.237 with one double and five RBI. While he didn't do much with the bat, Moncrief showed off a cannon for an arm when he patrolled right field.

Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches


Giants reassign pitching coach Dave Righetti, two other coaches

SAN FRANCISCO — Late in a 98-loss season, general manager Bobby Evans met with members of the coaching staff to discuss new roles. The shakeup of the staff ended up being a stunning one. 

Pitching coach Dave Righetti was one of three coaches to be reassigned Saturday morning. After 18 seasons as pitching coach, Righetti will now serve as special assistant to the general manager. Bullpen coach Mark Gardner was given a “special assignment role to assist in pitching evaluations.” Assistant hitting coach Steve Decker will be a special assistant for baseball operations. 

The moves cap a 13-month run in which the coaching staff has taken much of the blame for a $200 million roster that was poorly constructed in places and played embarrassing baseball for long stretches of the 2016 and 2017 seasons. Third base coach Roberto Kelly was let go after the 2016 season and first base coach Billy Hayes was reassigned. More changes appear on the way. 

“It does raise the level of attention to change when you struggle as much as we have, but you’re always contemplating making changes to try to help keep pushing your guys and make sure you continue to have different perspectives and new voices and reflections on how to get the most out of them,” Evans said on a conference call. 

Throughout September, multiple coaches expressed concern about their future roles, but the Giants held off several weeks before announcing changes. At least two members of the staff were involved in managerial searches elsewhere, and third base coach Phil Nevin is reportedly still a candidate for the open job in Philadelphia. 

Evans confirmed that he has interviewed outside candidates for a hitting coach role, but he would not go so far as to say Hensley Meulens will be reassigned as well. He also would not speak to the future of Ron Wotus, although the longtime bench coach is expected to be mixed up in future changes as well. Evans indicated he would announce further moves after all the open managerial vacancies are filled.

For now, the Giants are in the process of trying to find a new pitching coach. They are focused on experienced outside candidates, and they have plenty of options, as several other teams have made changes this month. Evans hinted that he wants the next pitching coach to have a more analytical approach. 

Righetti's replacement will have massive shoes to fill. His run was the longest for a pitching coach in franchise history. The Giants, usually so reliant on pitching, finished 16th in the Majors with a 4.50 ERA, but it’s hard to see how Righetti takes the blame for that. Madison Bumgarner missed a chunk of the season after a dirt bike accident, Johnny Cueto had a brutal injury-plagued year, Matt Moore battled himself and had the worst ERA in the National League, and the bullpen struggled, with closer Mark Melancon pitching through an injury that required season-ending surgery. 

Righetti was credited with helping to develop a rotation and bullpen that won three titles, and the bond he shared with pitchers was on display during the final weekend of the year, when Matt Cain talked repeatedly about their close relationship and went straight for Righetti after he came off the field for the final time. While it’s often hard to figure out where to give credit, even in a down year for the staff, Righetti played a role in Sam Dyson’s resurgence, and he helped Ty Blach and Chris Stratton break in as big league regulars. 

“Ultimately a change for us in the clubhouse is really an opportunity just to put a new voice with our pitching staff and try to keep pushing to the heights that we aspire as an organization and a club,” Evans said. “Changes sometimes are needed as much for the sake of that new voice as anything, and I think that was really the priority here.”

Righetti will help Evans in a front office role. Evans admitted that Righetti’s “heartbeat is in uniform as a coach,” but said he was willing to take on a new role for an organization he loves. 

Gardner, a former Giants pitcher, had been on staff since 2003. He will now help to evaluate pitchers inside and outside the organization, and Evans said Gardner could serve an important role in evaluating trade options. Decker joined the big league staff in 2015 after a long run working in the minor leagues. The 2017 season was his 23rd with the organization. He will have a “blank canvas,” Evans said, working in different roles inside the organization. Decker will also help with draft preparation.