Barry Bonds: Returning to Giants 'what I'm supposed to do'

Barry Bonds: Returning to Giants 'what I'm supposed to do'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Barry Bonds is on Twitter and Instagram, but he said the only social media app he truly embraces is Strava, a network for running and cycling enthusiasts. You can keep track of his passion for cycling there, Bonds said, and it’s never hard to know where he’s been or where he’s headed. 

The Giants hope that app shows frequent rides to AT&T Park for years to come. A day after he was announced as a special advisor to CEO Larry Baer, Bonds officially joined the Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.

“It’s my home,” he said. “I want to be back at home. I want to help our community, our team, San Francisco, the Giants, the younger guys and younger players. You keep the tradition alive. It’s the same thing my father has done, my godfather has done, (Willie McCovey) has done. It’s the right thing to do. I’m in San Francisco, raised there, and I want to help our community kids become Giants, and good ones.”

The process started Wednesday, with Bonds kicking off a weeklong run as an instructor. In his opening hours, he made it clear that this is what his passion is, seemingly closing the door on another stint in a more involved role. His time as Marlins hitting coach lasted just one year, and Bonds said he “likes this role better.”

“I want to help out the whole organization,” he said. “I want to help the younger guys that are coming up through the organization and the guys who are here in the organization. I like this role better, to stand with the coaches. I’m here for whatever Bam Bam (Meuelens) wants me to do. If he wants me to do something or he thinks there’s a player I can talk to, I go based on that.”

Bonds said he took the job in Miami because he felt that was what his father would want him to do. “You go in the dungeon with everyone else,” Bonds said. He said he’s grateful that the Marlins gave him the opportunity, and while the reviews were mixed, Bonds found some highlights in his time there. He said Wednesday that he took part in a hitting contest one day because the team opposing Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich needed one more bat. Bonds and Stanton, currently the most powerful player in baseball, tied in home runs. Bonds, the all-time home run king, won in a tiebreaker round.

“If you challenge me,” Bonds said, smiling, “You will lose.”

Hundreds of pitchers found that out over his 22 seasons in the big leagues. Bonds holds Major League records with 762 career homers and 73 in one season, and he retired with a .444 on-base percentage, 2,935 hits, 1,996 RBI and 514 stolen bases. He is a 14-time All-Star and seven-time National League MVP, but his Hall of Fame candidacy has been dogged by a steroid cloud that has kept other sluggers of his era from induction. Bonds made progress last year, getting to 53.8 percent, but he has only five more years to bridge the gap to 75 percent. Asked about the Hall of Fame results on Wednesday, Bonds said he doesn’t have any answers that are different than what he’s said in the past.

“To keep talking about it doesn’t do any good,” he said. 

At AT&T Park, there’s no doubt about the level of support Bonds will receive. He remains wildly popular, and his return to the organization is expected to be followed in short order by a Wall of Fame ceremony and the retiring of the No. 25. At some point, Bonds is expected to get a statue outside the park. 

For now, he’ll focus on being an ambassador and instructor. He said he will attend the annual Play Ball Luncheon later this month and any other events the Giants put on his schedule. He lives within walking — or biking — distance of the ballpark, and said he can be in the clubhouse in under 10 minutes if his assistance is needed. If the Giants ask him to visit Double-A Richmond or Low-A Augusta, he's up for it. 

“Sometimes you need to get away from the game as a player and regroup and think about all that’s gone on and what’s gone on around you,” he said. “You need time to mature and realize what’s best for you, and I’ve been away now for quite some time. I had the opportunity to coach the Marlins and stuff, and I really feel like this is what I’m supposed to do.”

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”