Bochy, Giants ready to attack offseason: 'We’ll be relentless, all of us'

Bochy, Giants ready to attack offseason: 'We’ll be relentless, all of us'

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants spent six months stunning their fans and even themselves with the depths of their collapse. On the final day of the season, they provided one last surprise. 

Pablo Sandoval, an impossible choice on opening day, ended the year with a walk-off homer that gave the Giants a 5-4 win over the Padres and clinched a 64-98 season. The blast set off a celebration the plate that morphed into a ceremony for an emotional Matt Cain, who thanked the organization, the fans, his family and many others as he broke down a day after his final big league appearance. A few minutes later, Cain stood in the corner of the clubhouse with a smile on his face. 

“It’s good for all of us,” he said of the walk-off. “It’s a good way to go out for the entire team.”

It was also a good reminder of how much work there is to be done. For all the excitement Sandoval brought Sunday — and on nights when he took Max Scherzer and Kenley Jansen deep — he hit just .225 in 160 at-bats after returning home. He entered Sunday with a .622 OPS, which was almost exactly the same as the .623 figure that had the Red Sox give up on him with $50 million left on his deal. 

Sandoval will surely be back next spring, and it’s likely he’ll get a chance to compete for an everyday job at third base. But what are the Giants getting? What are they getting with any of their veterans? That’s the question the front office will have to answer, and the work started right away. General manager Bobby Evans and team president Larry Baer descended on Bruce Bochy’s office in the minutes after the final out. 

As they sit in those meetings, the men can point to highlights for any player. Just about every Giant has a story like Sandoval’s. Take Hunter Pence, for example. He brought energy throughout the year and ended his season with a diving catch in right field. He also finished with a .701 OPS, the lowest mark of his career. Or take Johnny Cueto, Sunday’s starter. Bochy credited him with working through a day where he didn’t have his best stuff. But Cueto finished with a 4.52 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. The stories go on and on.

“We have some work to do, there’s no sugar-coating this,” Bochy said. “You lose 98 games, you’ve got a lot of things to fix. Forget the injuries. You look at the numbers on both sides and we’ve got to get better, especially in our division. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ll be relentless, all of us. We talked to the players. We know what’s ahead of us.”

The key word in that statement, which Bochy echoed in comments to the fans after the game, is “division.” Only a tiebreaker kept the Giants from taking the No. 1 pick from the Detroit Tigers, and they finished a distant last place in the National League West. They were 40 games out of first, 23 out of a wild card spot, and seven behind the Padres, who actively tried to tank this season away. 

There is nothing in the numbers — pitching, hitting or defense — that points to this as a team that had bad luck, and Bochy knows it. He is believed to want massive changes to this roster, but the Giants will have to get creative. Most of this team will be back, and this season, that group wasn’t competitive. 

As players packed up and said goodbye, Buster Posey — one of the few Giants to have a good year — told his teammates to look in the mirror. 

“We need to spend some time thinking about what it is specifically for us to help the Giants win more baseball games and get back to where we all want to be,” he said. “We’re all confident and we know how much ability is in this clubhouse, but at the same time, we’ve got to execute on the field. All of us as players have to play better next year.”

Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase


Report: Tim Lincecum throws 90-93 MPH at showcase

Tim Lincecum was back on a mound Thursday, trying to prove to teams once again that he still has a little bit of magic left in his right arm. 

The former Giants star held a bullpen session for scouts Thursday in Seattle. The event was closed to the media, but Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that between 25 and 30 scouts were in attendance. 

And Lincecum may have some of his velocity back. According to Heyman, Lincecum was sitting between 90 and 93 miles per hour. 

Lincecum last pitched in 2016 with the Angels. In that season, his fastball averaged just 88.4 miles per hour. In nine starts with the Angels, Lincecum was nowhere near what he once was and went 2-6 with a 9.16 ERA. 

The Giants planned to be at Lincecum's showcase, according to Insider Alex Pavlovic. 

Over nine seasons with the Giants, Lincecum posted a 108-83 record and a 3.61 ERA. He won back-to-back National Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, was a four-time All-Star and led the league in strikeouts three times. 

Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul


Slater fighting for outfield job after Giants' offseason overhaul

SCOTTSDALE — Catchers are usually the only position players to hit on the main field during the first few days of spring training, but Austin Slater snuck into a group Thursday to take a few cuts. With manager Bruce Bochy leaning against the back of the cage, perhaps Slater’s session will serve as a reminder: I’m still here, don’t forget about me.

The 25-year-old broke through last summer before injuries halted his progress. As Slater focused on getting healthy this offseason, Bobby Evans focused on overhauling the outfield. That has left several familiar faces in precarious spots, and Slater finds himself fighting for a fifth outfielder job a year after batting .282 in his first 117 big league at-bats. 

At the same time, he’s trying to balance competition with health. He wants to push for an Opening Day job, but also is very aware that he needs to back it down at times as he recovers from sports hernia surgery.

“You want to prove that you can play here and win a job, but (the staff) stressed health over everything,” he said. “It does no good to push and then start the season on the DL. For me, health is the most important thing. I feel like if I’m healthy I can prove myself. There’s nothing I can prove on the DL.”

Slater originally tore his groin on July 8 and the Giants thought it would prove to be a season-ending injury. He worked his way back ahead of schedule, though, seeing limited action before sports hernia surgery the last week of September. “They went in there and cleaned up the groin,” he said, smiling where others might grimace. The procedure kept Slater from playing in the Dominican Republic as planned, although that might have been a blessing in disguise. 

The Giants were aggressive with their winter ball plans because so many young players got hurt during the season. But Jarrett Parker lasted just 24 hours before being sent home with a health issue. Christian Arroyo’s hand swelled up soon after he arrived, and he headed home. Ryder Jones immediately got food poisoning and lost 12 pounds in just over three weeks before player and team decided a mutual parting would be beneficial. 

Slater stayed home throughout, living in the Bay Area and rehabbing. The Giants told him to focus on his rehab instead of lost at-bats and then come out and try to win a job in Scottsdale. By mid-November, he was hitting again. By Thanksgiving, he was on a regular lifting and running schedule. In late January, he felt like his old self again. 

For the Giants, that means a versatile option in a new-look outfield. Slater had a .290/.343/.430 slash line going before his first injury and he’s working to tap into more power. As Bruce Bochy pointed out Thursday, Slater has a long history of putting up numbers at every level. 

“He really did a nice job of figuring out what it takes to play in the major leagues, and he has a tendency throughout his career to just get better,” Bochy said. “You have to love his right-handed bat. He’s got some pop. I think he can play all three outfield positions, so he’s in the mix.”

The Giants have Andrew McCutchen in right and Hunter Pence in left and Austin Jackson as the third guy, and Bochy’s preference is to have a true center fielder as his fourth outfielder. That leaves Slater fighting for the fifth job, alongside many others. No matter what he did last year or does this spring, Slater has options remaining, and that will come into play. A year after using 13 different players in left field, the staff is intent on having greater depth at the Triple-A level. 

Slater is a Stanford product who spent the offseason surrounded by Giants fans. He knows the math after the offseason moves.

“It doesn’t change anything,” he said. “It just adds some great guys to learn from, and there are still outfield spots to be won, so it’s not discouraging, it’s encouraging. I didn’t expect them to keep an open roster spot for a guy with 120 at-bats. We’re trying to win a championship here.”