Giants

Cain: 'I’m getting to where I need to get'

Cain: 'I’m getting to where I need to get'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A month into spring training, it’s still somewhat difficult to get a read on what the Giants need to see from Matt Cain. Team officials continue to view Cain as the frontrunner for the fifth starter job, but they insist that Cain needs to earn it down here in the desert. 

What exactly does that mean when Cain takes the mound? On Friday, you could see both sides of the argument on pretty much a hitter-by-hitter basis. 

At times Cain was good, with his velocity sitting in the now-normal 91 mph range and his secondary pitches generating swings and misses. He struck out five in his final three innings, twice getting talented young Rockies shortstop Trevor Story and once whiffing DJ LeMahieu, the league’s reigning batting champ. 

But when all was said and done, Cain walked off the mound having allowed nine hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings. His spring ERA dropped a bit, but it’s still 8.40 in five starts. In 15 innings, he has given up 25 hits.

“I’m throwing the ball where I want to,” Cain said. “It feels good coming out. I know that I’m progressing from start to start and I know I’m getting to where I need to get for the season to start. That’s something that’s not bothering me. It’s keep doing that. I think I can do a better job of (when you) get two outs, put away the inning. And also do a better job of putting guys away when I get two strikes.”

The third inning showed the inconsistency that has plagued Cain all spring. After giving up two runs in the second, he opened the third by striking out LeMahieu and then getting Story with a good slider. But minor leaguer Jordan Patterson singled and Stephen Cardullo drove an RBI double into the gap. Cain then froze Pat Valaika for his third strikeout of the inning. 

“That’s going to happen,” Cain said. “Even in that situation, I made a pitch to Patterson that I wanted to make and he did a good job of putting a swing on it. The same thing to Cardullo — he hit a changeup that wasn’t a bad pitch, and he did a good job, where a lot of guys hit that ball to shortstop. Those guys are obviously doing a good job as well. You can’t sit there and try to nitpick — you get two outs, striking guys out, you want to finish the inning, but it’s not always going to be that way. You’d love for it to always be that way but it doesn’t work that way.”

While Cain has yet to get optimum results, he has found a huge positive in the days between outings. Cain is finally healthy, and that has allowed him to tinker in the bullpen instead of worrying about how his arm will respond. He said he is trying to get a little bit more creative in how he attacks hitters, with one example being taking a few ticks off his slider to try and miss more barrels.

“I’m able to fine-tune things,” he said. “Before I wasn’t doing that. I was just trying to get through a bullpen (session) or get through starts. I was just trying to go out there and compete, but it wasn’t what I wanted to be able to do physically and mentally.”

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

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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

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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.