In camp on time, Cueto says Giants have what it takes for title run


In camp on time, Cueto says Giants have what it takes for title run

SCOTTSDALE — A steady stream of familiar faces, offseason acquisitions and prized prospects strolled into Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday morning to take physicals. Few of the men in the room will have a bigger impact on the Giants’ playoff hopes than the man who spent five minutes telling reporters all about the 400 chickens he is raising at his farm. 

Johnny Cueto isn’t just in camp on time this year. He actually arrived early, eager to put a rough 2017 season in his past. A year after Cueto missed much of camp to tend to his ill father, he was one of the first players to actually take the field in Arizona, joining Nick Hundley for a light game of catch in the afternoon. 

Cueto went 8-8 with a 4.52 ERA last season while dealing with arm discomfort and persistent blisters. At the beginning of November, he decided not to opt out of a six-year, $130 million contract he signed in December of 2015. The Giants will have Cueto for at least four more years, and on the first day of his third season, with the help of interpreter Erwin Higueros, he spoke about a wide range of topics.

Were you playing catch up all of last year after missing the spring?
JC: It was a difficult year. I tried to find myself but unfortunately I wasn’t able to do it, but that was last year and this is a new year.

On the decision to not opt out:
JC: I never thought about opting out. My intention was to stay with the Giants, but having a bad year made the decision easy. Even if I would have had a good year, I would have stayed. I like the team, I like my teammates and the training staff is great. That’s part of the reason I wanted to stay.

Did you tell the Giants during the season you were going to stay?
JC: No, I never told them. I guess they were thinking I was going to stay and I stayed because I liked the team.

Your first spring was coming off a World Series and last spring was spent with your dad. What will it be like having a normal spring?
JC: I think it should help. I’m here, I got here early. We’ll get to work and see what happens.

Do you have concerns about the blisters?
JC: No, as of right now I don’t feel anything.

Will you change anything so they don’t return?
JC: No, I’m doing the same right now. 

What was it like facing Andrew McCutchen all those years in the NL Central? (McCutchen is 19-for-66 off Cueto with four homers and 15 strikeouts.)
JC: You have to respect him, you have to be careful with him. He’s a very good hitter. He’s a criminal with the bat.

Do you feel pressure to be better than last year after the big moves the front office made?
JC: That was last year, we lost close to 100 games, but we need to forget about what happened. This year we have a good team and I honestly believe we have a team that can take us to the World Series. 

Did you do anything fun in the offseason?
JC: Just the same thing I do every year. I just ride my horses and feed my chickens.

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.”