Giants

Chisox hammer Zito, but rotation spot is safe

713300.jpg

Chisox hammer Zito, but rotation spot is safe

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- First, the good news as it concerns Barry Zito: Hitters couldn't touch the last 25 pitches he threw.

The bad news: That's because he threw them in the bullpen.

Zito had to plump up his pitch count to 85 because the Chicago White Sox bushwhacked him Sunday at Camelback Ranch. Zito faced 18 batters and gave up nine hits plus two walks in 2 13 innings. The contact was loud, too. It included three doubles and back-to-back home runs by A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios.

Yes, Zito served one up to Pierzynski. Researchers are trying to determine if there has never been a darker day in Giants franchise history.

A start like this for Zito would be alarming at any point in the spring. Manager Bruce Bochy acknowledged this one was more unsettling because it came with a week until camp breaks. Zito has just two more exhibition starts before he'd take the mound April 9, when the Giants will play in the Colorado Rockies' home opener at Coors Field.

"Hopefully he can learn from this," Bochy said. "He's going to he out there (every fifth day). Hopefully the next start he can bounce back and get in a groove."

Zito said he knows what he needs to address.

"I've been harping on getting downhill on a good plane," Zito said. "Today I was rushing my body and the arm couldn't catch up. Downhill plane is everything. If your fastball comes out on a downhill plane and the offspeed comes out how the fastball comes out, that's how you get guys off balance. Today, because my arm was late, the fastball was up and the other stuff was recognizable. Even a couple good curveballs got hit."

Zito called it "definitely something that requires attention. ... Ideally you make that adjustment the next pitch. Today, I was laboring to make the adjustment in three pitches and not one."

Said Bochy: "Sure, you don't want to see it this late, but it's going to happen. Better here than in the season. You're hoping he's at a point he can get locked in. Overall, I think he's thrown well. ... Today he never got settled in. Every inning was a struggle."

Bochy reiterated that all he wants from Zito, a back-end starter, is to "give us a chance to win."

Zito is throwing in the low 80s this spring but could take a lesson from another left-hander who could appear in that first series at Coors Field. That would be 49-year-old Jamie Moyer, who threw four perfect innings against the Giants on Saturday at Salt River Fields. Moyer, who could be the Rockies' No.5 starter, didn't throw a pitch above 78 mph.

"He mixes his pitches really well and he's always giving guys a different look, whether it's cutter in, heater away or changeup," Zito said. "He's always making pitches just out of the zone. It's that feel for where to put the pitch and having the timing to (execute it). That's what Jamie has done so well."

Zito said he isn't sure where his velocity has been this spring but "it'd be nice" to add a little more. Mostly, he said he just needs to do a better job hitting his spots.

Zito has a 6.61 ERA this spring but said he mostly has felt good about how he's thrown in bullpen sessions and in games prior to Sunday. Even if the Giants don't feel as confident in Zito, they don't have much of a choice. He is making 19 million this year, 20 million in 2013 and has a 7 million buyout on an option in 2014.

Considering that eating Aaron Rowand's 12 million contract last August was a decision that contributed to the ouster of former managing partner Bill Neukom, it's hard to envision the Giants seriously entertaining the notion of cutting Zito anytime soon.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency

gillaspie-moncrief-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

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

righetti-dugout-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

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.