Christian Arroyo Era kicks off early after third baseman's red-hot start

Christian Arroyo Era kicks off early after third baseman's red-hot start

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants threw Christian Arroyo right into the fire. He’ll bat sixth on Monday in the season’s first meeting with the rival Dodgers, and while it’s grossly unfair, Arroyo will shoulder massive expectations given the way this season has started.

All of that should be a piece of cake given what Arroyo did early Monday afternoon. The 21-year-old convinced a skeptical mother that he was telling her the truth. 

Arroyo found out around 1:30 p.m. that his dream of reaching the big leagues had been accomplished. After shedding a few tears in Triple-A manager Dave Brundage’s office and getting congratulated by teammates, he called his mom, Kimberly. 

“She didn’t believe me,” he said, smiling. “I took a solid five minutes for her to believe me. She kept going, ‘You’re lying.’”

Arroyo’s mother is headed over from Florida, and she’ll be in the stands with other family members for Tuesday night’s game. The plan is for Arroyo to be at third base against Clayton Kershaw. The plan is for him to be at third base for years to come. 

The Giants hoped Arroyo, who doesn’t turn 22 until next month, would spend a whole season in Triple-A, dealing with the occasional failures and conditioning his body for the grind of the Major Leagues. But two things happened when Arroyo reached Triple-A after another solid spring: He hit the cover off the ball, picking up 29 hits in 65 at-bats (including four on Sunday) and the team slumped to a 6-13 record. 

Was this a case of the Giants needing a spark or Arroyo forcing his way into the lineup?

“Both,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Certainly with what he was doing down in Sacramento, he opened up a lot of eyes and we have a need right now. We’re challenged offensively. We need another guy to help out and the way he was swinging the bat made us push him more quickly than we were thinking about.”

Bochy said Arroyo will mostly play third, although he can also handle short and second. Eduardo Nuñez, the incumbent, will play primarily left field and hopefully fill the gaping hole there. Nuñez will also move around, and he is likely to play shortstop this week when Brandon Crawford goes on bereavement leave. 

The Giants are coming off a 1-4 road trip where they scored just 10 runs. There will be pressure on the top prospect to help turn this around, but Bochy doesn’t think he’ll feel it.

“He’s a tough kid,” he said. “I had fun with him today, told him don’t be scared. He said, ‘I’m pumped.’ He’s excited to be here. He just needs to be himself.”

If Arroyo can keep doing that, he’ll be fine. The Giants have always viewed him as a huge cornerstone of their future, and that was again made clear on Monday. Arroyo was given No. 22 and tucked into a locker between Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford. Joe Panik is two lockers away. The hope is that the four lined up that way for years. 

“It’s surreal at this moment,” Arroyo said. “I’m trying to take it all in.”

Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle


Jeff Samardzija to miss start of season after MRI reveals strained pectoral muscle

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants nearly left Scottsdale unscathed. Instead they'll leave with an injured No. 3 starter, but the news on Jeff Samardzija late Thursday night was good news. 

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters that Samardzija has a strained pectoral muscle that will sideline him for the start of the season. But given that Samardzija, who has had a rough spring, went for an MRI on his shoulder a week before the season opener, team officials have to be breathing a sigh of relief. 

"He'll go a week without throwing the ball and then crank it back up," Bochy told reporters, including Kerry Crowley of the San Jose Mercury News. "It should't take long to get him back on the mound so it's good news."

Samardzija was supposed to take the ball next Saturday at Dodger Stadium. Instead, the Giants will rely on two young pitchers and a non-roster invitee at the back end of their rotation. The injury ends a three-way race for the final two spots between Chris Stratton, Ty Blach and Derek Holland. The Giants could use all three in the rotation until Samardzija is healthy, or they could skip their No. 5 starter and move one of the pitchers into the bullpen. 

Because the Giants have two off days before their seventh game, Madison Bumgarner can line up to pitch three of the first nine games. The Giants have been considering that all spring, although they have yet to publicly announce a decision one way or the other. Bumgarner said early in camp that he would be up to the challenge, and given how sharp he was all spring, that might be the best way to tread water until Samardzija is cleared to return to the rotation.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”