Down on the Farm: Beede adjusts to hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League

MiLB/Sacramento River Cats

Down on the Farm: Beede adjusts to hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League

Editor's note: To read Part 1 of our interview with Tyler Beede (Down on the Farm: Giants top prospect Beede sees baseball's bigger picture), click here. 

The Pacific Coast League is no pitcher's paradise. Toeing the rubber in places like Reno, Las Vegas, Colorado Springs, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque, mere pop flies can find their way over the fence. 

For Tyler Beede, the Giants' top pitching prospect, this has been a far different experience as compared to the pitcher-friendly confines of Double-A Richmond. He has learned to pitch in new elements, but when it comes down to it, the best advice Beede has received is to continue being the pitcher he is. 

"I think just learning how to pitch in certain elevations, certain ballparks that ask for me to be a different style, but overall what I think I’ve tried to take away from the advice that I’ve gotten was just to continue to pitch the way I pitch," says Beede. 

Before the season, Beede received advice from two of the Giants' mainstays in their rotation — Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. While Cain battled with Ty Blach for the No. 5 spot in the rotation and Beede was right on his heels, the veteran was the most vocal of all to help the 2014 first-round pick in spring training.

"He was always willing to give us any bit of advice to help us take our game to the next level," Beede said. "I’m really trying to implement those things where I see fit into my routine and the way I pitch on the field. It’s always beneficial." 

Beede pitched in six games, starting two, for the Giants in spring training. The advice turned into results. He went 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA over 13.1 innings pitched. 

As June begins, Beede, who recently turned 24, is 3-3 with a 3.93 ERA over 55 innings at Triple-A with the Sacramento River Cats. On the mound, he's turning to his sinker to force roll overs and pitching much more to contact this season. Beede owns a 56 percent ground ball rate, up from 47.9 percent last year in Richmond. 

"For me it’s really just trying to force contact early and force ground balls," Beede said. "Overall, I’m happy with my ground ball rate."

But with his emphasis on ground balls this season, his strikeouts have taken a dip. In 10 starts, Beede has recorded 36 strikeouts. His 5.89 strikeouts per nine innings is a career low. Mentally, this is not changing Beede's way. 

"As a competitor, I’d like to strikeout more guys, but I think that will come down the road once I continue to learn certain sequences and trust my pitches in the zone," Beede said. 

And, Beede’s approach on the mound this season is just what the Giants asked for. 

"I’m focusing on continuing to work on my fastball command and really forcing contact is what the Giants would like to see from me,” Beede said. “As long as I can keep getting better and feel confident with my stuff, then if the call is made for me to come up, I can be ready for that level.”

There’s more to Beede’s decrease in strikeouts and increase in ground balls too. He’s using his feel for the game and has noticed a reoccurring trait among PCL hitters — aggressiveness.

“I don’t really know if I’m exactly a ground-ball pitcher, I think it’s more so hitters in this league are really aggressive,” Beede explains. “They’re trying to get their pitch early and drive a ball. Guys are aggressive, I think that’s why I’m not striking out as many guys. 

“At the next level I’m not going to say they’re more patient, but these guys are swinging early so my mindset is really, I’m going to throw inside to make sure I’m sinking it in and make the hitter roll over. For the most part, I’ve just really focused on that part of the plate and letting the hitters get themselves out.

“I don't necessarily think ground ball each at-bat. I’m thinking the bottom of the zone and if a guy rolls over, he rolls over, and so being more efficient has allowed me to go deeper in a ballgame. I’ll take ground balls whenever I can get them, that’s for sure.” 

Teams are always wary of pitcher’s workloads in the minors and Beede’s ability to force contact has allowed him to go six innings or longer in half of his starts this year.

While the hurler adjusts and expands his game, he waits his turn for the news everyone dreams of. He witnessed firsthand the joy of his friend and former roommate Christian Arroyo getting called up to the bigs and tweeted out the scene. 

Naturally, after first experiencing the moment with Arroyo, the thought of his future promotion crept into Beede’s mind. 

“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Beede first says. “And then at the same time, I was like, man I think I’m right there with him. I think my time is coming soon too and that was kind of a moment for me to step back and say, ‘Hey, be patient, continue to trust the process, continue to know that you have what it takes to pitch at that level and have success, but continue to know that you need to continue to work on things and be ready for when that moment comes.’” 

When that moment does come, Beede may have to go right back to Twitter too. Just less than two weeks ago, Beede put some fans on a social media rollercoaster, writing “Now you see me, Now you don’t!” with eye emojis and the Giants tagged in a tweet. 

Relax. The picture is a three-frame of him pitching. The tweet was that innocent. The replies were that hilarious. 

After laughing the situation off, Beede finally says on the tweet, “I love messing with Twitter. One of these days it’ll happen and maybe I’ll put something out there that will have some people wondering, so we’ll see.”

Be ready Giants fans. Tyler Beede will make his way to San Francisco, and while he may wake you up first with a tweet, the reality certainly won't be fake news.

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.”