EXTRA BAGGS: Huff, Pill feeling left out


EXTRA BAGGS: Huff, Pill feeling left out

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. Aubrey Huff started in left field Fridaynight and got in a full evening of standing around.

He didnt get a play for six innings. Finally, in the sixth,Michael Young and Nelson Cruz grounded singles through the left side. Huffretrieved them, which wasnt the most strenuous activity.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy wants to gauge Huffs ability inleft field. Brett Pill, too. But hes having a hard time evaluating them. Theyjust havent been getting chances to make plays.

Consider Pill. He entered Friday night having played 17innings in left field. And for his trouble? Hed retrieved two ground singlesand watched three home runs fly over his head.

The other day I come out and (minor leaguer) James Simmonsgoes in for me, Pill said. First ball is a line drive to left field. He madea diving catch.

I woulda had it.

Wouldnt you know it? Pill replaced Huff after six innings,and in the eighth, he finally received a fly ball in his direction. EngelBeltre hit a line drive and Pill made a nice, running catch.

Pill handled two more fly balls in the ninth, too.

See? You just need to hang around for all nine innings. Maybe Huff will do that Saturday. He's scheduled to start in left field again for the home split squad against Colorado.

"I want to get him some action before we leave here," Bochy said.

Madison Bumgarner gave up eight hits in 5 23 innings, but facingthe Texas Rangers A lineup, he did a fine job pitching out of jams. Thatssomething he has struggled to do in the past. This time, he put the tourniqueton one of the leagues best hitting teams and ended up yielding just one run.

Oh, he pitched great, Bochy said. He had good stuff. Heshad a good spring. And thats a tough game. They had their whole lineup outthere.

Bumgarner does pretty well against the Rangers. I can thinkof one Halloween night start, in particular.

He said he wanted to work on throwing fastballs down andaway a spot he hasnt always been able to hit this spring. Mostly, though, heis throwing downhill, as they say, and getting plenty of movement and life onhis pitches.

In the end, it was feeling really good, Bumgarner said.But if you give this team a lot of fastballs, theyll get their hits. Itsprobably the best hitting lineup out of anybodys, I think.

Bumgarner, who will occupy a prime position as the teamsNo.2 starter, pronounced himself as close to ready as I can be.

Buster Posey came away feeling like the big 22-year-old willbe ready to carry such an important place in the rotation in between TimLincecum and Matt Cain.

Hes got a better understanding of his preparation beforethe game, even on days hes not pitching, Posey said. Hes always, alwaysbeen focused, but now its even more so. He really has an idea what he wants todo and what he wants to accomplish out there.

A nice inning for Sergio Romo. Three up, three down and astrikeout. He threw a couple of Romoesque sliders. Looks like the rest did hiselbow good.

Ryan Vogelsong is on the schedule to pitch Monday. Hellthrow 40 pitches. Not sure if thatll come in the major league exhibitionagainst the Royals or if itll be on the minor league side.

Ive noticed that Giants catchers are making lots and lotsof pickoff throws this spring. Clearly, thats one of the little things thatBruce Bochy is stressing in this camp.

Chris Stewart pegged a runner at third base the other day.Buster Posey tried it in the third inning Friday night, and ended up committinga throwing error.

Even if the throws dont result in bonus outs, its a goodthing to show opposing scouts. Theyll write up their reports and mention to bealert for snap throws from behind the plate.

Thats one way to shorten up anopponents secondary leads.

This is the time in spring when the days really begin todrag. Considering the Giants have scored one run the past two nights, maybe theevenings can drag, too.

I think there should be something else on the schedule tobreak it up. Battle of the Network Stars. Jousting with those giant Q-tipthings from American Gladiators. Anything.

Feats of strength would be fun, though. How about asingle-elimination tug o war tournament? I asked Brandon Belt to pick his No.1seed. He took Pablo Sandoval. I took Bumgarner. (Apparently, Pilldead-lifts people to shame in the weight room, Belt said.)

Dig in those heels, Mike Fontenot. And good luck.

Report: Two Giants hitters elect free agency


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


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.