EXTRAS: Zito getting up to speed?


EXTRAS: Zito getting up to speed?

GLENDALE, Ariz. Barry Zito will never inspire widespreadconfidence with Giants fans. Thats just the way it is.So when he said his fastball felt harder than the 81-83 mphthat showed up on scouts radar guns Tuesday, the scoffs could be audible atCamelback Ranch all the way from the Bay Area.But Zitos first exhibition start was exactly what BruceBochy wanted. He threw 28 of 35 pitches for strikes. He worked efficiently intothe third inning. He got ahead in the count and pitched to contact.Thats what a No. 5 starter is supposed to do.RECAP: Cabrera blasts two, leads Giants past Dodgers
Barry did great, Bochy said. Terrific job. He should feelgood about that outing. Its a little out of sync in the windup. Thats why welet him go back out there to start the third inning. But overall, great job.Zito allowed a home run to Andre Ethier but otherwise had aproductive outing. He even struck out Dodgers All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp onthree pitches, then did the same to cleanup man Juan Rivera.Fastball up and in, catcher Eli Whiteside said. Thatswhat hes got to do: Be around the zone and mix it up. Be more aggressive inthe zone early.Before he could be told of the gun readings, Whitesidevolunteered that Zito appeared to have good velocity. The catcher agreed withZito that the ball was popping a little harder than 81-83 mph.Zito appeared confused when told the readouts by reporters, saying he wasthrowing 86-88 mph while throwing to hitters in January.Huh. Thats strange, he said. It felt like it was comingout good, like it had good life.Not to suggest a conspiracy theory, but its possible thatthe multiple readings were off. The scouts section is not directly behind theplate at Camelback Ranch, as it is at most ballparks. In the ninth inning, thescouts gunned hard-throwing prospect Heath Hembree at just 91-93 mph; hesknown to throw near triple digits.Whatever the true velocity was, Zitos game is more aboutlate movement, deception and location. He has worked to get all his pitches tocome out of the same tunnel and felt the swings on his curveball indicatedthe hitters werent picking it up.Throwing inside remains a key, too.I knew he was anxious to get out there, Bochy said.Zito is in a much different place and time than 2008, whenhe had a 14.92 ERA heading into his final two spring training starts. He faced72 batters before he registered a strikeout. This time, it took just three -- and the guy he whiffed probably should've been the NL MVP last season.
One other big difference: In 2008, Zito was the Giants opening-daystarter.No wonder Tim Lincecum is so popular.--Hembree wasnt lighting up the radar guns, either, but his91-93 mph fastball sure seemed harder based on some of the swings.Minor leaguer Lance Zawadzki threw his bat into the standsabove the Giants dugout. Two pitches later, he did it again.Both times, he asked the fan to return the bat.That second time, I didnt think hed get it back, Bochysaid.He did. And he got booed, too.--Joe Panik made a great impression in the Giants 8-4victory. He worked a tough at-bat after falling behind 0-2 and ended up hittinga triple, impressing Bochy with his wheels.Panik might not be in the big leagues anytime soon, buttheres never a bad time to make an impression on the big league skipper.--Freddy Sanchez took grounders again but got a day off fromthrowing. Sure looks like hell DH on Thursday. Hell be able to get at-bats inminor league camp when games begin soon, too.--Seems to be drier, dustier and sunnier here at CamelbackRanch than any other place in the Cactus League. The infield was totally dry bythe first inning.When Eli Whiteside slid into second base, he did his bestPigpen impression. I think the cloud of dust he kicked up is affecting weathersystems in New Mexico right about now. --In my story on Melky Cabrera, who homered from both sides ofthe plate, I mentioned the rarity of that feat. Its been done just three timesby a Giant in a regular-season game over the last 18 years. Randy Winn did ittwice in one season, and Ray Durham did it once.RELATED: Cabrera breaks out, homers from both sides of plate
Who pulled it off in 1993?If you knew Todd Benzingers name off the top of your head,congratulations. You've earned your share of Croix de Candlesticks, I'm sure.

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.