Five takeaways from Giants' 8-4 win over the Diamondbacks

Five takeaways from Giants' 8-4 win over the Diamondbacks

Programming note: Giants-D'backs coverage starts tonight at 5:30pm with Giants Pregame Live on NBC Sports Bay Area Plus, and streaming with the NBC Sports App.

PHOENIX — When George Kontos was a rookie, pitching coach Dave Righetti pulled him aside one day with a new role. “We’re going to use you like a lefty,” Righetti said. The staff had noticed that Kontos, a former starter, still had the repertoire to face hitters from both sides, and that hasn’t changed. 

Kontos’ splits over the past three seasons are just about even. Righties hit .213, lefties hit .216. Righties slug .324, lefties slug .333. In Tuesday’s win, the ability to face both sides allowed Kontos to get through one of the tougher left-right-left combinations in the National League. He came on for David Peralta in the seventh and got a fly ball to center. Paul Goldschmidt struck out on a sinker and Jake Lamb was frozen by a series of cutters. 

“I’ve always taken pride in being able to get lefties out,” Kontos said. “I knew that when we only carried (Ty Blach) as our lefty that some of that workload was going to fall on me and I’m more than up to coming in and facing whoever, right, lefty, whoever. I’m up for the challenge.”

With the two strikeouts, Kontos continued a run that started late in the spring. He has 10 strikeouts over his past four outings, and nine of his last 10 outs have been strikeouts. 

“With more time and being more comfortable comes more confidence,” he said. “My delivery has been feeling good and I’m going out there with the mindset to attack hitters and locate my pitches with good movement down in the zone. I’ve never thrown overly hard, so you’re going to see 91 to 93 out of me, but if I’m locating my cutter and slider, a 92 mph fastball looks pretty hard after that.” 

Bochy said after Tuesday’s game that Kontos will be used in the seventh inning. That’s a step up for a guy who has often come on with runners on in the fifth or sixth, but Kontos wants more. He noted that this is an unselfish bullpen, but ....

“I want to pitch as late in games as I can,” he said. “Selfishly, I think all of us want a chance to pitch the eighth inning, but I’ll pitch when I’m called on to pitch. Hopefully my outings speak for themselves and I’ll get deeper and deeper into games.”

His first outing of the season was a good start in that direction. Here are four more takeaways from Tuesday’s win …

--- Joe Panik looked ready for the season from the first week of live batting practice. There was a spring slump that dropped his numbers, but he’s off to a hot start now that the games count. Panik had three hits Tuesday and made a couple of outstanding plays at second. 

“He’s healthy,” Bochy said. “You can tell with the way he’s been moving around. He’s got a different look to him.”

Perhaps the most impressive play was a read Panik made on the Gorkys Hernandez flare to right early on. Panik was practically running up Eduardo Nuñez’s back when he reached the plate, which is hard to do.

“Sometimes you’ve got to play a hunch,” he said. “You could see from the swing he took. It was hop, hop (towards third) and then I just took off.”

--- Hunter Strickland has slightly altered his mechanics. You'll notice that the leg kick is a little bit different, with the purpose of adding deception. It’s just the latest step in Strickland’s evolution. He went entire outings this spring without throwing his four-seamer so he could work on getting quicker outs. 

--- Archie Bradley, a former top starting prospect, was phenomenal. He struck out seven in 3 1/3, and the Giants are surely happy they won’t see his 98 mph fastball and spike curve again in this series. If you’re a fantasy baseball person, you might want to stash him somewhere. And if you’re the Giants, and you don’t need Tyler Beede in the rotation later this season, you might want to remember this game. Beede’s stuff should play up out of the bullpen kind of the same way Bradley’s does, and he could be an intriguing multi-inning guy. 

--- A new year brought a new victory soundtrack, including “The Humpty Dance,” which was briefly Javier Lopez’s warm-up song. Some things never change, though. For, oh, at least the fourth or fifth straight year, DJ Crawford kicks things off with “Bounce It” by Juicy J. 

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

Giants' outfield picture becoming clearer after latest round of roster cuts

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants moved closer to setting their opening day roster on Monday when they made a significant round of cuts to their spring training roster. 

A total of 15 players were reassigned or optioned, bringing the total to 31 players remaining in camp. Many of the players cut Monday entered the spring competing for jobs. 

In the outfield, Mac Williamson and Austin Slater were optioned to Triple-A and Chris Shaw was reassigned to minor league camp. Williamson had a huge spring and was the likeliest of the trio to push for an opening day spot, but he'll start his year in the minors. Steven Duggar was not among the cuts, and he remains an option to make the team, with the Giants also looking at Gregor Blanco, Gorkys Hernandez and Jarrett Parker for backup spots. Hernandez and Parker are out of minor league options. 

Tyler Beede was optioned and Andrew Suarez was reassigned to minor league camp, leaving three players vying for the final two rotation spots. Ty Blach and Chris Stratton have been the favorites all along, although both struggled the last time out and Derek Holland has had a strong spring. 

Both backup catchers -- Trevor Brown and Hector Sanchez -- were reassigned, along with Orlando Calixte, who saw time in the big leagues last year. Joan Gregorio, Jose Valdez, Justin O'Conner and Kyle Jensen were also reassigned. Chase d'Arnaud, who appeared to be making a strong push, was on the list, too, leaving Josh Rutledge as the only competition for Kelby Tomlinson for the final infield spot. 

Finally, Derek Law and Roberto Gomez were optioned to Triple-A. Josh Osich remains and appears the frontrunner for a bullpen job. Julian Fernandez, the Rule 5 pick, also remains in camp. 

The Giants break camp on Friday.

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

Starting to rev things up, Hunter Pence has big night at plate and in left

PEORIA — Jeff Samardzija spent a couple minutes after Thursday’s start talking to reporters about how deep he thinks the Giants lineup can be. It’ll be a hell of a lot deeper if Hunter Pence keeps hitting like this. 

After a slow start to the spring, Pence is charging. He had three hits against the Padres: a triple that bounced off the top of the wall in right-center, a hard single up the middle, and a double to center. The more encouraging plays for the Giants happened in left field. Pence chased down a drive to the line in the third inning, leaving the bases loaded. He opened the fourth by going the other direction and gloving a fly ball to left-center. 

"A good game for Hunter, both ways," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's getting more comfortable out there. You can see it with the jumps he's getting right now. It takes a little while when you change positions, but I think he's going to be fine out there."

The Giants appear set to have Austin Jackson and Pence atop the lineup against left-handed starters, and that duo could see plenty of time early. Seven of the first nine games are against the Dodgers, who have four lefty starters. 

--- Evan Longoria had a double off the right-center wall on Wednesday after missing a week with a sore ankle. He had a single the same way in his second at-bat Thursday. More than the at-bats, Longoria has impressed with his soft hands and steady arm at third. The ankle looks fine, too. 

“My ankle feels pretty good,” Longoria said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue going forward.”

--- It’s been a quiet spring for Andrew McCutchen, but we saw the wheels tonight. McCutchen easily stole second after a two-run single in the fifth. When Evan Longoria bounced one to the left side, shortstop Freddy Galvis tried to go to third for the lead out, but McCutchen beat that throw, too. He got up and put his hands on his hips, as if to say, "Why'd you even try that?"

--- Samardzija allowed three homers in a six-batter span in the third. He allowed three homers in an inning in his previous start, too, but he said he’s not concerned. Samardzija deemed it a sequencing issue. He’s working in a new changeup and threw it in situations he normally wouldn’t; Eric Hosmer took advantage of a floating one, crushing it to deep, deep right for the third homer. 

--- With a runner on, Brandon Belt put down a perfect bunt to foil the shift. Belt does that every spring, particularly against NL West teams, but rarely during the regular season. Maybe this will be the year?

Belt later crushed a homer to deep right. That had to feel good for a number of reasons. Belt is fighting a cold and he learned earlier in the day that his college coach, Augie Garrido, had passed away.