Giants to get Pence back soon, but this lineup needs much more

Giants to get Pence back soon, but this lineup needs much more

PHILADELPHIA — As he headed off for the start of a short rehab assignment, Hunter Pence told manager Bruce Bochy he would be ready quickly, far sooner than the planned 15 to 20 at-bats. Pence was true to his word, flying to Philadelphia on Saturday evening. The Giants haven’t yet decided if Pence will be active Sunday, or if they’ll wait until Monday, but it’s clear they can use all the help they can get. They can use much more than just Pence. 

A day after notching 10 runs on 15 hits, the lineup managed just one run through eight innings. A ninth-inning rally fell short, and the Giants lost 5-3 to a Phillies team that had lost 15 of the previous 18. The Giants managed just four hits against Ben Lively, an unheralded 25-year-old making his MLB debut. 

“We couldn’t figure their kid out,” Bochy said. “He had a little different arm angle. That four-seamer stayed up and had some life to it. The offense didn’t wake up until it was too late.”

Bochy conceded that it can at times be difficult to face a pitcher for the first time, but he also said there are no excuses. The Giants have made a habit of this, and this was one day where they needed to break from that stride. 

Lively did not have particularly nasty stuff. He didn’t record a strikeout. But that’s just the way it’s been going for a lineup that continues to make all types of pitchers look dominant. Good, bad, veteran, rookie -- it doesn't matter. 

“To get one run there until late makes it more frustrating, because that’s kind of been our way,” Bochy said. 

The one run held up until the sixth, when former Giants prospect Tommy Joseph yanked a changeup out to left. Johnny Cueto thought he was done after that inning, but a double play in the top of the seventh sent Cueto back out at 108 pitches. 

“You just have to be ready,” Cueto said. “You can’t kind of tune out.”

Cueto said he didn’t, but either way, the Phillies were the ones who were ready. Two singles knocked Cueto out of the game and Hunter Strickland gave up two more. Strickland threw a breaking ball to Odubel Herrera that caught too much of the plate, and the center fielder cleared the bases with a double. Strickland said his emotional week did not have any impact on his performance. 

“No, not at all,” he said. “They are good hitters and he made the adjustment, and he got the best of it.”

The Phillies became the latest team to get the better of the Giants’ lineup. A two-out rally in the ninth put the tying run on base and necessitated a pitching change, but pinch-hitter Nick Hundley grounded out on the first pitch he saw.

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.”

Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too


Will Clark says Steven Duggar can play 'Gold Glove center field right now,' trusts the bat too

Will Clark won his first and only Gold Glove at first base for the Giants at age 27 in 1991. It was Clark's sixth year in the major leagues. 

Steven Duggar won't have to wait that long to win the biggest hardware for his defense in Clark's eyes. 

"He can play Gold Glove center field right now in the big leagues. He can flat out go get it in center field," Clark said on the Giants' prospect Tuesday on KNBR. "He can definitely, definitely play a Gold Glove center field." 

Clark, who now serves a role in the Giants' front office after playing in five straight All-Star Games for his former team from 1988-92, has watched Duggar closely for more than just this spring training. When asked about his feelings on the 24-year-old, Clark made them clear right away. 

"I've seen Steve parts of the last two seasons in the minor leagues and I am definitely a Steven Duggar fan," Clark said. 

The question with Duggar has always been his bat. He has elite speed, gets great jumps in center field and everyone from Bruce Bochy to Buster Posey has praised his ability to track down fly balls. 

"His thing is, how quick is he going to make the adjustment in the big leagues with the pitching. I know there's a lot of people that are asking that question right now," Clark. 

Count The Thrill as one of the leaders in Camp Duggar. He joined many others in complimenting his glove left and right. But what he has to say about the Clemson product's bat is what puts him over the top. 

"He's succeeded at each level he's been at," Clark pointed out. "He will do it at the major league level and I'm kind of staking my reputation on that."

This is confidence -- to say the least -- coming from someone who was a .303 lifetime hitter and bashed 284 home runs in 15 seasons. 

Over three years in the minor leagues, Duggar is a .292 career hitter with a .384 on-base percentage and .427 slugging percentage. Duggar started off scorching hot this spring with the Giants, but has cooled down with the Cactus League soon coming to a close. In 16 games, Duggar is slashing .250/.353/.545 and has shown more pop with four home runs.