Giants have eight million reasons to keep looking at Matt Moore in second half

Giants have eight million reasons to keep looking at Matt Moore in second half

SAN FRANCISCO — The numbers jump off the page, and not in a good way. 

An ERA of 6.04, last in the National League. A WHIP of 1.69, also last in the National League. A .307 batting average against. 

There is no way to sugarcoat Matt Moore’s first half, during which he has alternated being wild with being stunningly hittable. With Madison Bumgarner one rehab start from returning, the Giants soon will be pulling a starter from the rotation, and on merit Moore would be part of that discussion. 

It’s a move they can’t make, though, in part because of what this season has become. Austin Slater was getting a look in left field until an injury, Jae-Gyun Hwang is getting a chance to show what he can do at third, and Moore, a veteran in the big leagues, is all of a sudden in the same boat. 

Among other things, the Giants need to use the second half to figure out who Matt Moore really is. They have eight million reasons to do so. 

Moore came from Tampa Bay on a team-friendly deal, and when the Giants acquired him last August 1, it looked to be a lock that they would pick up the remainder of his deal. Moore was their new Bumgarner, a young lefty who would annually be underpaid. The Giants picked up the first of Moore’s options last November and it was a no-brainer given how he pitched down the stretch and in the NLDS. The second option year is for 2018 at a cost of $9 million, with a $1 million buyout. There is a $10 million option in 2019 with a buyout of $750,000.

The Giants will almost certainly still view $8 million as a worthwhile investment for 2018 given the price of free agent pitching and the talent Moore still shows in flashes, but it’s not the layup it once was because Moore has not been the pitcher he was. Moore’s inclusion in the second-half rotation might not be the layup it appeared to be, either. Asked about what the Giants might do to try and fix Moore, manager Bruce Bochy said discussions have been had. 

“We’ve talked about it. I don’t have something to give you, but we’ve talked about what we can do to help all these guys and set up our rotation,” he said. “We’ll continue that the next two days.”

The Giants likely will have Johnny Cueto and Bumgarner lined up for the first two games of the second half. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Moore said he’ll use the break to fish, play some golf, and clear his head. 

“I’ll catch my breath a little bit,” he said.

Moore said he’s looking forward to his next start. He’s also looking forward to officially being into the second half of the season. 

“With relief pitchers, they probably think about it in the sense of months. A new month is a new season. Hitters go day to day,” he said. “For me, (a new half) is something to set my sights on. You have the whole second half to figure out the things that are keeping you from getting to the seventh and eight inning. That is one of the things I’m looking forward to.”

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.

Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential


Josh Osich goes back to his roots looking to unleash all the potential

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — For most pitchers, spring training is a time to experiment and add a pitch or two. Josh Osich is using this month to go the other direction. 

Osich spent the offseason watching film of his 2015 season, when he looked like he might one day be the closer in San Francisco, and decided that he needed to get back to his roots. That means the curveball, which he tried so hard to mix in last year, is now far back in the cupboard. The four-seam and two-seam fastballs are once again the focus, with an emphasis on changing eye levels more than he did a year ago. The changeup and cutter will round out his arsenal for the most part. 

Osich’s raw stuff is still as good as just about any lefty reliever in the league, and he hopes to take advantage of that while putting a rough 2017 season in his rearview mirror. He had a 6.23 ERA last season and 1.73 WHIP.

“It’s just one of those learning years,” Osich said. “I tried to live at the bottom of the zone and I was, but I was actually below the zone. So then I would fall behind and need to throw a strike and that’s when guys would hit me.”

Osich, 29, had a 2.20 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that 2015 season that he keeps going back to. He walked eight batters in 28 2/3 innings, a far cry from the 27 he walked in 43 1/3 last year. While watching the 2015 version of himself, Osich saw that his hands were higher, and that’s something he’s working to replicate. He’s also trying to slow his pace to the plate. So far, the results are nothing but encouraging. Osich allowed one hit and struck out one in a 2 1/3 inning appearance on Wednesday night. Manager Bruce Bochy let him extend himself to keep the good vibes going. 

In six appearances this spring, Osich has allowed just four hits over seven scoreless innings. He has seven strikeouts and one walk. 

“O, it just seems like he’s got confidence,” Bochy said. “He’s kept it simple, he’s not tinkering with different pitches. He’s throwing more strikes, and more than anything he’s just trying to pound the strike zone now with quality strikes. That’s all he has to do. You look at him and he’s hitting 95 with a couple of good off-speed pitches. That works here.”