Giants

Giants hero Travis Ishikawa joins overhaul of minor league coaching staffs

ishi-us.jpg
USATSI

Giants hero Travis Ishikawa joins overhaul of minor league coaching staffs

ORLANDO — At the winter meetings this week, David Bell spoke of what an impact his one year in San Francisco had on his playing career and life. The Giants are hoping their new Vice President of Player Personnel has a similarly long-lasting impact on their minor league system. 

Bell, hired earlier this offseason, has led a reboot of the minor league staffs and protocols, and on Friday the Giants announced some of the results. 

Several familiar names returned to join minor league coaching staffs, most notably Travis Ishikawa, the 2014 postseason hero who will now serve as hitting coach for an Arizona Rookie League team. On a larger scale, the Giants have added a fourth coach at every level, a second rookie team, changed their medical staff for the minor leagues, upgraded their facility in the Dominican Republic and put more of an emphasis on analytics and modern ways to take care of players. 

“We’re basically completing a pretty significant rebuild of our system,” general manager Bobby Evans said earlier this week. 

Bell, the former bench coach of the St. Louis Cardinals, was put in charge. Evans said the focus was on giving players the best possible chance to succeed, noting that they now enter professional ball in an age when many prospects have their own mental coaches and come from college programs with state of the art facilities. The Giants built a dynasty on player development, but they have fallen behind in recent years and failed to adequately restock the big league club. This will take time, team officials admit, but they feel the results will be there. 

“This is about our farm system in 2020 and beyond,” Evans said. “I really want to see David set up an environment and culture in our minor league system that is consistent with who we are as an organization and who David is as a baseball man.”

In addition to Bell, former Padres hitting coach Alan Zinter joins the organization as assistant director of player development in charge of offense. Matt Buschmann, a former Diamondbacks pitcher, has the same role and is in charge of “run prevention.” After two years as Angels hitting coach, Dave Hansen will be the minor league hitting coordinator. Julio Rangel, a former Indians pitching coordinator, will have the same role for the Giants. Some already in the organization were given new roles, including Double-A manager Kyle Haines (now assistant director of player development, instruction) and Geoff Head, who will leave his clubhouse position to oversee the medical system in the minor leagues. 

Here are the new full-season coaching staffs:

Triple-A Sacramento: Dave Brundage (manager), Steve Kline (pitching), Damon Minor (hitting), Nestor Rojas (fundamentals), David Getsoff (trainer), Andy King (strength and conditioning), Travis Higgs (bullpen catcher).

Double-A Richmond: Willie Harris (manager), Glenn Dishman (pitching), Francisco Morales (hitting), Hiro Sato (trainer), Jon Medici (strength and conditioning), Eliezer Zambrano (bullpen catcher).

High-A San Jose: Lipso Nava (manager), Matt Yourkin (pitching), Wilfredo Romero (hitting), Gary Davenport (fundamentals), Ryo Watanabe (trainer), Mark Spadavecchia (strength and conditioning), CJ Picerni (bullpen catcher). 

Low-A Augusta: Jolbert Cabrera (manager), Clayton Rapada (pitching), Thomas Neal (hitting), Ydwin Villegas (fundamentals), Vito Maffei (trainer), Jesse White (strength and conditioning), Michael Johnson (bullpen catcher). 

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in the National League for years now. The 31-year-old is a five-time All-Star and was named the 2013 NL MVP. 

Not only do his stats stand out, McCutchen is also one of the most entertaining players in baseball. And that's clearly going to continue in San Francisco. 

On Thursday, McCutchen was asked about the famous seagulls of San Francisco flying around the outfield at AT&T Park. 

"I definitely made a few friends out there over the years. Steve the Seagull out there, I know him," McCutchen said on KNBR. "He comes in every now and then. We have a little pow-wow when I come to San Francisco. Yeah, we get along well, me and the guys, me and the birds. They know when to come in that's for sure." 

Denard Span, who the Giants traded to acquire Evan Longoria, had a much different relationship with the seagulls. 

McCutchen is clearly the opposite of Span in this regard though. He seems about as calm as can be when it comes to the birds paying him a visit. 

"They chill, we have some conversations. It's all good," says McCutchen. 

One other aspect McCutchen can't wait for in the outfield at AT&T Park, is getting to know all the fans. Specifically, not being a part of a special chant Giants fans have for opposing outfielders. 

"I'm lookin' forward to fans not callin' me bums anymore," McCutchen said with a laugh. "I'm glad I'm on the winning side. I'm glad I'm on the San Francisco Giants side. I can't wait to meet all the fans."